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It’s The #1 Must-Have Skill Right Now… And The Good News Is You’ve Probably Already Demonstrated It.

“Intrapreneurs” – named the most in-demand skill of 2020


A few months ago, it would have seemed impossible. A motor manufacturer making ventilators. A fragrance brand producing hand sanitiser. Or a luxury fashion firm sewing scrubs.

Businesses across the globe have demonstrated an incredible ability to pivot on the head of a pin and change out entire manufacturing and distribution processes in the space of a few short weeks in response to the Covid-19 crisis – and it is procurement and supply chain professionals who are helping to make this happen.

That’s because many of them are “intrapreneurs” – which was named the most in-demand skill of 2020 at the start of the new decade. Who would have predicted back in January, that being an intrapreneur would become even more essential in just a few short months?

Being able to think outside the box and come up with solutions to problems that didn’t even exist a few months ago, is going to help to change the way organisations respond to this unprecedented crisis.

Prolonged decision-making in slow-moving risk-averse corporations has no place in a post-Coronavirus world.

Today it is even more vital to be more nimble and agile – adapting quickly to identify opportunities just like an entrepreneur (although in this case it’s to do good rather than boost profits).

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS AN INTRAPRENEUR?

If you are not sure what the term ‘intrapreneur’ actually means, don’t worry – you are not alone. Nearly nine in ten people polled found the term a complete mystery.

So, here goes…

Intrapreneurial describes someone who “thinks and acts” like an entrepreneur but who works “in” an organization rather than for themselves.

In simple terms they see new opportunities and then take advantage of them. And that’s why they are in such high demand.

Procurement is at the forefront of much of the current innovation – supply chains have been disrupted, borders closed, logistics are a nightmare and yet, procurement professionals are finding new solutions… and quickly.

Forget months or years waiting for answers, procurement professionals are having to identify opportunities and solutions and then innovate even if this involves an element of risk. They are trying new things to see what works. The adapting when they do. In other words, they are having to become entrepreneurial.

THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU ARE PROBABLY ONE

Two in three people possess intrapreneurialism as a skill according to recruiters Michael Page which complies the annual top 100 most in-demand skills list. So, the chance are… you are one of them (even though you may not know it).

How do you know for sure? Well, are you the sort of person who is brimming with ideas and takes ownership of your own success and that of your organization? In effect, you see it as your job (even if it isn’t) to make things happen and bring about change.

Day-to-day, this is how an intrapreneur approaches their role.

An intrapreneur:

  • Is great at identifying opportunities – in this respect the intrapreneur is treating their organisation as their own business and looking for ways to grow it.
  • Is proactive – again this is about ownership. Instead of doing the same things in the same ways, you will be the type of person who thinks of new ways of working or introduces new ideas – before being asked.
  • Is not afraid to challenge the status quo – if something is not working, you are the sort of person who is brave enough to speak up and put themselves on the line to bring about change. This is more than being proactive, it is about risk taking (a trait that is highly entrepreneurial).
  • Is resilient when things do not go to plan – you will be the sort of person who is prepared to learn from trial and error and accept that some ideas might fail, but you do not give up and instead bounce back with other ideas.
  • Is a brilliant collaborator – bringing about change or challenging the status quo is not easy (particularly if this is not your role), so you will be great at bringing people on board. Your ability to build relationships and enthuse others will ensure you get things done.
  • Is great at thinking outside of the box – this is a mindset that goes beyond being innovative. Entrepreneurs succeed because they can see opportunities that others don’t.
  • Is prepared to trust their instincts – entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs need a strong sense of self-belief to push ahead with their ideas and overcome any set-backs.

Why would an organization want an intrapreneur?

Now this is where you might think there is a dichotomy. Afterall, entrepreneurs are risk-takers, free-thinkers and mavericks who want to take ownership of their own business – and these are traits that do not sit well in a corporate culture. After all, you don’t own the business and you have to report to someone higher up.

Well, Nick Kirk, managing director of Michael Page (which identified Intrapreneur as the No.1 skill for 2020), disagrees saying, “Great employees are those who are invested in the company and want to help it improve, which in turn enables them to create a working environment that they enjoy, so it’s a win-win scenario.

“Intrapreneurship may sound like a daunting term, but at base level, it refers to that person who is willing to go the extra mile to improve their workplace.”

