8 Tips for Raw Material Suppliers

How to stand out among your business competitors and get onto your client’s list of qualified sources for raw materials.

As a procurement professional, I get approached by many raw material sales professionals from around the world who wish to become a qualified source for our company. I’d like to share some tips to leverage your position when approaching buyers, increase the chances of getting an order, and lower frustrations and waiting time throughout the process. Our goal here is to be as transparent as possible in the sourcing process, and create a healthy interaction between the buying and selling firms.

Prepare to send an email initially that encompasses all the information a buyer would want to know. A phone call, or a meeting request is not a good idea; it is too early; you need to prepare your case first and find out common ground where you see business opportunities for both parties.

  1. Learn about the industry you want to sell to

As a raw material manufacturer/supplier, you might be supplying to a variety of industries that have different requirements (legal/governmental, material grade, etc). Make sure your products are suited for the specific company you are approaching. Mention the CAS number (if available) and specify the grade of your products in the email you are preparing to send.

  1. Prepare your case with the help of supporting documentations and Certificates (CEs)

Find out what certificates (GMP, ISO, etc) are required for the specific industry you are planning to supply to and make sure you include this information in your email/presentation. You will be asked later to provide the actual CE copies if your case is successful. Therefore if any of the documents/CEs are in progress and not obtained yet, do specify this in your email and provide time frames for their expected availability.

If you do not have a specific CE that you know is important for the target industry, prepare to introduce an equivalent certificate, or prepare to explain your plans to pursue one in the future and provide a timeframe for their availability. Be clear and specific about your intentions and your capabilities with regards to supporting documents.

  1. Attach other relevant information with your email to help your case appear more appealing.

Provide answers to common questions such as:

  • What is the minimum order quantity (MOQ) you accept (if applicable)?
  • What is the standard lead-time, shipping terms, shipping point?
  • How often do you produce this material and what is the batch size (EBQ)?
  • How many distribution centres do you have?
  • What are the pack sizes available for your products?

Along with the email, you may also attach your product portfolio that you find suitable to the needs of the company. You can also include name of the companies you have worked with in the past and the successful partnership experiences you have. This would help uphold your company’s image with the buyers as well.

Then go ahead and send the email!

  1. Follow Up

Allow some time, normally a week. If you did not hear back from them by then, send a follow up email. With the multitude of emails buyers receive, it is possible your email may have been overlooked.

  1. Once you hear back, answer all the questions/concerns (if any)

If the potential clients come back to you with questions, make sure you address them all well. In scenarios where comprehensive information was provided to them via email already, samples for certain products may be requested. This would lead us to the next step.

  1. Send a sample of your products

Sending a sample sooner than this stage would not help; at least in the Pharmaceutical industry. The material needs to be pre-approved upon reviewing of documentations such as Certificate of Analysis, MSDS, CEs, etc. Once the documentation and information have been received and acknowledged, you might be asked for samples, or you can take the initiative and propose to send some.

  1. Ask for a timeline

Do not refrain from asking for timelines that qualification processes might take after the submission of all the required information and documents. This would prevent unnecessary follow-ups and back and forth emails.

  1. Ask about the scope of the project

You have every right to ask about the scope of the related projects once you have come to a common ground with the new customer. It shows your commitment to a proactive supply plan. However, it is important to understand the implications of the current stage in the product life cycle. Is it a commercial project, launch, or an R&D related product? If it is the latter, do not expect to receive a lot of information regarding the forecast, quantity or time of future orders. It is too early and the actual demand will be more clear once the finished good is launched into the market and initial market response is evaluated and incorporated into our annual production plan.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Game-changer: Elon Musk intervenes in Australian energy crisis

Energy politics has reached fever pitch in South Australia, where an increasingly fraught situation has been disrupted by a single tweet from Elon Musk.

Take a moment to feel sorry for your procurement colleagues working in the Australian energy sector. Since former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s now-famous “axe the tax” campaign against a national carbon trading scheme in 2011, Australia has been without a clear federal energy policy, leading to very little certainty about future direction for the sector.

This is a problem, as power companies plan three to four decades ahead. A lack of bipartisanship on this issue means that even if a policy is put in place, any future change of government (from Coalition to Labor) would mean a rollback of the hard-won legislation of their predecessors. Power companies know that at some stage in the near future, a carbon trading or emissions intensity scheme will need to be put in place, but they don’t know what form it will take, when it will happen and what the targets will be.

