Monthly Archives: July 2014

SIM? Is It Old News or a Shiny New Pair of Shoes? Part I

Supplier Information Management, also known as SIM (but which has almost nothing to do with your Subscriber Identity Module card in your cell phone), is not new. The early leader in this space, Aravo, which boasted the likes of GE and CISCO as clients, was formed in 2000 and followed not only by a slew of companies trying to be best of breed in SIM (including AECSoft, now owned by SciQuest, Hiperos, and Lavante, to name a few) but by a slew of suite vendors that began to implement enhanced SIM into their platforms (including Ariba, Iasta, and Zycus).

And most of the basic features are now commodity. Try to find a vendor that sells SIM that doesn’t track all headquarter location, financial, core product, service, insurance, and third party risk information associated with a tier 1 supplier. Most of the good vendors also track third party credentials, compliance information against all relevant laws and directives, internal performance metrics and third party ratings, and even integration with third party supplier directories and databases.

And the uses are well known.

  • Where are the bulk of my suppliers located?
  • What is the financial health (risk score) of my top 100 suppliers?
  • Are any of my products out of compliance with regulations in one or more countries?
  • Do all of my suppliers have their relevant insurance certificates up to date?
  • Who are my riskiest suppliers?
  • Have all of my suppliers verified their primary contacts in the last six months?

And the more mature companies, to try and maintain an edge, maintain their customer base, and expand into new companies and additional verticals have started to integrate additional, and related, functionality. Aravo evolved into a full Supplier Lifecycle Management solution that balanced compliance, performance, and risk management. Hiperos is focussing on Third Party Management and on Compliance and Risk Management in particular. For example, their compliance management solutions include code of conduct, diversity management, insurance attestation, social accountability, and sustainability. Lavante is focussing on on-boarding and integrating SIM with audit recovery services.

When all is said and done, SIM seems like a mature space that is old news in Supply Management. And betting on it probably musters the image of an old gambler clutching dice in one hand and his last dollar in the other mumbling “baby needs a new pair of shoes“. But is it a bet you would lose?

Procurement — Why We Matter Even More!

Last week, we re-ran a post by David Furth, former VP of Marketing at Hiperos and current President of Leap the Pond, on Procurement – Why We Really Matter. In this post, David explained that Procurement is on the verge of its next major transformation where it will continuously assess risk and introduce integrated processes and controls across the company to mitigate the risk by working closely with other functional areas, business lines, and geographies. In addition, Procurement will implement management control programs that actively monitor both performance and compliance to help ensure suppliers are meeting all their obligations.

David was, and is, right. Now that everything is outsourced, resourced, and optimized to razor-thin JIT models, risk management — and continuous monitoring — is key. But that is just the beginning.

It’s not just risk monitoring, but compliance monitoring and performance monitoring. (Safety) regulations (like RoHS, WEEE, and REACH) are coming into effect fast and furious around the globe, as are bans on toxic substances, materials and products that can be used to create dangerous weapons, and conflict minerals and diamonds. As a result, compliance monitoring is becoming more and more important.

But so is performance monitoring. You can’t ignore the importance of quality, reliability, and safety as it is your reputation — and bank account — on the line. If the products you deliver continually break under warranty, even if you have a policy that you can return for replacement, you’re still losing the profit, the customer’s trust, and the costs associated with processing the return. If the products hurt someone — you’re getting sued, not your supplier. And if the products don’t perform up to spec, even if they don’t break, the customer ain’t coming back.

And even though savings aren’t everything, because it all comes down to ROI — value delivered by your organization. However, if your organization is to remain competitive, it still has to keep costs in check and at least keep costs in line with your competition. Often the only way to do this is to identify when you need to help your suppliers decrease their costs and increase their productivity, and this requires constant performance monitoring.

And who else in the organization can properly monitor risk, compliance, and supplier performance? Not manufacturing. Not logistics. And definitely not finance. That’s why Procurement Matters — Now More Than Ever.

1950 Years Ago Today

The Great Fire of Rome, which burned for 6 days, broke out in the merchant district and caused widespread devastation. It was an early example of how a natural disaster could bring a supply chain to its knees (as it wiped up most of the goods in Rome, which were then stored in shops).

The moral of the story is clear — Natural and Man-Made Disasters have always been with us and always will.

Are You Doing It Wrong?

If you’ve been following the media, you know that we have reached a point were most major business publications are now putting focus on Supply Chain as your top risk and your top opportunity.

You also know that these same publications, and the solution providers that follow, and reference them, have been preaching the following solutions to not only tame the risk but increase the opportunity.

Comprehensive Category Management

Spot buying individual categories at market lows or evening running reverse auctions at opportune times is not category management. And for that matter, neither is an event that covers the entire category. At this point you probably think that the doctor is losing it a little, because how could it not be category management if you are addressing the whole category?

