What does it mean to “be commercial”?

What does it mean to be commercial?

I was once in a meeting with a former manager where I was urged to be more commercial in my outlook. When I asked for a definition, the answer I got was along the lines of just be more commercial…

I contrast this with an episode earlier in my career where I was said to be too commercial in my outlook. This word “Commercial” is a word that gets thrown around with abandon, yet do we truly appreciate what it means to be commercial?

There are companies that adopt a commercial approach, as procurement professionals we are urged to be “more commercial”. I have met with people who need their Contract managers to be more commercially aware and people even have it in their titles whilst doing utterly different roles. Roads have been named after it and even whole districts!

So what does being commercial mean?

The dictionary definition of commercial has the following explanations:

  1. concerned with or engaged in commerce: “a commercial agreement”
  1. making or intended to make a profit: “commercial products”

having profit rather than artistic or other value as a primary aim:

“their work is too commercial”

  1. (of television or radio) funded by the revenue from broadcast advertisements.
  2. (of chemicals) supplied in bulk and not of the highest purity

Ignoring the last 2 (for purposes of this article), I think the more applicable definitions are concerned with commerce (i.e. all the comings and goings in a supply market) and making a profit.

But perhaps the biggest question is: How can we translate this into actionable items for us to consider?

Commerce is the activity of buying and selling. Therefore in order to be commercial in this aspect we need to have:

  • An understanding of our business and the wider business environment in which it sits.
  • Familiarity with the end product or service that we buy or manage.
  • How it fits into our organisations service provision and ultimately its Value Proposition to the wider market (those of you playing consultant bingo can cross that word off).
  • A grasp of the activities of our organisation and how your role impacts this.

We also need to have an understanding of the wider marketplaces where we interact daily and be able to:

  • Know how the major players in this particular market are performing at present.
  • Find out who is dealing with whom, and which companies have won important contracts.
  • Think about what the future will bring and what it means to you, your category and your organisation.

Profit is central to any business and should also be for those not solely engaged in the activity of making profit (i.e. public sector or not for profit). As someone in the not for profit sector once said to me, “whilst we are not for profit, we are not for loss either”.

Understanding profit and how organisations make profit should be central to any sustainable procurement strategy. Will these suppliers still be around next year, the year after etc, what are the sources of profit and how do changes in the global market place affect them (commodity pricing, changes in labour force, legislation, global catastrophes and competition).

Commercial awareness then, could be summed up as:

  • An interest in business and an understanding of the wider environment in which an organisation operates: its customers, competitors and suppliers.
  • Understanding of the economics of the business and understanding the business benefits and realities from both the organisation’s and the customer’s perspectives.
  • The need for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, customer care and knowledge of the market place in which the company operates (current economic climate and major competitors).

So how do we actually become commercially aware? Here is a 5 point plan to become more commercially aware:

  1. Keep up to date with what is happening about the future for your organisation, and the markets in which your organisation operates. Check your organisations business plan and strategic vision for clues on this.
  2. Understand the nature and structure of external supply markets, list out the things that affects them and keep a track on when they occur. (See earlier article on scenario planning).
  3. Understand any historical patterns which will help us to predict future trends. It’s particularly useful to be aware of any typical cyclical patterns, such as how wider economic conditions tend to affect a particular industry. On a smaller scale, it could be helpful to be aware of the cycle of the financial year and the effect it can have. For example, organisations may be spending up their budgets and this will have an impact on supply.
  4. Understand and map out the key strategic relationships you have with your suppliers. What is their strategic vision and do you feature? Gather data on the suppliers and supply market/s you serve and are served by and pay attention to the trends.
  5. For any piece of analysis you do, remember to ask SO WHAT!

So why is this important? I think for a number of reasons depending on where you are in your career…

According to Association of Graduate Recruiters “Skills for Graduates in the 21st Century” commercial awareness is the number one skill shortage amongst graduates.

Most “future of procurement” documents talk about the need for more commercial awareness in procurement activities and professionals.

A key deliverable of contract management (i.e. actually delivering the benefits found in sourcing) is to be commercially aware of their actions during the contract lifecycle.

So consider the 5 point plan to be more commercial and ask how you could apply it to your environment and the next time your manager asks you to be more commercial ( or less) you will have a handle on where to start.

