Cost reduction as a strategy is dangerous. First of all, a company that is too focused on cost might lose sight of value, which is what Supply Management is all about. Secondly, a company that is myopically focussed on immediate cost reduction is likely to make one or more of the following mistakes and actually increase costs in the long term.
Direct cost focus
This sounds like a great idea, since it’s where many organizations in manufacturing and CPG have the bulk of their spend, but the reality is that these are the categories that get analyzed year after year after year, while indirect categories fall by the way side. And the reality is that it’s much better to save 10% on 40 M then it is to save another 2% on a 100 M category. It’s twice the savings.
Landed cost focus
While it’s true that you can (theoretically) “book” a savings if a hardball negotiation gets you the same widget for $1, including transportation, that the organization used to pay $1.10 for, this is not really a savings if the widget is of lower quality and has a higher failure rate. If 15% break-down during the warranty window, when only 5% used to break-down, this has not only increased the average unit cost from 1.16 to 1.18 (in terms of functioning units), but tripled your warranty costs. If replacement costs turn out to be twice the product cost then, instead of paying an average of 1.20 per unit from a TCO perspective, the organization is now paying 1.30 per unit (from a TCO perspective) when the total cost of the lower quality product is calculated.
Year-over-year price reductions in multi-year contracts
This is my favourite example of cost reduction ridiculousness. Sometimes, anxious to meet the ridiculous mandate of 5% year-over-year cost reductions for the next three years, Supply Management organizations will try to negotiate three year contracts with year-over-year price reductions of 5% built in. And often they’ll exceed, and cost the organization approximately 15% more then if they just negotiated the best deal they could. Why? The supplier is going to have to make a profit each year it is in business. Since it’s likely not going to change the production methodology, the raw materials, or the labor that goes into making the product for the lifetime of the contract, the supplier knows that the price in year 3 has to be enough to be profitable. So the price it quotes in year 2 will be 5% more and the price in year 1 will be 5% more again in an attempt to insure it is still profitable in year 3. As a result, the organization ends up paying significantly more in the first two years than they could have paid by just negotiating the best, flat, deal possible. The right way to get year-over-year savings is to tackle different categories each year, not try to negotiate silly year-over-year savings in a single category.