5 Sure-Fire Ways to Sabotage Your (Competition’s) Supply Management Operation

Sometimes the only way you can do better is if your competition does worse. It’s sad, but true. To this end, a colleague of mine forwarded me a great piece on Procurement Transformation on 5 surefire ways to devastate a supply management operation. All you have to do is convince your competition to take this advice, and down they go!

Clearly labelled “Step 3: Run down” at the end of the white paper, these tips and tricks will do exactly that … run down your (competition’s) operation straight to the ground. A tanker filled with kerosene wouldn’t get the job done any faster. These tips were so great we can’t help but share them.

1. Aggressively trim smaller vendors to consolidate the
supplier base by each category in order to increase
negotiating leverage and press for lower rates

Yes, increased volume and category consolidation can often extract better prices from the suppliers large enough to supply the volume and/or breadth of products needed to get the volume, but it comes at a price. Less suppliers to pick up the slack if the primary, or sometimes single, supplier fails due to a plant accident, natural disaster, or government shutdown. And failure will happen. Your chance of a major supply disruption not happening in the next 12 months is less than 10%. But hey, you always beat the odds. And you don’t need innovation, right? After all, if you wait long enough, the big bloated supplier will buy the little guy that comes up with the innovation if it is needed, right? (And it is always the little guy who comes up with the innovation, but that doesn’t matter, right?) The new economy runs on innovation, but your big clients are slow to move, and your suppliers should be just fast enough, right?

2. Institute a ‘champion/challenger’ model for all key
categories with 70 to 80% of the business going to
the champion and the remainder going to a single
challenger. This will keep both parties hungry. The
champion and challenger should also be rotated
periodically, though not too often as business
disruption is also costly

Well, this eliminates the risk of one supplier right? And flipping will definitely keep them hungry. And they won’t be p1ss3d that every few years you just snatch 60% of their business because “it will make them hungrier”. We’ll ignore the fact that they must have been pretty damn hungry to sharpen their pencil and submit the lowest bid even though that meant that their sales people probably didn’t get the commission they expected, and aren’t happy. So yeah, make them so hungry they’d rather eat your competition’s handout.

3. Search for new suppliers and give new suppliers a
chance to prove themselves if the pricing is better
than the incumbent. Potentially try a new vendor
as the ‘challenger’ (or as a second ‘challenger’) to
balance disruption with cost savings

This is probably the suggestion you share first when trying to discreetly bring your competition from the ground. Third challenger is a good idea, except when the challenger is brought in purely for cost savings. And then even less of a good idea when the category is one that doesn’t need much innovation. After all, why waste a good idea on a good implementation.

4. Execute a ‘cost-to-price’ initiative. Assemble a cross-functional
team to help quickly understand the
direct relationship between input-cost inflation and
necessary customer price increases to maintain or
improve product margins. For global companies,
this should be done on a country-by-country basis
with key performance indicator heat-maps to ensure
proper indexing of price inflation

It’s all about price after all. Who cares about quality, reliability, or even form and function that a customer actually wants. And who really cares about innovation after all — choose a supplier that lets someone else do it and then just copies it to the extent legally permissible. It’s good enough, right? And, of course, ignore the fact that all the lowest cost suppliers will be overseas and require complex supply chains to make your good and even more complex logistics chains to get your goods to your customers. That’s just details.

5. Hold a supplier conference in which the
suppliers are given indicative cost reduction targets
and asked to come and present to the company
their ideas. This demonstrates a commitment
to the relationship and working together to solve
pricing concerns

After all, every supplier loves a beat down, right? They love a hard-nosed negotiation customer who only cares about cost, cost, cost. Who doesn’t respect their innovation, quality, reliability, and overall effort to bring the product that’s the best overall value, not just the lowest cost.

Combined, it’s a sure-fire powder keg that, when lit, will burn your operation to the ground. It definitely is a run down …

Oh wait, it’s not run down, it’s run downwind and it’s step 3 in a course designed to sail through Rough Seas Ahead for Procurement … and it’s meant to help your organization sail in heavy weather!


I can’t think of any advice that would be worse. They’re basically telling you the only way to combat the rough seas ahead is to sail right into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle in the middle of a category 5 hurricane!


Do they truly hate their readership? Or, as a consultancy, are they trying to increase the number of companies that will be in dire need of consulting help? Because any company that follows this decades old advice, which might have worked in the 80s [when everything was home sourced, innovation was rare, and margins were fat] will definitely need help after trying this!