Category Archives: e-Leaders Speak

Service Leaders Speak: Ashton Udall of Global Sourcing Specialists on “Supply Chain Sustainability and Transparency”

Today’s post is from Ashton Udall, a Global Sourcing Specialist (and author of the GSS Blog).

As optimism returns and some of the challenges of the downturn begin to recede, we are quickly reminded that many challenges and trends which played at the forefront of business concerns, prior to the economic fallout of 2008, will return. How are sourcing organizations evolving to meet customer needs in the next decade? Surely, strategic sourcing, spend management, and risk assessment and mitigation will see continued development and increased sophistication. But there is another trend that has come to the fore in the last few years; a trend that requires many sourcing and procurement organizations to stretch outside their traditional bounds because of its interdisciplinary and cross-functional nature. Whether one likes it or not, for reasons of consumer demand, cost reduction and risk, and good ol’ conservationism, environmental sustainability will grow in importance and the supply chain will increasingly be dragged into the limelight on this topic.

Companies will face a demand for greater transparency as a result of growing consumer awareness and changing priorities, the continued spread of technology — cell phones, video, and internet access, and executive leadership. Authenticity and transparency will become greater drivers of brand loyalty, and companies will be expected to do as they claim, and show what they do.

Waving the green flag of sustainability is not enough. Smart companies, those who are ahead of the curve, will assume greater market leadership in years to come. These companies are working hard to find win-win situations in which both the financial and environmental bottom line benefit. Walmart is leading the charge, in one recent example, recently reporting that adherence to its sustainability goals has led to a reduction in toy packaging, saving the company 727 shipping containers and 1,300 barrels of oil in comparison to the previous year, which adds up to an impactful $3.5 million.

Packaging reduction is considered a low hanging fruit of environmental initiatives, but a survey of topics to be covered at the 3rd SustainableSupply Chain Summit (North America, 2009), includes issues such as carbon footprint, ROI on green initiatives, supplier collaboration and partnerships to attain greater efficiency, and the emergence of the Chief Sustainability Officer. Packaging reduction is only the beginning.

Design and product development teams will hand over greater requirements in the realms of sustainable packaging, sustainable materials, lower carbon footprint, and certified labor conditions to the sourcing and procurement departments, and it will be up to sourcing and procurement to provide solutions to meet these needs. Smart companies will get out in front of these issues and not remain in a reactionary state. Sourcing leaders will need to develop greater sophistication in assessing supplier operations and risk. Specifically, sourcing leaders will require more robust methods of identifying and calculating risk to CSR and marketing programs that emphasize the social and environmental perspective, vendor monitoring and compliance, and supplier capacity development. Opportunities will not be limited to finding ways to reduce environmental footprint and informing consumers. Creating and capturing value will entail sourcing professionals to develop the ability to create scenarios in which cost is continually reduced in the supply chain by reducing energy inputs, material waste, and operational inefficiencies, while simultaneously fulfilling CSR goals that build brand loyalty. Inorder for this to occur, compliance, procurement, and brand management will need to act cross-functionally, and in concert, to drive optimal results.

Sourcing solutions providers which continually investing in their staff to understand this new and rapidly evolving field, building relationships with service providers that specialize in compliance and capacity building programs, and expand and refine their network of suppliers that meet higher requirements, will be in a strong position to increasingly add value to customers’ top and bottom lines as we enter the next decade of transparency and sustainability in supply chains.

Thanks, Ashton.

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Service Leaders Speak: Ben Scott of The Claro Group on “The Opportunities Provided by The Great Recession”

Today’s post is from Ben Scott, a manager with The Claro Group.

As the country and economy slowly awaken from what some experts have called ‘The Great Recession‘, procurement managers are presented with a unique opportunity to take advantage of the changes to their suppliers’ landscapes. Undoubtedly, many suppliers have felt the pinch from the last few years but yet are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Nonetheless, as many suppliers look around today, these suppliers notice that the competitive landscape that used to exist has been dramatically altered. Bankruptcies, mergers, acquisitions and continued globalization have played a part in changing the supplier landscape both domestically and internationally. However, now that a turn-around appears to be underway, supply management professionals should review their supplier agreements, research the supplier marketplace and determine what categories are ripe for sourcing.