Supplier Collaboration? You Must be Joking

There are numerous articles talking about the value that remains untapped within the supply chain, if only buyer and supplier could collaborate. But what does it mean to collaborate?

Collaboration is key

If you were to look up the definition of Collaboration, it is either:

  1. To work together
  2. To co-operate treasonably with the enemy

And for many procurement professionals, number two may still be closer to the mark than number one!

Assuming the correct definition in this case is ‘to work together’, what could collaboration offer the buyer? What is the untapped value in the relationship?

Supplier Innovation

Following the award of the contract, between order placement and delivery, there is time. What if the supplier could apply their knowledge and experience during this time to see if they could deliver the contract for less?

This is called ‘Supplier Innovation’ and involves the supplier applying their expertise and knowledge to the contract in the post-contract award phase to save the buyer money.

The real question is, if the supplier could deliver the contract for less, would they tell the buyer? Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is no.

If Supplier Innovation occurs between order placement and contract delivery, theoretically it could be applied to all contracts. Therefore, in order to access the untapped benefits of supplier innovation, the buyer needs to ensure the correct incentives are in place before awarding the contract. But how can you do this?

Gain Share in Contracts

The answer is relatively simple. In order to collaborate, both parties need to understand how they benefit – answering the “what’s it in for me?” question. Unless both parties see value in collaboration, it is likely to remain an ‘if only’ situation.

For suppliers to collaborate with buyers, they need to see financial benefit. One way traditionally used to incentivise suppliers is a Gain Share. A gain share is a risk/reward commercial model used to incentivise suppliers to achieve specified objective. If the supplier achieves this objective, they receive more revenue.

Gain shares have some interesting characteristics which include:

  • The objective is pre-defined and negotiated prior to contract award – This is counterproductive to encouraging Supplier Innovation, as the supplier does not know if innovation is possible until they are in the post-contract award phase.
  • Gain shares can be complex and time consuming to negotiate and therefore used selectively – This is also counterproductive to encouraging Supplier Innovation, as the buyer needs this capability in all its contracts.
  • Gain shares are a risk/reward model – Again this is counterproductive, as, by definition, you cannot predict if innovation will occur and therefore it has to be achieved without increasing the risk of the supplier.

It seems clear that there is untapped value within the supply chain, if the buyer and supplier collaborate. Yet, how this is to be achieved while using current commercial models remains a mystery to many.

If we could have supplier Innovation available within all our contracts, encouraging and rewarding suppliers when they innovate without risk, costs or effort to either party, have we finally found a way to access the untapped potential that resides within the supply chain?

Well, there may be a new option that both buyers and suppliers can use – The POD Model. The model is a scalable (can go into every contract) model that encourages suppliers to innovate (without increasing the supplier risks) within the contract. If innovation occurs (without making it a supplier obligation), it generates additional savings for the buyer and increased profits for the supplier (addressing the “what’s in it for me?” question). And best of all, it’s free!

So no, we’re not joking when we talk about collaboration. Can you afford not to?

About the Author POD Procurement: POD Procurement created The POD Model and provides consulting and training on its implementation. The POD Model is free to use and can be found on the CIPS knowledge website. For additional information please contact info@podprocurement.com

Supply chain and procurement SMEs must act to future-proof pensions

If you’re doing business in the UK, you might want to heed this new warning issued by Lighthouse Group…

SMEs must act now to secure pensions

Supply chain and procurement SMEs must act fast to untangle payroll data to meet pensions auto-enrolment.

Many of the country’s 1.8 million small employers  approaching their pensions auto-enrolment staging dates are in danger of missing deadlines by underestimating the amount of data needed to complete the process.

According to the financial advisors, tens of thousands of supply chain and procurement SMEs and micro employers are now starting to grapple with the complexities of employer pension schemes for the first time. The Pensions Regulator recently stated that only 29 per cent of those staging in 2016 were fully aware of their date and only 46 per cent of those staging in 2017 were aware of their responsibilities.

Pensions expert Roger Sanders, OBE, cautions business owners to familiarise themselves with the requirements and assess their business as soon as possible, even if their staging date is two years away: “Employers’ auto-enrolment duties go far beyond setting up a pension scheme and enrolling staff in it,” he said. “They must assess their workforce, work out who to enrol and decide how much they and their employees will contribute. They also need to keep records of all this information, together with any changes, all of which represents a significant amount of work for smaller employers.

