The Power of Optimization-Backed Sourcing is in the Right Sourcing Mix Across Scales of Size and Service

the doctor has been pushing optimization-backed sourcing since Sourcing Innovation started in 2006. There’s a number of reasons for this:

  • there is only one other technology that has repeatedly demonstrated savings of 10% or more
  • it’s the only technology that can accurately model total cost of ownership with complex cost discounts and structures
  • it’s the only technology that can minimize costs while adhering to carbon, risk, or other requirements
  • it’s one of only two technologies that can analyze cost / risk, cost / carbon, or other cost / x tradeoffs accurately

However, the real power of optimization-backed sourcing is how it can not only give you the right product mix, but the right mix across scales. This is especially prevalent when doing sourcing events for national or international distribution or utilization. Without optimization, most companies can only deal with suppliers who can handle international distribution or utilization. This generally rules out regional suppliers and always rules out local suppliers, some of whom might be the best suppliers of goods or services to the region or locality. While one may be tempted to think local suppliers are irrelevant because they will struggle to deliver the economy of scale of a regional supplier and will definitely never reach the economy of scale of a national (or international) supplier, unit cost is just one component of the total lifecycle cost of a product or service. There’s transportation cost, tariffs, taxes, intermediate storage, and final storage (of which more will be required since you will need to make larger orders to account for longer distribution timelines) among other costs. So, in some instances, local and regional will be the overall lowest cost and keeping them out of the mix increases costs (and sometimes increases carbon and risk as well).

When it comes to services, the right multi-level mix can lead to savings of 30% or more in an initial event. the doctor has seen this many times over his career (consulting for many of of the strategic sourcing decision optimization startups) because while the big international players can get competitive on hourly rates where they have a lot of resources with a skill set, when it comes to services, there are all in-costs to consider, which include travel to the client site and local accommodations. The thing with national and international services providers is that they tend to cluster all of their resources with a certain skill set in a handful of major locations. So their core IT resources (developers, architects, DBAs, etc.) will be in San Francisco and New York, their core Management consultants will be in Chicago and Atlanta, their core Finance Pros in Salt Lake City and Denver, etc. So if you need IT in Jefferson City, Missouri, Management in Winner, South Dakota, or accounting in Des Moines, Iowa, you’re flying someone in, putting them up at the highest star hotel you have, and possibly doubling the cost compared to a standard day rate.

However, simple product mix and services scenarios are not the only scenarios optimization-backed sourcing can handle. As per this article over on, retailers need to back away from global sourcing and embrace regional (and even local) strategies for cost management, supply stability, and resilience. They are only going to be able to figure that out with optimization that can help them identify the right mix to balance cost and supply assurance, and when you need to do that across hundreds, if not thousands, of products, you can’t do that with an RFX solution and Microsoft Excel.

Furthermore, when you need to minimize costs when a price is fixed, like the price of oil or airline fuel, you need to maximize every related decision like where to refuel, what service providers to contract with, how to transport it, etc. When it can cost up to $40,000 to fuel a 737 for a single flight (when prices are high), and you operate almost 7,000 flights per day with planes ranging from a gulf stream that costs about $10,000 to refuel to a Boeing 747 that, in hard times, can cost almost $400,000 to refuel, you can be spending $60 Million a day on fuel as your fleet burns 10 Million gallons. Storing those 10 Million gallons, transporting those 10 Million gallons, and using that fuel to fuel 7,000 planes takes a lot of manpower and equipment, all of which has an associated cost. Hundreds of thousands of associated costs per day (on the low end), and tens of millions per year. Shaving off just 3% would save over a million dollars easy. (Maybe two million.) However, the complexity of this logistics and distribution model is beyond what any sourcing professional can handle with traditional tools, but easy with an optimization backed platform that can model an entire flight schedule, all of the local costs for storage and fueling, all of the distribution costs from the fuel depots, and so on. (This is something that Coupa is currently supporting with its CSO solution, which has saved at least one airline millions of dollars. Reach out to Ian Milligan for more information if this intrigues you or how this model could be generalized to support global fleet management operations of any kind.)

In other words, Optimization-Backed Sourcing is going to become critical in your highly strategic / high spend categories as costs continue to rise, supply continues to be uncertain, carbon needs to be accounted for, and risks need to be managed.