Last year we asked you in jest if category management savings were drying up, because we knew we were. We told you that the way to prevent this was to cross-source and cross-optimize across categories that can be shipped together from the same supply base. For example, while it might be logical to separate brass, bronze, and copper parts from a category management perspective, considering that some suppliers will likely supply parts across these categories (considering brass and bronze are alloys that contain copper), from a sourcing perspective it makes sense to source all three categories simultaneously. This way you can optimize logistics and negotiate additional volume discounts based on spend levels.
And this is still a great idea, but sometimes it’s not enough to achieve savings. Volume leverage is only one half of the equation, at the best of times. The other half is the strategy. Simply bundling additional volume and shipping it out for a bid isn’t going to do the trick if demand exceeds supply. Nor is putting a large volume up for an auction going to guarantee results even if supply greatly exceeds demand. Especially if the auction is not going to the right supply base.
The key is the right strategy for the right sub-set of the category. As the doctor penned in his series on AI in Procurement (Today Part I, Part II; Tomorrow Part I, Part II, Part III; and The Day After Tomorrow), and in his upcoming series on AI in Sourcing (over on Spend Matters Pro, membership required), it’s all about the right strategy for the right sub-category at the right time.
The key is, for each category product, service, or raw material, to analyze the state of the market and determine whether the best result is going to come from a catalog buy, a (3-bids-and-a-buy) auction, or a (multi-round) (optimization-backed) RFX and then slice up the category appropriately — then piece those slices together across related categories to get the necessary volume leverage to ensure savings in auctions, (optimization-backed) RFX events, or re-negotiations with incumbents. Just like there is no one-size-fits-all approach to categorization, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sourcing events — even if everything worked the last time around. Markets change. Supply/Demand imbalances change. Buying power changes. Everything is in flux. And sometimes the third time is the charm … for your suppliers that can achieve a windfall at your expense.