Compounding the issue, the Federal Coalition government is at odds with Labor-majority state governments around Australia on energy policy, culminating in this tense exchange last week between South Australian Premier and the federal energy minister, Josh Frydenberg. South Australia has drawn the lion’s share of criticism from the federal government on its energy situation. The state has an aggressive renewable energy target of 50% by 2025, with a high reliance on wind power.

South Australia’s energy crisis started in earnest on 28th September last year, when the state experienced a once-in-50-year storm event. Gale force and storm force winds, including tornadoes and 80,000 lightning strikes, damaged 23 pylons on electricity transmission lines. As a result of the initial damage and automatic safety features shutting down undamaged parts of the network, the entire state power grid cut out for at least three hours while emergency repairs were underway. 

Power gets political

Even before the power was switched back on, a number of politicians in the federal government commented on the crisis, linking the storm damage with the state’s renewable energy target. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said South Australia had paid “little or no attention to energy security”, while the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, told the ABC that “Wind power wasn’t working too well last night, because they had a blackout”. One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts took the opportunity to urge all government to “exit all climate change policies.”

Much of the news cycle following the storm was dominated by a debate over renewables and energy security, and whether the storm damage or the state government’s policy was to blame. The situation was compounded by a series of further blackouts while calls increased for an urgent review of energy security at the state and national level. The debate spilled over into the international media, with South Australia rapidly becoming a much-cited example of a failure for renewable energy. Renowned Danish wind farm expert Soren Hermansen, who helped create the world’s first 100% renewable island, defended wind power by saying, “I’d have to go to Australia to deal with a blackout. We have a very powerful grid – we don’t experience any failure.”

Musk intervenes

Dropping unexpectedly into this politically-charged debate, billionaire co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk presented a game-changer with a single tweet earlier this month:

The offer was originally made by Lyndon Rive, Musk’s cousin and Tesla’s vice-president for energy products. Tesla has offered to install the 100 megawatt hours of battery storage that would be required to prevent further power shortages, price spikes and blackouts in South Australia. When pressed on Twitter by Mike Cannon-Brookes (Australian co-founder of Silicon Valley start-up Atlassian) on the seriousness of the offer, Musk himself doubled down with the pledge to “get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free”.

Tesla’s confidence in its ability to deliver stems from the stepped-up battery production out of its new Gigafactory in Nevada, along with a recently-completed installation of an 80MWh grid-scale battery farm in southern California. The Californian project took 90 days to complete and cost US$100 million.

After a flurry of tweets and an hour-long phone call between Elon Musk and Prime Minister Turnbull, the debate around energy policy in Australia appears to have switched to an entirely new (renewable) direction. South Australia has announced a $550 million energy package, with:

  • $150 million for a 100MW grid-scale battery
  • $75 million in grants and another $75 million in loans to eligible projects which support private innovative companies and entrepreneurs
  • A $360 million state government-owned gas-fired 250MW power station to provide energy security when needed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Turnbull has unveiled $2bn expansion plans for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, aimed to add 2,000MW to the scheme’s 4,100MW  capacity, or enough power for 500,000 homes. In a sign that the tension between federal and state energy policies continues to play out, Turnbull told reporters that the hydro-electric scheme will provide 20 times the capacity of the South Australian battery system.

Encouragingly, in the past month the national debate seems to have shifted away from the decades-long opposition between renewables and coal, to the state and federal governments trying to outdo each other on renewable projects. Cannon-Brookes wrote the following in a series of tweets that capture this shift:

“The national energy conversation seems to palpably have changed. We’re debating lithium ion vs flow vs pumped hydro storage solutions … whether 100MW is enough [or whether] 2GW is too much. $150m [investment in grid-scale batteries] in South Australia, $30m in Victoria, $2bn Federally. I’m confident there will be a series of good bids [for battery storage tech providers] in South Australia. Super funds, power operators, HNWs and many individuals wanting to invest. Most importantly, Australian people and the tech community and speaking up, loudly, that they want change.”

In other news:

Heavy construction equipment manufacturers waiting on Trump’s infrastructure plan

  • Executives in the construction industry are concerned that President Trump has not yet invested time to win congressional backing for his $1 trillion spending plan for large road, rail and bridge projects.
  • Equipment manufacturers have experienced low activity from farming, construction and mining clients in recent years, and are reportedly impatient for information about what form the investment will take.
  • The administration has indicated that an infrastructure plan would come after Congress deals with complex health care and tax reform.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Kids @ Work: Children crash professor’s live interview with BBC

  • In a now-famous video interview, Professor Robert Kelly’s children burst into his room while he is discussing the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye with a BBC anchor.
  • The interview was interrupted first by his daughter, who dances into the room to join her father, then a baby in a bouncer and finally by his wife rushing in to herd the children out of the room.

