All posts by Hillary Ohlmann

Burritos and Ice Cream – Supply Chain Failure and Success

Burritos and ice cream – the contrasting fortunes of two organisations and the difference between supply chain failure and success.

Supply Chain Failure

Burritos and ice cream. Who doesn’t love them? Carne asada and guacamole. Chocolate and cherries. The combinations are endless, and so are the places that offer these tasty treats. So what can a burrito chain or an ice cream brand do to stand out from the crowd?

Chipotle and Ben and Jerry’s (known for burritos and ice cream, respectively) have both come to the same conclusion: leverage the supply chain and use it as a brand differentiator.

They have decided to draw customers in with high-quality ingredients and a transparent supply chain. Chipotle and Ben and Jerry’s as brands have both become champions of local suppliers, fresh produce, and organic and non-GMO foods.

However, if you’ve been watching the news over the past months, you’ve probably noticed one of these companies has been more successful in their mission than the other.

Supply Chain Failure

Chipotle has been plagued by outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in the past few months, to the point where they shut down all their restaurants for a day to address food safety issues. As a result of these outbreaks, there have been calls for the chain to centralise their procurement strategy and source from large, well-known suppliers, rather than working with small farmers who may not adhere to as stringent food safety standards.

Chipotle appeals to the coveted millennial market and a supply chain failure, and a failure to live up to their lofty supply chain goals, may have a severe impact on their brand value.

Ben and Jerry’s has succeeded in the arena where Chipotle has come up short. After being sold to Unilever, a multinational corporation, Ben and Jerry’s received certification as a B-Corp, essentially a company that doesn’t allow board influence to sidetrack their CSR efforts. In their case, their parent company may actually be an asset rather than an obstacle as Unilever itself is also known for ambitious environmentally friendly initiatives.

For example, the company has pledged to make a $90 trillion investment in infrastructure over the space of 15 years to build a sustainable economy and combat global warming. “Companies make up 60 per cent of the global economy. If they don’t play an active part, how can we solve this crisis?” said Unilever CEO Paul Polman.

The Role of Procurement

Procurement needs to play a central role in CSR efforts, especially when supply chain promises are a primary piece of the brand message. Procurement should be responsible for staying on top of current and potential suppliers, including second tier and beyond when possible, making sure they have the necessary qualifications to live up to your brand image.

Procurement also needs to be ready to pivot to new suppliers quickly in response to any supply chain disruptions, whether they are result of illness outbreaks, drought, or changing government regulations.

Where Chipotle failed, and failed big, was that it wasn’t just one outbreak — there were five in the space of six months. Even if they can’t be traced directly back to a weak link in the supply chain, rumours and public perception can still have damaging consequences. Of course, Chipotle isn’t the only company to have suffered from a supply chain failure. Read about a more extreme case here.

Both Chipotle and Ben and Jerry’s have proven supply chain doesn’t have to hide in the shadows; there’s a place for it in the limelight. After all, now more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from.

But from Chipotle we can see companies will suffer if they don’t live up to their brand promises. However, with proper alignment to business objectives and recognition as a strategic player, Procurement can help prevent this from happening.

Hillary Ohlmann is the knowledge base developer at DeltaBid, easy-to-use procurement management software.

How to Avoid Procurement Corruption and Fraud: The Fraud Triangle Analysis

When Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he was referring to fire prevention, but even so, the saying holds just as true for procurement corruption and fraud prevention.

Procurement Corruption

This article was originally published on Delta Bid.

Donald Cressey is credited with creating the “fraud triangle,” which outlines the theory behind why people commit occupational fraud. Cressey identified the three legs of the fraud triangle as pressure, opportunity, and rationalisation.

The Fraud Triangle

Let’s take a look at steps your organisation can take in order to address these three areas and avoid procurement corruption and fraud.

Pressure

The pressure factor is essentially what motivates someone to commit fraud. Usually the motivation is financial in nature, and falls under one of two categories: personal or professional.

Personal pressure examples:

  • unpaid personal debts
  • desire for status symbols (money, house, car, etc.)
  • inability to pay bills

Professional pressure examples:

  • need to meet productivity targets
  • need to prove financial gains
  • feeling job is at risk

How to mitigate pressure:

1. Adequate compensation – While adequate compensation will depend on the organisation, country, and individual employee, procurement employees should not be at the bottom when it comes to compensation. Procurement professionals, at all levels, require a specific skill set to effectively do their job, and their compensation should reflect the value they bring to the company.

2. Realistic performance KPIs – This requires good communication with all stakeholders. Set KPIs and then review them frequently to make sure your procurement goals are realistic.