And that is exactly what organisations need right now. So whenever you demonstrate your intrapreneurial abilities, make sure you shout about it and promote your achievements on your Procurious profile… you have a skill that is in high demand.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

5 Cost Levers To Pull Right Now With Your Outsourced Services

At times of enormous disruption to global supply chains, it’s easy for procurement only to think about direct spend. But it’s just as critical to ensure value is delivered in outsourced service contracts.


“Today’s health and economic crisis, as a result of coronavirus, means that typical approaches to cost management will need careful consideration as business’ key focus has to be staying in business” Lorna Brown, Former CPO, Global Financial Services

We live in an ever-changing world, where what had been predicted as a prosperous year for a business could turn into a fight for survival thanks to something that it has no control over. As the world pulls together to combat COVID-19, businesses face the challenge of reduced revenue forcing them to tighten their belts and search for further savings.

In times of crisis, most organisations will fall into the same pattern and focus their cost reduction effort on direct spend categories. After all, your first thought in a crisis or risk management situation is more likely to be ensuring the stability of your production supply chain, rather than identifying the cost savings you can secure from the organisations delivering your HR or IT Support services.

But why is this the case? Organisations may consider their direct categories as more business critical, or believe that they can release greater value from them with closer management of their global supply chain.  For an increasing number of organisations, however, outsourced services form the core of their business. And by focusing on the right cost levers, review of these service contracts  could deliver just as much in terms of savings as direct spend.

Pulling on the Cost Levers

Structuring a contract for the procurement of services is can appear to be a different beast to one for the procurement of goods. Many procurement professionals will go their entire careers without creating a single RFQ, tender or contract for an outsourced service.

The reality is, however, that there isn’t a great deal of difference beyond what is delivered by the supplier. Procurement still needs to know that suppliers are able to meet an organisation’s requirements. A robust contract needs to be put in place to ensure that services are delivered efficiently and effectively.

And when it comes to cost levers, there’s no need to start with a blank sheet of paper when proven procurement strategies will still fit the bill. Everest Group, a consulting and research company with an established history in the outsourced services space, has conducted extensive research on this topic. Amy Fong, Vice President in Everest Group’s strategic outsourcing and vendor management practice, is clear that this research has highlighted five key cost levers for procurement to use right away when it comes to their outsourced services: “we see a lot of common themes where buyers can do a better job.”

1. Pay the Right Price

Former CPO in Global Financial Services, Lorna Brown, believes that organisations need to be “a bit curious and engage with the supplier to understand how they are delivering the services.” This will allow for a greater understanding of how the service is built up, but also what is driving the costs, and consequently the price in the market.

Services in high demand, but with a lower supply where there are fewer people capable of providing a quality service will cost organisations a premium.  In the  IT services market, this premium has been charged for everything from basic digital skills all the way up to large-scale, highly complex data analytics over the years. The availability of labour with these skills is the key cost driver.  With each ebb in the requirement for these skills, rates for outsourced services will come down.

Being clear about how the cost of labour has influenced your price is a great way to pull this particular cost lever.

2. Understanding Total Cost

Procurement’s consideration of cost needs to go beyond the ticket price that is paid. There are other factors to take into account such as quality of support and adherence to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). It’s all about Total Cost of Ownership.

Got a great price for your basic service agreement? Great! But did you discuss and agree a price for ongoing support? Or agree how many people are assigned to your contract? Or how much you are paying for secure data storage? It’s critical to understand the whole picture beyond the basic price.

If you are just looking to drive savings on the bottom line price by whittling down your supplier’s margin, they will look to move or hide costs elsewhere. No matter how good a deal you think you have at the outset, if you aren’t tracking TCO you’re probably losing any savings you may have initially achieved and leaving this cost lever un-pulled.

3. Find the Right Deal Structure

One of the key decisions an organisation will have to make regarding its services is which model or structure their deal is going to take. In outsourcing of services, a fully Managed Service can be very attractive to an organisation with day-to-day operation provided by an external specialist, with the business free to focus time and effort elsewhere.  

However, organisations using a Managed Service have to accept the fact that they will hand over a level of control, which in turn raises their risk.  Procurement still needs to understand what’s happening throughout the outsourced service provider’s supply chain.

Organisations may also choose to use on-demand outsourcing, where they pay for support based on the number of times it is used, or a ‘Break/Fix’ service where it pays for just the work that is done. There is no right or wrong answer as this will differ from organisation to organisation. What’s important is picking the right option.

4. Innovation

When it comes to cost savings, innovation is a key part of the puzzle that cannot be missed. And when it comes to pulling the innovation cost lever for outsourcing services, the focus should be on “Big I” Innovation (i.e. digital transformation), rather than “Little i” innovation (i.e. continuous improvement activities).