Read more about incorporating your children into your work day on the Procurious blog.

Intrapreneurs: How Do You Know When Your Idea’s Got Legs

Creating an encouraging environment for intrapreneurs in the biggest organisations can be tough. Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, offers advice on fostering innovation and some top tips on how to assess when an idea has legs!

Chris Lynch spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

What exactly constitutes a big idea? Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, believes that a big idea is defined as something that challenges the status quo. It’s got to be an idea that forces people within your organisation to think differently. Of course, this will only come about if the organisation and its employees are thinking differently in the first place and in a work environment that encourages it. The right big ideas can lead to enormous differences in company output.

But how do you know when it’s worth investing time, and money, into someone’s idea and what can the biggest companies do to encourage and motivate their employees to think big.

Organisations must foster an intrapreneurial environment

Chris believes that “good businesses, good leaders, good organisations, good companies and good departments all want to get better.  They want to ensure they’re making progress and delivering better returns. When their employees lose the desire to improve it’s a sign that they’ve lost all their energy. Everyday, people should come to work motivated to try to make a difference and that’s why big ideas are important.”

It’s crucial that people have opportunities to make a difference, feel confident that they are indeed making a difference and are acknowledged for this. It’s unlikely that any intrapreneurs will continue to flourish within huge organisations if they aren’t rewarded and supported in their efforts and contributions.

Chris was keen to remind us that big companies have got to be very very careful in this area. It’s easy to deter enthusiastic intrapreneurs before they’ve even started innovating.

“There must be a culture that’s open, honest and diverse. But, it’s pointless being diverse unless it’s inclusive.  People must feel confident to speak up and take risks without the fear of having their idea criticised.”

How do you when a big idea has legs?

Organisations need the foresight to be able to recognise a brilliant idea and the confidence to roll with it.  Chris reminded us of an old business saying:  “‘You don’t get fired for hiring McKinsey and taking McKinsey’s advice.’ But it’s a bit of a cop-out to have that sort of attitude.”

“A lot of large corporate organisations are risk-averse. They’ll  have 27 ways to say no and 1 or 2 ways to say yes. We need to get companies to recognise their own people’s contributions, ideas and their energy and enthusiasm. This to me is the key factor about intrepreneurship. Companies must be able to recognise the best ideas and follow through on them.

How do you know when an employee’s idea has legs?  It’s going to be something that makes you stop in your tracks and say ‘hey this is something that could really make a difference.’ It might spark reactions with other team members who can think ways to expand the idea.

How to make your big idea a reality

Chris had some final nuggets of advice for any budding intrapreneurs out there:

  • Commit yourself. Once you’ve decided that it’s worth putting in the effort; give it everything and don’t give up
  • Find someone with whom you’re comfortable sharing and testing your idea. Have a conversation about where your idea could lead and what it could do for your organisation
  • Do your homework. If there’s data that you need, get the data. If there’s things that you can do to prove a point, do them. Take it as far as you can on your own
  • If you need a sponsor, pick your mark carefully. Think about who would be the best sponsor for this idea
  • Have the courage to take a risk– It’s important to have the confidence behind your idea to say  I’m prepared to put my credibility on the line behind this idea and stand up for it at all costs

Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Be Bold But Nice

The role of procurement is changing and evolving. Professionals have more influence than ever before and Deb Stanton wants them to use their position to be bold but nice!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Procurement has elevated within organisations

Deb Stanton, Executive Managing Director at CAPS Research, believes that the procurement function has really elevated within our organisatons.  Data collected by CAPS research shows that 82 per cent of CPOs now report directly to their CEO or one level down.

Under these new circumstances, professionals will have to work differently with their business partners and in their procurement teams.

This is why, Deb believes,  being Bold But Nice, is a valuable mantra. Procurement needs to ask the challenging questions, go in search of new solutions and embrace ideas. Of course, professionals  need their organisation to to work with them, which is why it’s important to be amenable whilst driving new value to our companies. .

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

How To Play The Hand You’re Dealt In The Age Of Uncertainty

Poker: It’s a game filled with excitement and risk. But just how far does it correlate with the uncertainty of our everyday lives?

Last month, Procurious attended eWorld Procurement and Supply where we were  lucky enough to experience a thought provoking talk from Caspar Berry on risk-taking and decision-making in the age of uncertainty.