One such category that has seen its economics change, while being prevalent at many companies, is temporary labor. Over the past two years as unemployment has increased, the temporary labor talent pool has improved proportionally. As a buyer of temporary labor, an increased supply yields two distinct benefits. The first is courtesy of Adam Smith’s invisible hand where supply and demand has depressed wages. The second is that more capable workers are readily available and eager to prove themselves.

Once it is clear that there are benefits to be captured, the supply management professional should determine the most effective sourcing approach. Through a well thought out approach, a supply management professional can capture significant benefits. A supply management professional can choose from techniques such as incumbent negotiation, request for proposal or reverse auction. From recent history we have found that incumbent negotiations coupled with an RFP to gauge the marketplace is a very effective method for capturing savings. Regardless of the sourcing method you choose, keep your eyes on the pay rates and mark ups. Also keep in mind non-price savings mechanisms such as a volume based rebate program. In addition to hard cost savings, the supply management professional can capture more talented temporary help. The cumulative result is paying less on a per hour basis while getting greater efficiency out of the temporary labor that is brought in.

A second category that has become more prevalent over the past few years is corporate cards (“p-cards” or “T&E” cards). Traditionally p-cards were not thought of as a category that was “sourceable”. However, as supply management professionals have searched for additional areas in which to create value for their organizations, p-card negotiations have become more popular. At first glance it seems counterintuitive to think that banks and financial service companies would be willing to “come to the table”, however, our recent experience tells a different story. Banks are looking to rebuild their client portfolio with companies that have a proven track record of earning profits and generating cash. Therefore, if your company has a healthy balance sheet, this is a good time to place your p-card business into a competitive environment. Once again the recession and nascent turnaround has played a role here. The federal government has pumped billions of dollars into the financial system with the instructions to begin lending that cash out to businesses to restart the engines of the economy.

If you believe your company can stand to improve its corporate card agreement, the first step is to begin discussions with your current incumbent. However, often times an incumbent won’t really offer much value until there is the threat, real or perceived, that it stands to lose the business. That is why, unless extraordinary conditions exist, executing a RFx and entertaining bids from other suppliers is recommended.

The two examples used in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. Nearly every supply management professional will have responsibility for categories that have seen dramatic shifts similar to those illustrated here. The first, and arguably the most important, step in capturing savings is to understand the dynamics in the supplier marketplace. Constant monitoring of supplier marketplaces is a best practice that all supply management professionals should practice, but the benefits of such activities can be magnified in times such as these. By staying in tune with changes to your suppliers’ landscape, supply management professionals will be able to act quickly when opportunities such as these present themselves.

Thanks, Ben.

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Service Leaders Speak: Kris Colby of Ariba on “Time for Sourcing 3.0”

Today’s post is from Kris Colby of Ariba.

In keeping with the Back to School season, best-in-class Sourcingprofessionals are quickly realizing that they need to move into”advanced placement” classes if they’re going to stay ahead of thecompetition. Doing so requires embracing a new definition ofworld-class sourcing capabilities and adopting the tools and processesnecessary to deliver them.

Over the past 20 years, the Sourcing discipline has seen two periods ofdramatic evolution. First was the widespread application of StrategicSourcing practices starting in the late 80s which instituted a rigorousand prescriptive approach to what had frequently been a less scientific,ad-hoc and back-office activity. Second was the introduction of new technologies such as e-Sourcing, starting around 2000, that enabled increased competition, transparency and efficiency. While each of these developments brought substantial improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness to the world of sourcing, they were limited in their ability to access external resources, content and expertise. This in turn limited the knowledge and capability of an organization to what was housed inside the four walls, plus what was picked up at the sporadic trade conference.

The next wave in Sourcing (conveniently labeled Sourcing 3.0) buildsupon the process developments of Strategic Sourcing (Sourcing 1.0) andthe technology enablements of e-Sourcing (Sourcing 2.0) by adding twocomponents always in short supply but critical to maximizing results:Agility and Information.

Agility: With the over-used “do more with less” mantra only acceleratedby the recent economic downturn, it’s increasingly difficult to supportkeeping in-house a host of different resources that, while valuable, mayonly be needed sporadically. Instead, organizations need to be able tohave “on-demand” access to additional resources (human, knowledge andtechnological) to deal with new categories, event-driven projects,spikes in workload, and internal knowledge gaps. By maintainingcost-effective access to the incremental help your organization needs,you can have the tools you want at the price you need.