As with the other cost levers we have shown, innovation that is being looked at in other areas of the business can just as easily be applied to outsourcing too. Consider all the current industry favourites such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI and Machine Learning – these can have an impact on costs.

However, despite the fact that there is increasing importance placed on innovation in outsourcing, many organisations are still missing the mark. There’s a lot that can be achieved from deploying this cost lever in the right way at the right time.

5. Financial Engineering

Cost lever number 5 takes the modernisation and digital transformation found in the innovation space one step further: when it comes to the concept of innovation not just about the business scoping out activities for different areas of its categories, but more about how it modernises the entire solution.

It’s important to use financial engineering to have the impact on profit that is required as the initial outlay or investment across the board will be significantly higher than a service that doesn’t include these types of outcomes.  Organisations may choose to look at alternative sources of finance, assess potential Joint Ventures or Managed Services with flexible margins (in line with traditional Financial Engineering). Using this cost lever is about getting creative and perhaps walking the path less travelled for success.

Pull the Levers with Care

The 5 cost levers for outsourced services represent an individual and collective strategy for cost savings in the outsourced services space.  Pulling one alone would be effective, and using all of them in some way could deliver also deliver great results.

To find out more about these cost levers, and to access expert advice on how to use them, register for the Everest Group sponsored webinar 5 cost levers to pull right now with your outsourced services, to be broadcast on Thursday May 7th 2020 at 2:30pm GMT. To find out all the information you need, including how to sign up, visit the Procurious website or click here.

How To Work With People You Don’t Like

Working can feel impossible when you have to collaborate with someone you don’t like. Here’s how to do it.


Michelle* had recently taken on the role of CPO at a large manufacturing organisation. It was a job she’d been planning, and pining for, for years, so she was heavily invested in making it a success. To do so, she’d carefully mapped her stakeholders, investing in understanding each of their unique needs and situations. But two months in, there was a problem. And the name of that problem was Mark. Unfortunately, Mark was also the CFO. 

Michelle had done what she could to get Mark onside. And worse, she could see from his relationships with others in the business that Mark wasn’t particularly difficult – in fact, he seemed to be generally competent and well-liked. But she just didn’t like him, and he didn’t like her either. 

As many of us in procurement would know, though, not getting along with the finance department can be particularly troublesome. And so it was with Michelle. Mark was going to be integral to her success – so what should she do?

If we’re all being honest, we’ve all come across a Mark – or a Michelle – in our working lives. Someone who, despite others not seeing it, just makes our blood boil with frustration and our mind explode with confusion. Someone we simply don’t like. 

But nowadays, with procurement intimately connected to all corners of organisations and stakeholder management more important than ever, we can’t simply ignore the fact that we don’t like someone. We need to do something about it. 

But what? Here’s how to navigate the frustrating waters of a colleague that has you hot under the collar: 

Step 1: Accept and reflect 

No matter how likeable or nice we think we are, we have to accept that it’s not possible to get along with everyone. The first step to improving relationships with someone you don’t like is simply this: accepting that not everyone will be your best friend (or even ally) and that it isn’t a personal reflection on you. 

Beyond acceptance, another important first step is to reflect on the positive you can garner from the relationship, even if it is a difficult one. What can you learn? How can you grow? Difficult relationships are, usually, much rarer than positive ones, so if you flip your frustration on its head, you’re bound to learn something. 

2. Understand their perspective 

When you decide that someone frustrates you, you naturally recoil. Then, when you do need to deal with them, you discount and/or/get annoyed by everything they say and do. In other words, once trust and respect are gone, it’s difficult to get them back. 

But in the situation where you have to work with someone you don’t like, it’s important to try and be the bigger person, no matter how challenging this might seem. Ask yourself: Why is this person acting in this particular way? What do they want/need differently from me? How might I be frustrating them? Reflecting on their motivations will help you appreciate their goals, behaviours and different points of view. In turn, this will help you have empathy for their situation. 

3. Increase your self-awareness 

The term ‘it takes two to tango’ is true of all relationships, and a large part of working with people you don’t like is to understand how you contribute to that relationship. Understanding your own personal style can be a big part of this. 

In the example above, Michelle knew that she was a strong extrovert, and that she always preferred face to face meetings and lots of social time with her colleagues. She was also a little disorganised, and never understood why past colleagues got frustrated when she was late to meetings or moved them at the last minute. After all, she got the job done. 