3. Adequate procurement budget – One way to avoid procurement corruption and fraud is to make sure your procurement department has sufficient funds for staffing, tools, and training. Being forced to cut corners can quickly lead to unethical decision-making.

4. Company-wide no gift policy – Suppliers often give gifts to procurement as a way to build relationships and show goodwill. Yet, these gifts may make it hard for procurement officers to remain entirely neutral. If Procurement is not allowed to accept gifts, enact the same policy for all departments as a way to reinforce a company-wide ethics policy.

In some parts of the world, it may be difficult to go 100 per cent no gift. If you do decide to allow Procurement to accept certain gifts, such as lunch or small tokens under a specific dollar amount, make sure the policy is crystal clear and communicated to all employees.

5. Recognise employee value – Adequate compensation is one way to recognise employee value, but other signs of appreciation can also go a long way. If your company has a no gift policy, perhaps set aside a portion of the budget for a procurement dinner or event to celebrate when certain objectives are met.

Opportunity

The opportunity to commit fraud has to meet two basic standards: the person must have the technical know-how to take advantage of the system, and the ability to keep it a secret. You can decrease the opportunities for fraud by:

1. Implementing a transparent procurement process

  • Adopt an e-procurement solution – E-procurement software is the best way to make sure your procurement data is transparent and easily accessible for audits. You can also assign permissions within the tool, making it easy to allow top management access to all processes, while also limiting who can add suppliers, change supplier contact information, make awards, etc.
  • Educating your employees about the process and how to identify red flags – While it may be a given buyers within the procurement department understand the sourcing and purchasing process, buyers on the outside may not have such a clear understanding. Anti-fraud measures require all hands on deck.
  • Monitor the data in the system – Implementing e-procurement software is just the first step to a transparent procurement process. You’ll need to continuously monitor the data in your chosen e-procurement solution and the ERP to look for any irregularities.

2. Segment purchasing responsibilities – Divide responsibilities to keep any one person from having too much power over purchasing decisions. You may also find it beneficial to rotate responsibilities on a regular basis, but when you do so, make sure to update any employee permissions in your e-procurement solution. For example, some companies rotate procurement employees between categories to avoid any one person having too much close contact with suppliers.

3. Adopt a four-eyes rule for approvals – Schoolyard bullies use “four-eyes” as an insult, but when avoiding corruption and fraud, the four-eyes strategy is best practice. More eyes on decisions means it’s harder for would-be fraudsters to keep their crimes secret.

4. Perform regular and surprise internal and external audits for all purchases – Audits are not a sign of mistrust; consider them more like a doctor’s check-up. You should hope that everything checks out, but if you note any irregularities, you can take action to straighten them out before significant damage is done.

5. Manage both suppliers and their subcontractors – Your supply chain doesn’t stop with your suppliers; it’s likely they’ve hired subcontractors. The business practices of these subcontractors will reflect on your business. Unfortunately, many companies have learned this the hard way. Your company should have a Supplier Code of Conduct, and signing off on it should be mandatory for all suppliers and their subcontractors.

Rationalisation

Rationalisation is the process of excusing one’s acts and finding ways to justify behaving in a way that you know to be unethical or criminal. It can take a number of forms: an exaggerated belief in one’s value (e.g. I’m entitled to this because I work hard.); a belief in a greater good (e.g. I’m doing this for my family.); dissatisfaction with the company (The company is cheating others, so I can cheat the company.); or comparisons with others (Everyone else has nice things. Why can’t I?).

How to avoid the pitfalls of rationalisation:

1. Hire ethical employees – This one looks like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done. However, if ethics are important to you (as they should be), they need to be discussed from the very first interview. Research your potential employees like you research potential suppliers. Step away if anything looks fishy.

2. Model ethical behaviour at the top and reinforce it through company-wide policy – It’s all about company culture. How can you expect employees low down on the ladder to behave ethically if the top management is constantly cutting corners and making ethically dubious decisions? Don’t fall into a “do as I say, not as I do” mindset. Give your employees a good model to follow.

3. Adopt a zero tolerance policy for fraud and corruption – There’s the carrot, and then there’s the stick. Just as you would outline expected behaviour, so, too, should you outline punishments for breaking the rules. Don’t make idle threats. If you have a zero tolerance policy, then it should be zero tolerance. If you’re not prepared to follow through, adjust your policy to reflect the true consequences for fraudulent actions.

Part of procurement corruption and fraud prevention should be based on the realisation that, yes, it can happen to your organisation. No company is immune.

However, those companies with the lowest cases of fraud and corruption have taken steps to prevent it before it happens. If you’re waiting for a big scandal to break before mitigating this risk, then you’re already too late.