Whatever our political leanings, we can all agree that unpredictable occurrences are happening everywhere in today’s world.  2016 saw Brexit and the election of president Trump; two events many  had thought impossible. There’s the refugee crisis in the Middle East, the continued prevalence of ISIS and upcoming elections in France and Germany; the results of which could determine the future of the EU.

Caspar Berry, professional poker player and poker advisor on Casino Royale, knows exactly what it means to take risks and admits that it can be dangerous, scary or disruptive. But, we need  risk, whether it’s in our personal or professional lives.

Have you ever considered what it is that makes sport so compelling? We’re gripped by the uncertainty. We have no idea what’s going to happen or who’s going to score and that adds a level of excitement and interest. But of course in professional sport, as is the case with poker, we’re not the ones who have to take the leap. We can leave all of that reckless risk-taking to the professionals… or can we?

Everyday Risk

Caspar pointed out that the average person would love to believe their everyday life has a level of  risk-free stability and  consistency. Whilst we might marvel at the bravery of prevalent risk takers in the casino or on the sports pitch, we’d much prefer to avoid a life of uncertainty.

In actual fact, there a number of parallels to  draw between poker and real life. The future is far more uncertain than we would choose to acknowledge.

In poker, the cards are randomly shuffled making it utterly impossible to predict what’s coming.  Our everyday lives are much the same. We can’t be sure when something will change the course of the future, whether it be a large scale political event, an encounter with a new person or a medical diagnosis.

The Butterfly Affect

The phenomenon whereby a minute localised change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Originating from the notion in chaos theory that a butterfly fluttering in Rio de Janeiro could change the weather in Chicago.

Every single moment of every single day people are doing things somewhere in the world which could change your life.  If any one of your ancestors hadn’t been around, you wouldn’t be either.  If one tiny interaction hadn’t happened hundreds of years ago, history  might look very different indeed. These examples are just two of the billions of butterflies that are interacting with each-other; impacting events across the globe.

When so much is out of our control, it’s natural that we would try to limit uncertainty. We set laws and implement criminal justice systems so we have a vague knowledge of how people are going to behave. We buy branded clothing and eat in chain restaurants because it’s reassuring to know exactly what we’re going to get for our money. We’ll happily pay a premium for these things because it lowers the associated risks.

When we come across people or institutions that seem to know what’s going on, whether it’s a religious group, a futurist or a bank, we want to believe them. And so we do.

Philip Tetlock and The Good Judgment Project

Philip Tetlock, Canadian-American political science writer, began an extensive 20-year study in 1984 on future judgements.

He questioned 284 world experts on their future predictions and requested that each prediction be awarded a likelihood of occurrence. The study is widely considered one of the most robust in the history of social sciences with approximately 2800 answers obtained. And what did those answers show?

As Caspar put it, you  would have gotten the exact same results by asking an eight-year-old to randomly throw darts at predictions. In fact, the strongest correlation in the survey results was between successful predictions and the confidence of the person predicting, but a negative correlation!

Why  were the least confident participants correct? As Caspar explained, these are the people who are both humble and intelligent enough to embrace the concept of uncertainty.

How to manage risk and face uncertainty head on

In our organisations we know, for the most part, that taking risks won’t result in someone getting hurt. But it could mean something going very wrong for the business. So, how do you know when its worth taking a risk and how can we become more confident to do so?

  1. Be competent at assessing risk

We’ll never be able to predict exactly what’s coming our way. But  we can get better at deciding when to take a chance. In business, evaluate what the chance of success is, what’s the return on a gamble. If you’re faced with a 25 per cent chance of success and an amazing ROI, it’s worth taking that risk. Sometimes it will pay off.

2. Immunise yourself to loss

When it comes to risk-taking you will fail and you will lose out, perhaps more often that not. Caspar cited Abraham Lincoln as an icon who endured multiple short term failures, moments of rejection and losses. But he went on to great success.  We can all do better at immunising ourselves to loss,  let downs and failure.

3. Embrace risk taking

Casper asserted that if someone is cocky at poker, they’re possibly a bit insane. It takes a level of caution and the acceptance that there is always risk involved. But risky people have something to teach us, we can learn from them and embrace the uncertainty ahead.

SpaceX, Red Cross Millennials Amongst 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars

Procurement and supply leaders as young as 24 are impacting major companies including SpaceX, A.T. Kearney, Cisco Systems and the American Red Cross. 

ISM and THOMASNET.com today announced the 2016-17 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role-models who are sure to attract more Millennials to supply management.