Roger continues: “However, we are finding many businesses in supply chain and procurement lack the accurate, up-to-date information on employees vital to completing enrolment smoothly. Firms that leave their enrolment preparation too late will be in for a shock when they discover years of payroll and employee data needs to be sorted before they can properly begin.”

Lighthouse advises that employers who use a payroll bureau should ask whether their systems and software are geared up to deal with auto-enrolment, assessing if they can extract needed information easily, in a suitable format, and on a regular basis.

A payroll bureau generally holds information such as an employee’s full name, their salary or wages and National Insurance number, but may not have the employee’s address and other contact details such as email, which is often held by the employer. However, under auto-enrolment all this information needs to be brought together each time an employee is paid, whether monthly, fortnightly or weekly.

SMEs should begin the process at least six months before their staging date, starting with checking what data their payroll function holds and how to export it, as well as what information is missing and must be tracked down. At three months before the staging date, businesses must have a process to collate all the information needed in a suitable format and on a timely basis. Data must be in a standardised format and should cover all employees, even if they will not be enrolled automatically.

Procurement: Is it a young person’s game?

We speak to 30 Under 30 Winner Nicholas Ammaturo on attracting Millennials to the profession.

Nicholas Ammaturo ISM 30 Under 30 Star

Procurious recently quizzed Nicholas Ammaturo on making his mark in the world of supply chain management and procurement.

Nicholas is one of procurement’s rising stars, as demonstrated by his entry into ISM’s 30 Under 30 Program.

Procurious asks: The challenges facing the Millennial workforce. Competition, the contract vs. perm debate etc.

Nicholas: I think the biggest challenge facing the millennial workforce in Procurement, is the misconception about us not working hard. In most examples, Millennials in this industry work much harder than they get credit. They are often generalized based on age and experience. There needs to be more of a sense of development, support as well as recognition.

Procurious: What [skillset] do today’s professionals bring to the table, that perhaps the CPOs of yesterday lack?

Nicholas: In some cases, today’s professionals have been acclimated with technology and are more comfortable with it. This is a mass generalisation, but there is a certain acceptance by younger generations and their approach to technology. Social Media is powerful and I have seen many masters as every age, but it’s more seamless for today’s professionals. A lot of things were previously built on relationships alone; today there are multitudes of tools from e-procurement to BI dashboards for KPI’s, in addition to the importance of relationships.

Procurious: What needs to be done to transform the profession, and bring it up-to-date?

Nicholas: Someone needs to address the Universities.

I made an attempt to connect with all the local schools and preach about Supply Chain/Procurement, but I got little traction.

I would like someone to back me and get more programs created, make this industry more relevant so we can build the bench. I think the industry is “sexy” and up-to-date; we just need to get the word out.

Procurious: Do you think it’s fair to say that most CPOs are running scared of social media?

Nicholas: Too funny, as I read this question and see my response above. I don’t think they are running. I see many of them embrace is. Some are fluent in LinkedIn and Twitter and put me to shame! I think they are the minority, so perhaps there needs to be more CPO’s out there who embrace it.

Procurious: How important is it to have a clearly defined brand today?

Nicholas: This is my goal every day. I am my own company. I happen to provide my services, but at the end of the day, you need to build your skills and advance your career.

Procurious: Let’s talk innovation – who/what is innovating in the procurement technology space right now?

Nicholas: Who isn’t playing in this space today? I can’t tell you how many cold calls I get. The most innovative thing I’ve seen is ScoutRFP. Smart guys who are going to shake the space up. I am looking forward to their success. I think Amazon innovation will drive innovation everywhere. They are continually re-paving some of the landscape in business and others are feeding off them, this will be no different than this industry.

Procurious: Is more innovation needed in the building and maintaining of supplier relationships?

Nicholas: No, I think more communication is needed. A simple phone call can solve everything; sometimes people are so keen to shoot of an email and are lose the personal connection. I think innovation and technology will keep people honest during the process, but communication and transparency are needed to make it more of a partnership than your traditional supplier/buyer arrangement.

Procurious: Would you recommend the ’30 Under 30 Program’ to those looking for a route into the profession?

ISM & ThomasNet’s 30 Under 30 Program is promising for young professionals. They have taken a stance to create awareness around the industry and have continued to make the investment. I was honored to receive the recognition. I think its motivating to see the others who share my passion and regardless of their education or role, they all love what they do. There was certainly a common theme when I reviewed all the winners and met them in person, most fell into the industry by chance and most will never leave it. We love it.

