Daily Archives: September 23, 2009

Educating to Reduce Risk (in Your [Retail] Supply Chain)

Share This on Linked In

Editor’s Note: This post is from regular contributor Norman Katz, Sourcing Innovation’s resident expert on supply chain fraud and supply chain risk. Catch up on his column in the archive.

Being just a little past my mid-40s I realize I’m at risk (how appropriate or rather inappropriate is that in this blog!) of dating myself, but does anyone remember the phrase “The Three Rs”?

This phrase represents the basic foundation of education: reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Still to this day, and probably emphasized by all the standardized testing done which grades the performance of schools, I don’t think the necessity of this trio of core skills is any less important. However, I’d like to throw in a fourth (and actually fifth) R in regards to the benefits of education: risk reduction.

Of all the supply chains in the world, the retail supply chain in the United States is arguably the toughest and most sophisticated of them all. The smallest disruptions can result in profit losses and missed sales. Timeframes are very tight and the drive towards 100% perfection is relentless.

Retail suppliers invest heavily in technology, automation, and business processes to ensure they are complimentary collaborators with their retail trading partners, all with the goal of reducing the risk of not shipping the right products in the right time at the right quantity to the right destination in order to ensure their products are on the shelf when the consumer wants to buy them.

But what about investing in education to reduce risk? Can technology and automation eclipse the need for some sound, basic education on how to participate in a supply chain, retail or other? I would argue that such education is absolutely necessary. Without a good educational foundation, enterprises run the risk of incorrectly investing in technology and business processes that fail to truly address the root-cause of problems or don’t enable growth, planned or otherwise.

Selecting the right education provider can be tricky in-and-of-itself. There are plenty of companies who offer quality training. Do your due diligence and investigate the company and its trainers for experience and depth of knowledge. Keep in mind that anyone can offer training classes and that slick sounding company names may be just that and offer little in terms of training that will have any substance or credentials in daily business activities.

Certifications and training courses are often provided by trade associations. This is good because trade associations often carry a “name” or brand with them so there should be confidence in the quality of the education and that it will be recognized through one or more industry verticals.

Some associations are independent and are thus self-certifying. For these independent associations some have grown quite large and are well-recognized such that their certification is accepted and respected. Look at who is backing the certification and whether the backer has respect and visibility throughout one or more industry verticals. Is the training endorsed by outside entities? And just because a list of well-known companies is provided does not necessarily mean that the training is recognized as a standard or is widely respected. Do your homework! How long has the association been around and how many members does it have?

What this boils down to is that fraud can be perpetrated by training and education organizations too. Knowingly misrepresenting goods and services is fraud.

Buyer beware. Trust but verify. Due diligence.

Not just catchy phrases but ones to live by.

Norman Katz, Katzscan

Service Leaders Speak: Jim Wetekamp of BravoSolution on “Sourcing Leadership for the Recovery”

Share This on Linked In

Today’s guest post is from Jim Wetekamp of Bravo Solution, a global provider of supply management services and solutions (with offices across 3 continents).

It’s been just over a year since the financial crisis that signaled the worst of the global economic recession, and as we head back to work after summer vacation, businesses around the world are looking with a glimmer of hope towards the future. As the evidence in favor of a turnaround mounts, I am increasingly approached by sourcing leaders who are looking for ways to position their businesses for sourcing leadership in the recovery.

In truth, the visionary sourcing executives recognized early on that the objective for sourcing leadership doesn’t change at all as we dip into recession and then begin to recover. It is only the resources that they are allowed that changes. Ambitious executives will have seized the opportunities presented in the last year to be a strategic value driver for their businesses, driving cost out of the supply chain and helping to improve profitability in lean times. And they’ll have done that by adhering to the priorities that matter for sourcing leaders no matter the state of the economy:

Visibility, Fundamentals, and Evolution
Figure 1: Evolving Supply Management Priorities

The most successful sourcing leaders will have continued along this path over the last year; they will have kept their teams strong and armed them with the tools they need to succeed. These leaders are the ones who will find themselves best able to ride the crest of the recovery wave. They will not waste time staffing, training, and re-booting their sourcing organizations. Sadly, few organizations have weathered the past year fully intact, so what do sourcing executives need to do to lead in the recovery?

Sourcing Leadership’s job as the economy begins to recover is to rebuild the capabilities that were lost and get back on mission. This is not the time for a slow build; the most successful teams will be those who can quickly ramp their teams up and begin firing against all their priorities immediately. If you do nothing else, you should make sure your organization has best-in-class capabilities in three main areas:

Visibility and Opportunity Planning
If you don’t currently have visibility into your spend, it’s time to get a quick snapshot while laying the groundwork for a longer-term spend management program. Long term, a spend visibility tool will help you analyze and interpret your spending; you’ll likely also need a service provider experienced in rapid spend analysis to get you quickly through the initial opportunity identification phase. BravoSolution routinely delivers detailed opportunity analysis in a matter of weeks, even where our clients have spent months prior trying to understand their spend with internal resources.

Sourcing Fundamentals and Technologies
If you’re not using e-Sourcing tools, then you’re denying your business enormous efficiency gains, and wasting the time and expertise of your team on mundane recordkeeping tasks. You can move through the opportunities you identified faster and start realizing savings and managing vendors sooner if you’re using tools designed to accelerate that process. If you don’t have the bandwidth or expertise for a particular category, don’t be afraid to ask your technology provider for support – most leading e-Sourcing technology vendors, including BravoSolution, offer templates, advice, and even fully managed or outsourced events for their e-Sourcing customers.

Evolution and Extending Reach
The biggest disservice you can do for your organization (and your career) is to shy away from your most complex, highly visible categories at this moment. Strategic categories like transportation, packaging, and services mean too much to your business to be left to languish while your team rebuilds. You need to tackle these categories now, while suppliers are still eager to negotiate, and before a recovering economy begins to drive up costs in your biggest categories. Clearly, in categories that have such far-reaching impact across the organization, you cannot afford to fly blind. The value of pulling in a knowledgeable partner at this stage cannot be underestimated. Like other leading solution providers, BravoSolution regularly works with our customers to build tailored sourcing events that help our clients gain a deep understanding of their suppliers’ cost models and priorities, and to identify awards that drive efficiencies for both buyers and suppliers, reducing costs for both parties, and driving lasting, collaborative sourcing relationships.

By preserving, or better yet enhancing, your capabilities in these areas before the recovery takes hold, you will be poised to ride the wave of recovery and create competitive advantage for your business over the long term.

Thanks, Jim.