Six Key Lessons for Sustainable Supply Management

A recent article over on the CPO Agenda on Platforms for Growth that discussed the challenges for Supply Management involved in procuring goods and services for decommissioning oil rigs had some great lessons for Supply Management professionals involved in projects in new or emerging areas of spend. While cost control is important, it’s even more important that Supply Management prevent their organization from becoming the subject of media headlines — as this is never a good thing. Plus, early approaches to category strategy can set a pattern within an organization and even drive market structures across the industry that, once established, become difficult to change. Thus, it’s important to get spending in new categories right.

Think Strategy
Supply Management needs to be a part of all of the strategic decisions of the organization as true commercial advantage can only be obtained if Supply Management is involved early enough in projects to influence raw material and service requirements. Not only does the design stage lock in up to 80% of the cost, but it can lock in up to 100% of the market risk. If the design locks in a raw material in tight supply as necessary, such as tantalum, instead of a more available material, such as aluminum (for capacitors), and unrest along the African coast suddenly makes 15% of the global supply unavailable, the organization will be in for a major price shock.

Influence the Plan
Not only does Supply Management need to be involved in all strategic decisions, but it has to come to the table with a good understanding of potential scenarios and a plan in mind. If, by working with marketing and external market research agencies, it understands that sales will be maximized at a certain price point, it can ensure that the selected design can be profitably produced for that price point.

Go for Global Category Scale
Even if the product must be customized for different regions, Supply Management should still attempt to aggregate global demand and award it to a small number of suppliers who are capable of producing variants for the global market to take advantage of economies of scale.

Build the Desired Marketplace
If the product or service being designed is (relatively) new, then Supply Management might be buying from an immature market. In this situation, the organization has the ability to influence market development, which occurs quickly once demand exceeds a critical mass. If Supply Management implements a category strategy that meets the objective of the organization, and it is the first major player in the market, the market will likely mould itself to that need. If the market strategy is low-cost, then the suppliers will focus on no-frill production and delivery. If the market strategy is the full service experience, suppliers will focus on creating end-to-end value added services. If the focus is on being the epitome of cool, then suppliers will focus on creating the most stylish and sleek product they can, with a price tag to match.

Do Your Homework
Market intelligence is the lifeblood of effective category management and the best way to influence the strategy, plan, and marketplace. Even if the organization does not agree with the proposed category strategy, it’s much harder to refute facts than opinions. Plus, it’s much harder for a supplier to exploit the organization in negotiations if Supply Management goes in armed with full knowledge about the current market state.

Examine New Buying (Structure) Options
Don’t limit your options to the current organizational buying strategy. Consider in-house, industry buying groups, vertical integration and even the creation of a Global Business Services organization. New markets sometimes offer new opportunities for doing things different. Take advantage of this.