Tom Derry, CEO of ISM, says the quality of this year’s crop of stars is inspiring. “Younger generations in the workforce are stepping into leadership roles earlier than their predecessors. This year’s winners are leading the charge, and show that our future is in capable hands.”

“Capable” is an understatement when you look at the achievements of some of these professionals. Andrew Paulsen is a Senior Buyer at SpaceX, one of the highest-profile and most sought-after companies to work for in the U.S. There, he has helped transform the castings commodity into a strategic organisation focused on the reduction of risk and the amplification of innovative designs and production processes.

Amanda DeCook of A.T. Kearney spent nearly a month in Tanzania leading a supply chain diagnostic on life-saving commodities (such as antibiotics) for the remote Sengereme District near Lake Victoria. She was able to make recommendations that would help reduce the likelihood of stock outs in the future, resulting in more lives saved.

Subhash Segireddy, Supply Chain Program Manager at Cisco Systems, led a team which developed a strategy for a manufacturing project which enables resiliency in the supply chain, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and drives millions in cost savings with a vertically aligned supply chain.

In a rapidly changing supply and demand environment, Jaime Todd has created innovative projects for the Red Cross, including a first-ever toolkit for category managers, along with supplier risk frameworks, policies and procedures.

There’s a common thread in the careers of these four Rising Stars, in that they’re all contributing to a wider cause beyond immediate business goals. Whether it’s reducing greenhouse gases, ensuring the supply of life-saving blood, assisting a remote African community or even helping humanity reach Mars, each role taps into the social aspect that has been identified as a major draw-card for Millennial talent.

Three winning characteristics of 30 Under 30 Stars:

According to THOMASNET.com’s Donna Cicale, the judges looked for three main characteristics in this year’s batch of Rising Supply Chain Stars. The 30 winners are:

  • Multi-talented: “We look for people who demonstrate and excel at a wide range of skills beyond business acumen. We’re searching for fast learners, effective communicators, quick thinkers and natural leaders.”
  • Influencers: “Supply chain stars must be ‘movers and shakers’ in their organisations. They need to be skilled in getting others engaged, bringing colleagues on-board, and working towards common goals.”
  • Trailblazers: “We look for individuals with ‘firsts’, or accomplishments not previously realised by their organisation. A ‘first’ can relate to timing, budget, initialisation, integration or adoption.”

Each winner will receive a one-year membership to ISM; complimentary admittance to ISM2017 annual conference in Orlando, Florida (May 21-24); and a THOMASNET.com Team Training Lunch and Learn session for them and their colleagues.

Visit www.thomasnet.com/30under30 for the full list of 30 Under 30 winners.

Working Parents: Stop Hiding Your Children at Work

Supercharging my career and nurturing my family at the same time has always been a struggle for me….until I brought my children out of the closet and into the workplace.

Join our Women in Procurement group, Bravo,  here.

Last week,  Professor Robert E Kelly and his two mischievous children starred in one of the funniest viral videos of all time. The whole world laughed when, in the middle of a live BBC interview, Professor Kelly’s children burst in to the room and hilariously upstaged him.

If the clip has, by some miracle, passed you by, here it is in all of its side-splitting glory:

Yes, it’s pretty funny. But let’s face it, how many times have you closed the door on your children, locked them away in a (metaphorical) closet or pushed them away when you had to perform your professional duties.

In reality, we’re constantly keeping our families behind closed doors so we can get on with our working lives. For years I have felt the need to downplay my family commitments in order to be seen as a serious career professional.

My stress levels were continually going through the roof. I was gliding over the surface with style at work, but paddling like a crazy duck under the waterline in an attempt to manage all the demands of my personal life.

But a year or so ago I decided to bring my children more visibly into my work life and it has made a big difference to me, my children…and – most importantly – those I work with.

My first foray with bringing my children to work was to take my son to Europe’s largest procurement conference, ProcureCon, Berlin. I was a speaker on a panel and thought it would be a great chance for my son to see me in action. So much for him learning about my work: he didn’t look up from his iPad once! I don’t think he learnt a squat about what I did, but at least I made the effort. Importantly, I was really touched that people were positive about my son attending the event.

One of my fellow delegates sent me this note –

“You and I met in Berlin last month at the ProcureCon Europe Conference. I admired how you were able to be real without dropping the ball on exuding leadership and kindness! But, I think that what really impressed me was that you brought your beautiful son to the conference, he was so sweet and shy! In bringing him with you, without realising it, you managed to reflect what most women go through when we have to work long hours or travel a great deal, away from our families and loved ones. There have been times that in my travels or long hours I wish I could just have my babies near me…the guilt of being dedicated to the person that makes me who I am, can be a bit heavy. But we all do, both men and women, to provide for our families, while at the same time try to get something out of the sacrifices that we may have to make. So, I sincerely thank you for bringing your son with you.”