It’s Simple. Category Management isn’t just about grouping all seemingly related items and running an event, it’s grouping items that have related characteristics that allow the items to be sourced effectively under the same strategy. For example, while it might make theoretical sense to group printers, ink, and paper together — because you use them together, from a sourcing point of view, ink and paper often go better with office supplies and printers with hardware. You can probably get them thrown in for free with a server purchase. But that’s just the start. If you source a lot of metal parts, you should probably group them by primary metal, since the price of steel, aluminum, etc. will largely dictate their prices and it might even make sense to not only source all of the parts from the same supplier but even buy the metal on behalf of the supplier with your better negotiating power and/or credit rating.

Supply Chain Risk Monitoring

Natural and Man-Made disasters devastate supply chains when they result in raw material or product unavailability for weeks or months. When a company doesn’t understand their dependence on a single source or the risks that single source is subject too, they can figuratively get caught with their pants down to say the least.

As a result, most leading companies in the Risk Management arena are now tracking and monitoring their tier 1 supply base for not only missed deliveries, but late shipment dates and inquiring immediately when something is late shipping. However, by the time a shipment is late, it’s often too late to go to another source if the reason for the lateness is the lack of an important raw material. So the smarter companies also ask their suppliers to let them know when their suppliers miss a delivery. This is better, but sometimes this is still too late. You need to track the primary sources of the raw material and their ability to produce. Not only the companies, but their locations. All natural and man-made disasters in the region and then evaluated for impact and if the producer of the primary raw material or part is potentially at risk, they make sure, or ask their tier 1 supplier to make sure, that the raw material or product can still be delivered on time and if it can’t, these leading companies immediately seek a secondary source (or lock up available supply pre-emptively) — not two weeks after the tier 1 supplier required the raw material to meet the commit date.

Big Data

The only buzzword on par with big data is cloud. According to the converted, or should I say the diverted, better decision are made with better data — the more data the merrier. This sounds good in theory, but most algorithms predict demand, acquisition cost, projected sales prices, etc. based on trends. But these days the average market life of a CPG product, especially in electronics or fashion, is six months or less, and the reality is that there just isn’t enough data to predict meaningful trends on. Similarly, every disruption impacts the cost, and these disruptions are as unpredictable as future sales predicted using trend models with insufficient data.

You use all of the data available to validate your operations, procurement, and financial situation. Not to blindly predict future sales or prices. An over-reliance on big data is often more dangerous than not having data at all.

Once You Get the Three T’s, What’s the Next Step To Asia Pacific Dominance?

In our last post on Why There Are No World Class Procurement Organizations in Asia Pacific, we noted that the primary reason that no business head or CPO in Asia-Pacific reported their Procurement capabilities as great is the classic Triple-T problem — a lack of talent, technology, and transition management. When we reviewed the seven things that Bain indicated procurement teams lack, we noted that all were fundamentally an instantiation of a talent, technology, or transition management problem.

However, getting the three T’s in place is just the first step. The next step is to apply them properly. Where do you start? One place to start is with the six enablers outlined in the article. While the doctor thinks it is debatable that these enablers will help a company establish 4th generation Procurement, like the article suggests, it will definitely up an organization’s game and put them on par with their counterparts in the western world.

So what are these enablers?

1. Better Organization

This requires the organization to acquire a clear procurement mandate, a streamlined organization that appropriately delineates global vs. regional vs. local responsibilities, and clear roles and decision rights across Procurement. In addition, the organization needs to elevate critical decisions to senior management (to ensure they not only have senior management buy-in but support), implement a feedback loop from internal customers to end consumers, and establish effective reporting channels.

2. Better Processes

This requires better category management, vendor management, and information management. Sustainable savings come from holistic category management, not point commodity sourcing. Suppliers only improve when properly managed. And information quality is key to Sourcing, Procurement, and all related aspects of Supply Management.

3. Better Tools & Systems

Leaders have integrated and transparent data for both direct and indirect spending. Good decisions require good data. Good data can only be obtained from good tools.

4. Better P&L Effectiveness

Leading companies have pull-based demand management with enforced compliance and formalized budgeting for all categories. They employ sourcing platforms that allow a company to see the direct effect of a sourcing decision on the bottom line.

5. Better Talent Management

Just because you have talent today, this does not mean you have talent tomorrow. If you don’t continue to educate and advance your talent, they will leave you for a competitor who will. Plus, as your organization grows, you will need to add more talent. Without a proper talent management strategy, your talent equation can only be solved for a single point in time — if you are a lucky one.

It’s a hard climb, but a feasible one. And if you review the SI archives, you will find many posts about how to improve in each of these areas. Happy Hunting!