How To Spot Supplier Risk During Pickups & Deliveries

When your transportation vendor picks up or delivers your cargo, you should take some time to check for risky behaviours. This article reviews what to look for to ensure you’re not working with vendors that will put your business at risk. 

Delivery

Thanks to Spendrix for granting Procurious permission to republish this article. This article is the second in a series on how to identify various types of supplier risk. Catch up with the first in the series.

To wrap up our series on identifying supplier risk, we examine what you should look for during pickups and deliveries. Earlier articles in the series covered the importance of risk profiling as well as other situations where you should look for supplier risk.

When it comes time for a transportation vendor to pickup or deliver your cargo, review this checklist to ensure you’re not working with a carrier that will put your business at risk.

Equipment

One of the first things to inspect during pickups and deliveries is the equipment used to transport your business’ cargo. Before any cargo is loaded, identify the exact truck and trailer being used for the job. Make sure the truck and trailer aren’t damaged from previous trips. Also, check the deck of the trailer to make sure it’s intact; and that the rest of the trailer is rust free. Finally, inspect tires for adequate tread and proper inflation.

Before your cargo is ever moved, make sure your transportation vendors’ equipment is in good condition.

Driver State

Another serious risk factor to look for during pickups and deliveries is the physical and mental state of the driver that will be responsible for transporting your business’ cargo. Drivers will spend a lot of time with your cargo, so it is in a shipper’s best interest to ensure their driver will be safe. Obviously, check that your driver is not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. Just as important, make sure they aren’t groggy or tired, which can be just as dangerous as having alcohol in your system.

Also, do your transportation vendors help ensure driver compliance by maintaining organised and up to date logbooks? Do they have a detailed understanding of their drivers’ hours of service, and work to avoid violations? If not, that vendor and their drivers could be putting your entire business at risk.

If you ever have any doubts about the state of a driver, don’t be afraid to speak up. Checking the mental and physical state of the driver transporting your cargo is a crucial way to protect your business from supplier risk.

Personal Protective Equipment

During pickups and deliveries, make sure your transportation vendors’ employees are using the proper personal protective equipment for the given job. OSHA requires, “protective equipment to be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary.” This includes safety glasses, respirators, steel-toed boots, work shirts, gloves, hard hats, and hearing protection.

Unfortunately, workplace accidents do happen, but using the proper equipment goes a long way to minimise these accidents and protect workers. It is also a good idea to make sure the proper first-aid medical equipment is available if needed.

If your transportation vendors provides personal protective equipment and mandates its proper use, this is a great sign you are working with a reliable and safe carrier. However, if you repeatedly see carriers engaging in risky behaviours during pickups and deliveries by not using proper safety equipment, you may want to consider a different vendor for your transportation needs.

Securement

Properly securing your cargo is one of the most important steps for minimising damage. Therefore, you need to make sure your transportation vendors’ securement equipment and practices won’t put your cargo at risk. First, check all securement equipment for damage and the effects of ageing. This means inspecting chains for rust, tarps for holes, and straps for tears.

Also, ensure carriers are using the proper equipment for the type of trailer. Flat decks need corner protectors, and blocking and bracing should be used if loading a van. Finally, ensure your transportation vendor tightens down all cargo before the truck moves anywhere.

Making sure your business’ cargo is properly secured during pickups and deliveries dramatically lowers the chances of an accident involving your cargo. By checking your transportation vendors’ securement practices, you can spot risky behaviours during pickups and deliveries.

Overall, we’ve covered three areas where you can identify supplier risk – communication, on-site evaluations, and pickups and deliveries. By looking for risky behaviours during these interactions, you can help protect your business from the consequences of supplier failure.

Ben is a business development professional currently working with Spendrix. He enjoys the challenge of helping a young company grow. Ben is passionate about risk analysis, business administration, and technology issues affecting the transportation and logistics industry.

CEO of ISM on the Importance of Social Media in Procurement

Welcome back to the final instalment of our recent chat with ISM CEO, Tom Derry.

Social media is key to procurement's future

 

To wrap up our chat with Tom, we discussed the important role that social media plays in the development of the procurement and supply chains professions.

