Daily Archives: April 18, 2013

What Costs Your Supplier More? Their Warehouse or Your SIM Practices?

I know this question is a little out of left field, but it’s an interesting question in that both are costing your supplier money and, therefore, both are costing you money (as all costs get passed up the supply chain in the end).

According to an article in DC Velocity last fall on how distribution centers lose thousands of hours a year on unproductive workflows, each worker loses an average of 15 minutes of productivity in an eight-hour shift due to process inefficiencies. Assuming these are union workers who get an hour for lunch and thirty minutes for breaks, that says that almost 4% of the work-day is being wasted. In a warehouse with 50 workers, it adds up to about 500 days of lost productivity, which is significant as this equals the salary of 2 workers, which costs the average company about $60,000 annually in the US.

Gartner estimates a typical company spends an average of $1,000 in supplier management costs annually per supplier. Part of this cost is Supplier Information Management, and, specifically, the (initial) creation and maintenance of supplier profiles consisting of contact information, insurance certificates, compliance tracking, and product catalogs, just to scratch the surface. While the amount of time to create and maintain this profile, and thus the associated costs, vary, on average it can be estimated to be about $700 as all of the major vendors and analysts seem to agree that a good SIM solution reduces supplier management costs, on average, by 70%.

Now, at this point, you’re probably asking what’s the point of this article as 60,000 is clearly much greater than 700 and there seems to be no comparison — but hold on! You have to remember one very important point — you’re not the supplier’s only customer. The supplier has other customers who, if they are implementing SIM, will also be delegating this work to the supplier who will have to create another, almost identical, profile, and upload all of the relevant information, etc. And today, you can assume that any major customer of the supplier is implementing at least some basic level of SIM given that they will be sued and/or fined seven ways from Sunday by the U.S. Government if they don’t insure the organization is not on a watch list, that payments are properly reported, etc.

If the supplier is a small contract manufacturer who only has 50 customers, then the supplier would be spending $35,000 just creating and maintaining SIM profiles. That’s one person’s salary. But if the supplier is a large office supplies vendor with 500 customers, that could theoretically be $350,000 worth of man hours to properly maintain all of the requested profiles. Ouch! (Needless to say, not all profiles are going to be accurately maintained in this instance!)

In other words, a sudden surge in the popularity of SIM combined with the slew of systems (not all of which are created equal) that are now available and being implemented by various companies will add a costly burden to your suppliers, as you don’t all use the same SIM solution and, even when there is overlap, not all SIM solutions allow a vendor to create one master profile and share the relevant information with each supplier who wants access to the profile. Done right, SIM is a great technology, but the problem with a lot of the (second tier) solutions is it’s not done right. Many of the solutions are built for the buyer and the supplier is a bit of an afterthought, resulting in a solution where a supplier needs to create and maintain an instance of their profile for each buyer. As a buyer, it’s imperative that you don’t buy, and encourage, such a solution because all this does is shift the burden to your already stretched supplier and doesn’t help anyone.

It’s important to make sure that any SIM solution you buy allows a supplier to define a master profile and share the relevant data with all relevant buyers on the platform with just a click of the mouse and allows the supplier to reuse pre-existing information whenever relevant. A supplier should never have to enter the same piece of information more than once. Otherwise, you’re wasting his time and your money. (A really good SIM solution would allow a supplier to import a profile he already created in a competitive product, but SI hasn’t seen that ability in the SIM solutions of any of the major players yet.)