My second foray was to take my younger son to listen to a speech I made at the Australian Embassy for Future Leaders. When I asked him about the experience afterwards, he thought about it and said, “The lemonade was great”. Another breakthrough (not)!

I know not everyone has the same flexibility as someone who runs their own company. However, as business leaders, we can do a lot to help manage the stress levels of working parents. We need to walk the talk and recognise that everyone has priorities (and not always children) that compete with work.

Here are my four ideas on how we could stop hiding our children at work and build more fluid relationships between work and home.

1.  Talk about Family

In the early days of parenthood I never spoke about my children in the workplace because I wanted to be seen as “professional”. When I first started sharing small amounts of information about my family, I realised that most of the people I worked with were parents too and could totally relate to my plight. In the right circumstances, sharing family stories has actually helped me build business relationships.

2. Take your children to work 

I have lived through so many tough days when I felt I really had to be in two places at once.  For example, having a “career-changing” meeting planned (luckily these are few and far between and the skill is in knowing which meetings really count) and, just as I was about to get started, receiving a compelling, competing call for my attention,  from a family member. These were the times when my stress levels reached an all time high and I started to think that the only solution was to quit my job and focus solely on family.

Working from home is widely accepted on these types of days, but if you were still wanting to fulfill your work obligations for just one or two hours, wouldn’t it be great if we were “allowed” to bring our family into the office?? I can hear the pressure valve release at the mere thought of it!

3. Put children in the picture 

We need more imagery of children in the places where we are building our careers. Perhaps you’ve seen the image that went viral of a US Professor who picked up and carried a crying baby during a lecture? He calmed the child, allowing the class to continue and, most importantly, the parent to complete the class.

Some of the most popular photos of outgoing US President, Barack Obama, have been with children within the White House, which is his normal place of work. We need to see more child-friendly work imagery.

4.    Remember – Everyone has priorities 

Having said all of this, working parents need to be cognisant that we aren’t the only people in the universe with priorities competing with our work. Whether you’re a parent of one, four or ten children (heaven forbid!) or even if you don’t have children, everyone struggles at times to manage their personal and professional lives in the best, and most healthy, way possible.

What we can do, as people who understand these struggles, is to be understanding of every individual, make accommodations where possible and offer flexible working environments. That way, we’ll get the most out of our happy, stress-free team!

Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.

Data, You’re The One That I Want – I’m Just Not Sure Why!

When it comes to managing data, we all know we need it. But it’s important to note that the quality of your output is entirely dependent on the quality of the planning. 

Register for  free webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on the 28th March. 

In the information age, data is everything. With our ability to store swathes of that binary gold, and to pull it from scores of different sources, we have access to more information than ever before. What’s more, by using analytical tools, we can blend datasets and create rich insights that were previously impossible to do (or at least incredibly arduous!)

At the heart of this utopia is the premise that data is ‘great’; if we’re not measuring something, then we’re missing out.  After all, data tells the ‘truth’…right?

Well actually, that depends on what you mean by ‘truth’. After all, the ‘truth’ can be subjective and open to interpretation – and the same goes for data; the conclusions you draw ultimately depend upon what you’re looking at and how you’re looking at it.

Have a roadmap before embarking on your analysis

An important consideration when working with data is that the quality of your output is wholly dependent on the quality of the planning at the start – specifically the aims of any analytical outputs.

Having a clear roadmap for the aims of your analysis in the first instance is important in providing direction for the project, allowing you to ask the right questions and draw on the appropriate datasets. There’s a lot of information out there and it’s easy to find yourself in a sinking quagmire of sources that bear little relevance to your intended analysis.

Whilst scoping the aims of a data analysis project may seem daunting, there are three simple steps that you can follow to ensure you give yourself the best hope of arriving at a meaningful outcome:

  1. Decide on a purpose – what, in a general sense, is it that you’re trying to achieve with any analysis?
  2. Pitch to the right audience – Who is going to consume the information? It may be at many levels of seniority (from Analysts to Executives), and each will require and expect different things.
  3. Define the questions to be answered (and then the supplementary questions that arise from that) – these are not just the pure data questions but rather the business question – i.e. the reasons for conducting the analysis in the first place.

Leverage your data in innovative ways

With the above three areas documented and the information acquired, the next step is the exciting bit – making it work for you to answer your questions.