Procurious asks: At Procurious we’re passionate about how social media and connecting a global network of procurement and supply chain professionals can improve the profile of our function, promote knowledge sharing and ultimately enable people be better at their jobs. Do you see a role for social media in the development of procurement and supply chain professionals?

Tom Derry: I honestly I don’t see how anybody could plan to be an effective professional in our field without using the social media tool kit. There are lots of reasons for this. Social media is a vital part of the way we work. The opportunities for procurement and supply chain professionals in social media are huge.

Social media is critical for connecting procurement professionals. It allows people to share information in a private and confidential manner and to leverage a global knowledge base to get answers to questions you just wouldn’t get otherwise.

Being connected through social media means people can understand and monitor the risks that are present in their markets. I’ve heard stories of our members getting procurement market information off Twitter, learning about labor unrest in their overseas supply chains and fires at supplier manufacturing facilities. All of this information is available in real-time through social media.

Twitter itself is becoming such an important source of data for the procurement and supply chain function.

More and more, we need to be able to contact people and pull on extended networks to gain reliable and current information.

I believe that social networks will continue to grow in importance over the coming years, particularly as younger people, who are more familiar with social media, move into managerial roles.

I really don’t see how you could be an effective procurement or supply chain professional without fully engaging in the social media space.

I think Procurious is right where it needs to be. By connecting procurement people across the globe, you are absolutely building on the right idea at the right time and adding greatly to the function. With the exception of possibly finance, I can’t think of a more globalised profession than procurement and supply chain. I certainly can’t see how procurement and supply professionals could even consider creating a successful career, without having an active presence on social media.

Want to read more from Tom?

Bridging the procurement talent gap with ISM CEO Tom Derry
Tom Derry on Innovating from your supply base

Big Data Will Revolutionise Supply Chains – And Here’s Why…

We know what you’re thinking – “Not another article on data”! But stick with us as, like data itself, the information on it keeps evolving. And can you really ever know all there is to know about data for your business?

Big Data Will Revolutionize Supply Chains - And Here's Why...

Every individual in an organisation comes into contact with data, and is in some way responsible for that data too. We all spend a lot of time with data at home too – it helps to inform our personal purchasing decisions, from coffee to holidays.

Using Data

The main problem, from both a personal and organisational point of view, is how to use the data we have (this is, of course, after working out what data to use first). For now, we’ll just focus on organisational data that can be used to inform procurement and supply chain decisions.

Increasing connectivity, plus an abundance of devices with the ability to collect data, means that decision making and analytics can be carried out with a greater wealth of information. In procurement, this data helps inform spend analysis, identification of correlations and drivers and trends across purchasing activities.

Identification of trends helps procurement create accurate predictions and improve spend management by knowing when and where items are being used and at what rate. This can assist with assessment of requirements, standardisation of products in a catalogue and will ultimately make a positive difference to budgets.

Data Quality

Dr David Hames, Founder of Science Warehouse, believes that data will be a driver in organisations in the future, both in B2B and B2C transactions. Speaking to Procurious at the Big Ideas Summit 2015, he caveated this by highlighting a concern that many procurement professionals have – data quality and integrity.

In order to be used effectively, David states that data needs to be:

  • Cohesive
  • Comprehensive
  • Accurate and detailed
  • Subject to Quality Control from experts

It’s difficult to guarantee all of these, but unless you can be confident in the quality of your data, you can’t be confident in the value of your analytics.

Cyber Security

Data integrity is another concern for organisations. Greater connectivity has lead to concerns that individuals are organisations are more vulnerable than ever to cyber attacks.

Sony Pictures, Ashley Madison, Carphone Warehouse and the US Government – in the past 6 months all of these have been high-profile targets for cyber attacks.

A report by Quocirca this year highlighted the concerns that organisations have around data security and data protection. Only 29 per cent of the organisations surveyed marked themselves as very confident about data security (this figure dropped to 16 per cent across the retail and distribution industries), while 10 per cent they were not confident at all.

Those who were very confident showed common policies around education of employees, defined and streamlined approaches to security and highly co-ordinated approaches to both internal and external threats to security.

The Secret to Good Data

Is there a secret to good data? We’d love to say that there is an easy solution for organisations, but it’s not as straightforward as that.

Good starting points include training and educating employees, having robust processes and policies and having someone who can check the quality of the data in the systems.