Information: The dramatic swings in most commodity markets over thelast twelve-plus months are only the most visible reminder that all thetechnology and process in the world is no match for understanding wherea market is going. Rather than quarterly market reports that areout-dated before their ink is dry, Sourcing Professionals need to tapinto the many online resources available to track markets, get strategyadvice, find new suppliers, and generally stay on top of things. Thesecan range from standard commodity market trackers (e.g Chemdata) toonline professional communities (Linked-In) and broader networks fordiscovery (e.g Ariba Supplier Network). This information enablesdifferent strategic approaches to categories, stakeholders and supplybases.

Combining this on-demand access to both information and agile resourceswith their existing capabilities in both technology and process,best-in-class sourcing organizations can create the opportunity to driveadditional value on every project and maintain their lead over the competition.

Thanks, Kris!

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Service Leaders Speak: Bernard Gunther of Lexington Analytics on “Reducing Bypass Spend”

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Today’s guest post is from Bernard Gunther of Lexington Analytics, a leading provider of spend analytics services for global procurement organizations.

Savvy sourcing managers are finding ways to uncover new savings despite spending freezes and heavy workloads. Just because the economy is suffering and budgets are frozen, it doesn’t mean you have a pass when it comes to demonstrating your value to the organization. In fact, it’s the perfect opportunity to show your stuff. You just have to be smarter and more creative about it.

One sourcing pro managed to reduce bypass spending and save over $100,000 a year by investing a couple of days of her time. You can bet this didn’t go unnoticed, especially during this economy.

Any sourcing manager looking to deliver value to the organization can do the same thing. Here’s how.

We’ll make three assumptions:

  1. You have some sort of spend analysis system*. You should be able to do this analysis whether you have a first-generation style data warehouse, use a third party to analyze your spending, or have a modern spend analysis tool. You just need basic spending information.
  2. You have done a deal with a selected vendor where you are now getting better pricing and quality for the same services than you were previously. You may have done this deal with a paper RFP or a very sophisticated optimization engine. You just need to know the pricing for the new deal.
  3. Some users in your organization are not buying from your preferred vendor. If you are covering a range of categories and have 100% compliance to all your deals, congratulations! This is a very rare accomplishment. Most organizations have some level of bypass or maverick spending.

If you have a good information system, the following should get done in a few days over a few weeks. If it takes you longer to get this done, you may look at your information systems. There is a great deal that can be done to make this faster and easier.

Here’s the process and some illustrative results:

  1. Pick a category where you have a preferred vendor with favorable pricing.
  2. Find the past year’s spending for this category. For illustration, let’s assume the category spending is $3 million.
  3. Estimate the opportunity. Let’s assume you have 70% compliance with your program. This means that there is a bypass rate of 30% (or $900,000). When you sourced this category, your preferred vendor saved you 15% on your rates. 15% savings on $900,000 is $135,000 — money worth going after. In addition, your incumbent could increase their business by over 40% — something that any vendor would be happy to do. If the opportunity is large enough, continue.
  4. Get the spending by vendor. Find the largest bypass vendor. Let’s assume this vendor represents one third of the bypass or $300,000 of spending. If you could move this bypass spending to your preferred vendors, you would save 15% of $300,000 or $45,000.
  5. Verify the opportunity. Obtain a few invoices for this bypass vendor. In the ideal world, you would be able to get a detailed file with all the specifications, quantities and pricing for this bypass vendor to make this analysis quick and comprehensive. But you don’t need to live in this world of perfect information to get results. Price out the invoices using your preferred vendor. If your pricing grid doesn’t cover the items in question, talk to your preferred vendor and see if they sell the items and can give you firm pricing. You may need to call this bypass vendor to understand the specifications and ensure you have an apples-to-apples comparison. At the end of the day, one of the vendors will have a lower price. If your preferred vendor is lower, you have the information to go to the business unit. If your preferred vendor is higher priced than this bypass vendor, you should use this information to get the preferred vendor to lower their price, generating savings on the rest of your spending.
  6. Estimate the savings for the largest business unit. Use your spending information to calculate savings for this business unit. Let’s assume this business unit represents half of the bypass spending with this vendor. This means shifting the spending would save $22,500 for this one business unit.
  7. Talk to the people in the business unit who used the other vendor. Find out why they use the bypass vendor and ask what it would take to use the preferred vendor in the future. Ask them if this extra money would be useful. (If they aren’t concerned about the money, perhaps the budget pressures aren’t as serious as you thought. Keep a log of “wasted spending”. When the next round of budget pressure comes around, you can haul out the list.)
  8. Reduce the bypass. Develop a plan to eliminate this bypass in the future. If this business unit regularly buys from the bypass vendor, this is straightforward. If you have tight and centralized ordering, work through the system. If this is an episodic purchase done by many units, you may need to let more people know about this preferred vendor and the savings opportunity.