Again, there are three considerations to bear in mind for making the most your data:

  • Create quality visualisations – Choose your visualisations carefully and with the audience and questions to be answered in mind. Data visualisation, as with all visual communication, requires thought and discipline to present it in the most meaningful way (don’t just include a bubble or other fancy charts because it looks nice – it needs more justification than that).
  • Make sure the data has context – Bring in those external metrics that help you make sense of it all. Having worked with data for my entire career it’s fair to say I’ve seen good data, bad data and everything in between. When it’s bad (and anything short of ‘good’) you’re going to struggle to get any ‘truth’ from your analysis – remember, “garbage in, garbage out”. However, one of the trends that I’ve noticed more and more is that even with the good stuff people are quick to justify it – reaching for a readily accessible context; and that’s normally the context of their business or organisation. This is context, and context can take many forms. It could be measuring your procurement against a commodity index or allowing for the impact of currency fluctuations, or indeed measuring against many others.
  • Blend your procurement data for greater insight – Data is an incredibly valuable resource for any procurement team and its wider organisation. By pooling your internal data for spend, sourcing, contracts and projects (to name a few) and combining that with external metrics and benchmarks, you suddenly open up another level of insight into your data. Better yet, that insight can then be used to inform strategy across the organisation, increasing efficiency, improving savings and identifying opportunities for further innovation that yields yet more value for your organisation.

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape.

In the digital era, every procurement team has access to an invaluable source of strategic insight in the form of its data. By using technology to prod and probe that data, Procurement has the means to draw informed action plans that deliver innovation and value to the function and, more importantly the wider organisation. However, knowing the research questions to ask of your data and applying the right context to it is essential to realising this potential.

If you are interested in learning more about the kind of questions you need to be asking when looking to gain greater insight from your data, then please register for our free webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on the 28th March. In it, distinguished US professor, Dr Robert Handfield will be taking a more in-depth look at pooling datasets to perform innovative procurement data analysis.

Digitalisation – Making Procurement 4.0 a Reality

Procurement is dead, long live Procurement 4.0! Digitalisation represents a fundamental, but inevitable shift for the profession.

Download your copy of ‘Procurement 4.0 – The Digitalisation of Procurement’ on the Fraunhofer IML website.

Throughout this series of articles, we have discussed the evolution of Procurement to Procurement 4.0. From trying to establish a single definition, to outlining the challenges the profession faces, the journey promises to be difficult.

However, the benefits and advantages that at the end make this particular journey worthwhile. Using the findings in BME’s survey, we’ll look at how digitalisation will help to shape the profession.

Digitalisation of Procurement

According to BME, the digitalisation of procurement is key for the profession to maximise the value it delivers to the organisation. Procurement needs to digitise all its manual processes and focus on the strategic ones.

Big Data plays a major role in this, and procurement can use existing knowledge to drive activities in this area. However, to fully realise this, organisations need to understand the role their staff will play. This is not only in how their roles will look, but also how they will need to be trained to carry them out.

“Existing fears based on the changes expected seem to be resulting in a passive approach. Even the very consideration of the immense changes that we may face as a result of Industry 4.0 is creating a sense of paralysis.”

Management of the cultural change, and setting of a concrete roadmap will help these activities. And once this is complete, procurement’s work can begin in earnest.

Digital Procurement Portfolio

The digitalisation of the procurement portfolio will have a key impact on the value the profession brings. The changes to the portfolio will be impacted both by digital technology, and changes to the supply chain in Industry 4.0.

New raw materials, assets such as 3D Printers, and new tools will all fall into a much-changed procurement portfolio. This will require both newly adapted process, and new skills for the professionals running them.

  • Respondents to the BME survey highlighted the following areas as key in Procurement 4.0:
  • Procurement will need to improve internal (vertical) networking with other departments.
  • Procurement will then use external (horizontal) networking with suppliers in order to source the correct products.
  • Further qualifications are essential to build knowledge of products and technology. This will enable procurement to act as an equal in vertical and horizontal networking.
  • An expanding supplier portfolio will make horizontal networking more critical than ever.
  • Procurement need to source innovation from suppliers. This will reduce time to market, access state-of-the-art technology, and overcome any missing skills in-house.

Developing Organisation 4.0?

In order for all of this to succeed, organisations as a whole must recognise the need to change. Functional working and silos will stand in the way of development and knowledge sharing, both fundamental to successful working in Industry 4.0.

Digitalisation is only possible if procurement can then forge strong, lasting relationships with internal and external stakeholders. People are critical to this, and organisations must provide up-skilling opportunities in line with this.