And, if you’re using an integrated system for procurement and other departments (e.g. Finance; IT), make sure your data is good before you switch on, otherwise you’re going to be fighting a battle from the off. Good data in, good data out. Bad data…well, you know the rest.

Do you have a secret to good data? A success story of leveraging data in procurement and reducing costs? We’d love to hear all about it, so get in touch.

And to set you up for your water-cooler/coffee line conversations this week, here are all the key headlines in procurement and supply chain.

Coca-Cola bottlers agree three-way Europe merger

  • Three of Europe’s main bottlers of Coca-Cola products are to combine in a $27bn deal to simplify manufacturing at the world’s largest drink maker as it seeks to cut costs at a time when consumers are shifting away from its famous sodas.
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises, the US-based bottler with exclusive Coke licences in several western Europe countries, will merge with its Iberian and German counterparts in the latest consolidation of the Coca-Cola Company’s supply chain.
  • The merger comes as Coca-Cola is confronting a decline in fizzy drinks sales, especially in developed markets, which make up almost 70 per cent of the company’s overall revenues. In response, the drinks group is looking to cut costs to boost profitability. Initiatives have included reducing the size of beverage bottles, generating more profit per ounce, as customers fall out of love with excess.
  • In an internal memo to staff, James Quincey, president of Coca-Cola in Europe, said the deal would improve the company’s ability to respond more swiftly to changing consumer trends. He added that the merger would enable the bottlers to improve efficiency in its supply chain, sales and distribution.

Read more at the FT

Britain in Summer Rush of Supply Chain Contracts

  • Supply chains for two of Britain’s largest defense programs have benefited in the last few days from a rush of production contract awards by industry primes BAE Systems, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.
  • By early August, with Parliament on its summer recess and people’s minds here turning to the beach, it’s normally a quiet time on the announcement front for defense. The last few days were different, though. Fourteen contracts from across supply chains that include equipment from Austria, Germany and the US, as well as the UK, were announced for three British programs.
  • The contracts illustrated the increasing globalization of defense supply chains and emphasized the continued willingness of the British to look overseas for equipment. It’s something the British government hopes to see reciprocated more by its allies.
  • International supply chains, and Britain’s role in them, were on British Procurement Minister Philip Dunne’s mind when he visited Washington recently and talked up Britain’s ability as an equipment supplier. “We have been actively encouraging US and other non-UK domicile primes to come into the UK to explore our supply chain,” he said in a speech July 28.

Read more at Defense News

Fast fashion propels Zara into shopping stratosphere

  • Amancio Ortega, the co-founder of Zara, is now the world’s second-richest man, putting him above Warren Buffet and just behind Bill Gates. On Wednesday his Inditex parent company, under which Zara sits, reached a valuation of €100 billion for the first time in its 30-year history.
  • Of the eight brands housed under Inditex, which was founded by Ortega and his former wife Rosalia Mera in 1985, Zara is the flagship and, as of December 2014, represented 66 per cent of total sales.
  • Zara’s in-house design team can have an item in stores within three weeks. That’s three weeks from the beginning of the design process to the time it lands on the shop floor for us to buy.
    Where most companies will lock in 100 per cent of the forthcoming season’s stock six months in advance, Zara only locks in 15 to 25 per cent that far in advance, according to tradegecko.com.
  • By the start of the season that percentage will have increased to 50 or 60 per cent, meaning the remaining 50 to 40 per cent is still up for discussion; if a new trend appears mid-season, Zara has the capacity to follow it and get its interpretation into stores, while its competitors can’t.
  • Similarly, if things aren’t selling, it has the ability to alter them or simply discontinue supply. This is aided by the fact that between 51 and 55 per cent of Zara’s clothing is manufactured in what the company describes as “proximity” markets; Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Morocco, instead of Asia.

Read more at Telegraph

Cargill to map canola oil supply chain

  • Food firm Cargill is to map the supply chain of its high oleic canola oil as part of a transparency initiative.
  • From October, the ‘Knowing Your Roots: from farm to table’ programme will take customers and consumers through the whole supply chain, from seed development and the farmers who grow the canola, through oil processing and packaging, to the food service operators and food ingredient manufacturers who use the product, and to consumers.
  • Cargill said it could provide a transparent supply chain because it is a high oleic canola oil supplier and also a seed company. “Understanding where food comes from is a priority for consumers,” said Kristine Sanschagrin, marketing manager of Cargill Specialty Seeds & Oils. “This initiative offers our customers the opportunity to tell that story.