If you did this once a month, you’d save $22,500 x 12, or around one quarter of a million dollars every year — easy money for a few days of work a month. And you still have 90% of your time left to do what you normally do.

So what’s stopping you?

Thanks, Bernard.

Service Leaders Speak: Jim Wetekamp of BravoSolution on “Sourcing Leadership for the Recovery”

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Today’s guest post is from Jim Wetekamp of Bravo Solution, a global provider of supply management services and solutions (with offices across 3 continents).

It’s been just over a year since the financial crisis that signaled the worst of the global economic recession, and as we head back to work after summer vacation, businesses around the world are looking with a glimmer of hope towards the future. As the evidence in favor of a turnaround mounts, I am increasingly approached by sourcing leaders who are looking for ways to position their businesses for sourcing leadership in the recovery.

In truth, the visionary sourcing executives recognized early on that the objective for sourcing leadership doesn’t change at all as we dip into recession and then begin to recover. It is only the resources that they are allowed that changes. Ambitious executives will have seized the opportunities presented in the last year to be a strategic value driver for their businesses, driving cost out of the supply chain and helping to improve profitability in lean times. And they’ll have done that by adhering to the priorities that matter for sourcing leaders no matter the state of the economy:

Visibility, Fundamentals, and Evolution
Figure 1: Evolving Supply Management Priorities

The most successful sourcing leaders will have continued along this path over the last year; they will have kept their teams strong and armed them with the tools they need to succeed. These leaders are the ones who will find themselves best able to ride the crest of the recovery wave. They will not waste time staffing, training, and re-booting their sourcing organizations. Sadly, few organizations have weathered the past year fully intact, so what do sourcing executives need to do to lead in the recovery?

Sourcing Leadership’s job as the economy begins to recover is to rebuild the capabilities that were lost and get back on mission. This is not the time for a slow build; the most successful teams will be those who can quickly ramp their teams up and begin firing against all their priorities immediately. If you do nothing else, you should make sure your organization has best-in-class capabilities in three main areas:

Visibility and Opportunity Planning
If you don’t currently have visibility into your spend, it’s time to get a quick snapshot while laying the groundwork for a longer-term spend management program. Long term, a spend visibility tool will help you analyze and interpret your spending; you’ll likely also need a service provider experienced in rapid spend analysis to get you quickly through the initial opportunity identification phase. BravoSolution routinely delivers detailed opportunity analysis in a matter of weeks, even where our clients have spent months prior trying to understand their spend with internal resources.

Sourcing Fundamentals and Technologies
If you’re not using e-Sourcing tools, then you’re denying your business enormous efficiency gains, and wasting the time and expertise of your team on mundane recordkeeping tasks. You can move through the opportunities you identified faster and start realizing savings and managing vendors sooner if you’re using tools designed to accelerate that process. If you don’t have the bandwidth or expertise for a particular category, don’t be afraid to ask your technology provider for support – most leading e-Sourcing technology vendors, including BravoSolution, offer templates, advice, and even fully managed or outsourced events for their e-Sourcing customers.

Evolution and Extending Reach
The biggest disservice you can do for your organization (and your career) is to shy away from your most complex, highly visible categories at this moment. Strategic categories like transportation, packaging, and services mean too much to your business to be left to languish while your team rebuilds. You need to tackle these categories now, while suppliers are still eager to negotiate, and before a recovering economy begins to drive up costs in your biggest categories. Clearly, in categories that have such far-reaching impact across the organization, you cannot afford to fly blind. The value of pulling in a knowledgeable partner at this stage cannot be underestimated. Like other leading solution providers, BravoSolution regularly works with our customers to build tailored sourcing events that help our clients gain a deep understanding of their suppliers’ cost models and priorities, and to identify awards that drive efficiencies for both buyers and suppliers, reducing costs for both parties, and driving lasting, collaborative sourcing relationships.

By preserving, or better yet enhancing, your capabilities in these areas before the recovery takes hold, you will be poised to ride the wave of recovery and create competitive advantage for your business over the long term.

Thanks, Jim.