“The successful implementation of Procurement 4.0 stands and falls with its employees. Employees must be involved in times of upheaval and appropriately qualified. If this is ignored, it can be assumed that the company will fail.”

While this may take time to come to full fruition, there’s little argument among experts that this is necessary. The future lies before procurement, but it’s down to the people in the profession to help it walk this path.

The Association Supply Chain Management, Procurement and Logistics (BME), founded in 1954, is the leading professional association for supply chain managers, buyers and logisticians in Germany and Central Europe.

Fraunhofer IML, founded in 1981, is a global expert on all fields of internal and external logistics. The Institute also currently heads up the largest logistics research centre in Europe.

To download your copy of the report, visit the Fraunhofer IML website.

NEC to build world-first information platform for Global Pandemic Supply Chain

When a disease outbreak hits, even the slightest inefficiency in supply chains can lead to a catastrophic loss of human life. A joint initiative of The United Nations World Food Programme and NEC Corporation will greatly improve the supply chain response to the next pandemic. 

The 2013-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak began in countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with smaller outbreaks occurring in Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. Imported cases led to infections being reported in the UK, Spain, Sardinia and U.S. before the outbreak was declared in June 2016. By this point, the World Health Organisation reported a total of 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the need for a streamlined and coordinated supply chain response was highlighted through the many challenges encountered during the West Africa Ebola outbreak. They included:

  • Severe warehousing and distributing capacity constraints
  • Limited visibility of the overall supply and demand of critical items
  • Access constraints caused by border closures
  • A lack of public-private sector coordination resulting in duplicate efforts and an inefficient response

Protective clothing (pictured above) is an example of a critical item that must get through to healthcare workers in outbreak areas. A full set of protective clothing includes a suit, goggles, a mask, sock, boots and an apron. Healthcare workers change garments frequently, discarding gear that has barely been used to minimise exposure to the virus. By October of 2014, Ebola suit makers including DuPont and Kimberly-Clark had tripled production to try to cope with demand as health workers used an average of seven suits per bed, per day. The World Health Organisation estimated that three million protective suits were needed over the course of the outbreak. Tragically, healthcare workers represented nearly 10 percent of cases and fatalities due to ebola.

New supply chain platform will save lives when the next pandemic comes

Supply chain logistics are a critical part of any emergency intervention. Inadequate logistics can lead to critical delays, cost lives and waste precious resources. NEC’s announcement of a new information platform, which will be part of the Global Pandemic Supply Chain Network, is expected to improve response times, find cost efficiencies and aid in continuous improvement.

The technology has been described as a “logistics visualization system that will enable end-to-end tracking of pandemic response items” – such as protective clothing – within a country facing an outbreak, helping to ensure quick and appropriate delivery of supplies to people in need. Other key functions of the system include reporting, analysis of supply chain inefficiencies, data integration with existing logistics systems and in-country warehouse management.

“It is widely recognised that the global health architecture could be reinforced with an improved supply chain platform to enable better preparation and faster response time for pandemics”, said a spokesperson for the Japanese Government, which committed US$1 million to the development of the new technology.

 Public/private collaboration driving results

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this announcement is the demonstration of how effective public and private collaboration can be in solving enormous challenges such as a global pandemic response. Aside from the key collaboration between the WFP and NEC Corporation, a framework for future pandemic response has been developed through an “unprecedented” level of cooperation between public organisations including the UN, WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank; and private sector companies including Johnson & Johnson, UPS Foundation, Becton, Dickinson & Co., and NEC.

 In other procurement news this week…

 White House trade advisor reaffirms administration’s trade goals

  • The U.S. is seeking more reciprocal trade arrangements with key countries to boost growth, reduce the trade deficit and reclaim American production capacity, according to Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council.
  • Speaking in Washington last week, Navarro singled out nations that have contributed to the current deficit problem, including Ireland, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland.
  • According to Navarro, the U.S. plan to reduce the trade deficit “is not based on higher tariffs, but rather getting our partners to lower theirs.”

Watch Navarro’s speech here.

Canadian federal procurement processes flagged for an overhaul

  • Addressing an event hosted by the Information Technology Association of Canada last week, Canada’s Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote stressed the need for an overhaul of federal procurement processes to improve accessibility for SMEs.
  • At present, unreasonably complex processes and requirements are resulting in 8000-page responses to RFPs, which small businesses simply do not have the resources to undertake.
  • Ms Foote said that government procurement processes “have the ability to shift markets … (and) launch businesses.”

Read more at Ottawa Business Journal