Read more at Supply Management

Supply Chain Analytics Are ‘Looking In The Rear-View Mirror’

Is this what the future of supply chain analytics looks like?

Supply chain analytics are 'stuck in the rear-view mirror'

A new study that highlights the current and future state of supply chain analytics has confirmed that the future of supply chain analytics is visual, multi-sourced and predictive.

According to the study, the majority of today’s supply chain analytics are “looking in the rear-view mirror” when it comes to evaluating performance, but realise the potential value of adopting advanced analytics.

More than 40 per cent of respondents said they are still almost exclusively backward looking when it comes to data analysis. However, the vast majority expressed the belief that predictive analytics would bring value to users, enabling them to leverage data at the point of decision. Additionally, more than 88 per cent of respondents ranked advanced analytic capabilities as an outstanding or good opportunity for their organisation. Respondents also noted that making improvements in data and analytic capabilities was either a high priority or something they were already focused on doing.

The study revealed that while companies are realising the value and urgency of implementing advanced analytics, few feel they are where they need to be. When evaluating their own current capabilities generally, less than 10 per cent felt they had high levels of user system flexibility and empowerment, data visualisation and supply chain risk management capabilities.

“Despite early stages of maturity, companies see significant potential from improvements in data management and analysis,” said Dan Gilmore, President and Editor in Chief at SCDigest. “Not surprisingly, improved supply chain decision-making tops that list, while similarly, becoming more ‘forward-looking’ was the number one opportunity identified by respondents from improved data management and analytics.”

The Qlik-commissioned study is a result of a global survey launched by SCDigest of its readership around the subject of how companies are planning to leverage their supply chain data, including the capabilities they have in place now or intend to develop over the next few years.

Procurement Technology and Procurement Software – Are they Any Different?

Often used interchangeably by enterprise clients and vendors alike, are the two concepts really the same?

It’s all in the perception and the word. Technology is more current, more relevant, and encompasses the full landscape of neat innovations that are offered to us in increasing numbers.

Software, well, it’s a bit old-fashioned really. It’s more flabby-old-floppy-disk than app-store-chic.

Consider the growing range of tiny little devices that extend the range of things we can do with our smart phones. Little buttons, tags, sensors and switches are reinventing and redefining the way we use our phones. There are buttons that you can program to push and play music, push to order takeout food, and so on.

But however much they devices are pushed to the forefront — with a focus on tablets and wearable devices, and the potential impact they will have on our daily lives — the truth is that these gadgets are just the means of access to the software.

These gadgets are appealing and exciting, and the prospect of having everything at the push of a button is irresistible. But look under the covers and the reality is somewhat different.

Because, in fact, you won’t be programming the buttons at all. The button is just a switch that says, “I’ve been activated”. It is the app on your smart device that translates that activation into a result.   Although, of course, it isn’t even that simple. App, we all know, is an abbreviation of application. In other words, a way of using the underlying power of another system. Software applications, in essence, are devices for instructing an operating system to do something clever.

We think the cute little buttons are smart, but they are just a veneer of glamour over the real miracle, which is the vast repository of information and decision support that is available to all of us.

This is where the power lies in procurement technology, not in the fact that you can approve a purchase order on your wristwatch, but the fact that you can do it wherever your wristwatch happens to be. The distinction is that it is the underlying software that enables the gadgetry, mobility and flexibility to work the way you need to.

And it is the software that needs to be crafted cleverly to deliver the business results you need. Code that is written to do clever things based on requests and demands. The software needs to work the way you do, and the developers need to understand the business requirements you have.

As a leading global developer of procurement software, we at GEP recognize that procurement technology is a big deal. Mobility, usability, accessibility and all the other abilities determine how you can work. But it is the underlying understanding of the business needs, encapsulated in the software that drives the tech that determines what you can do.

Procurement technology is rapidly growing and evolving, but at its heart, it is driven by good old-fashioned software.

Whether procurement professionals need gadgets to make working practices more automated is not yet clear, but what they will always need is results.

So there it is, procurement technology and procurement software — two distinct things that are interdependent on each other for success.

Paul Blake leads the technology product marketing team at GEP, a leading global provider of procurement technology solutions that help enterprises boost procurement savings and performance. Read Paul’s first blog here.