Mark, on the other hand, was a strong introvert and preferred the comfort of everything via email. He was precise, particular and enjoyed routines and certainty. He mistook Michelle’s carefree attitude for incompetence. 

By increasing her awareness of her personal style, Michelle could learn a lot about why she might frustrate Mark – and vice versa. Understanding this is a critical part of repairing poor relationships. 

4. Be collaborative – not competitive 

The hierarchical nature of organisations can lead many of us to feel we need to compete with each other. Yet that attitude alone is responsible for many poor relationships. If you want to get along, it’s better to focus on collaborating. 

It can take some courage to do this, but one way of encouraging better collaboration with someone you don’t like is to simply ask them how to do this, instead of constantly trying to find workarounds to make them happy. Asking something along the lines of ‘I don’t feel we’re working together in the best possible way – do you have any ideas on how to fix this?’ can go a long way in ensuring a better partnership. 

5. Flattery 

If you don’t like someone, the last thing you’re going to want to do is flatter them, as it can seem ingenuine. But doing so in a more subtle way can help repair a relationship, especially if you essentially ‘shift the problem’ of the relationship over to them by simply asking for their help. 

In Michelle’s situation, one way to repair her relationship with Mark might be to take him for a coffee and seek his expertise on how to best connect with people in the organisation and succeed. The question will have the effect of making Mark think that Michelle believes he is an organisational success story, and he might be more willing to open up. This will ‘humanise’ the relationship and help both Michelle and Mark feel more comfortable with each other. 

Most importantly – start working on your frustrations early 

For so many of us, our colleagues and stakeholders can make or break our experience at work. Inevitably though, we’ll come across people we don’t like. 

When we do, it’s important to work on those relationships, often and early. There’s nothing worse than being frustrated on a daily basis, when we could have seen the incredible human our colleague was long ago. 

What techniques do you use to better work with people you don’t like? Tell us in the comments below. 

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

Aspire To Be A CPO? Know This.

Is it even ok to still want to become a CPO this year, or soon? Read expert insights from a recruiter about on how to do just that. 


It’s been challenging, of late, to give our careers the usual focus they need and deserve. But with the coronavirus situation looking like it may get under control in the next few months, many of us are returning to our former ambitious selves. And with that, comes the inevitable question: If I want to become a CPO, how do I do it? 

Given that we’re all technically surrounded by CPOs and procurement executives most days, it should be easy to answer this. But what works for one person in terms of getting to the top may not work for others. For this reason, it’s better to ask someone that oversees the promotion of procurement professionals into the top echelons of business every day. In other words: Ask an executive recruiter. 

To help you understand how to land a CPO role, we interviewed one of the procurement industry’s top executive recruiters, Mark Holyoake. Mark, the founder of Holyoake Search, has placed dozens of candidates into senior procurement roles over an 18-year career, and has unique and fascinating insights into how you can achieve your career dreams. 

I want to be a CPO within 5 years. What should I be doing now? 

If you’ve got your sights on the top job, but know you’re not quite ready yet, there’s still a lot you can be doing, says Mark, to prepare yourself when the time comes. Across all of the roles he’s recruited, he’s found that all CPOs share certain qualities: 

‘All successful CPOs have great leadership skills. They also understand business strategy. In addition to this, humility, exceptional communication skills, awareness of the future, diplomacy, and a mindset for growth are all critical.’ 

But when should you start developing these essential traits? The sooner, the better, Mark says:

‘Start cultivating these skills early on. Learn them in the classroom, within your company, with the help of an external mentor. Don’t have a mentor? Seek one out ASAP.’ 

Fine-tune your leadership skills

To succeed in procurement, technical skills are of course important. But what’s more important, says Mark, is to be an exceptional leader. If you’re wanting a senior position, Mark believes, these are the skills that you need to work most on. 

Fortunately, the current crisis has provided us all with the opportunity to lead, and there’s one skill in particular that we should all have fine-tuned: 

‘Leading through uncertainty and adversity has certainly been required of late. As a CPO, you’ll always face uncertainty – so that’s a great skill to be nurturing now.’ 

Beyond the skills learned in the current crisis, when Mark recruits for senior roles, he does believe certain leadership skills are crucial. He says the businesses he works with usually look for a number of things: 

‘[My clients] need leaders that understand strategy, how to react to change, and who possess a devotion to research and current affairs.’ 

Getting noticed by executive recruiters 

Recruitment for more junior procurement roles usually happens via networking and job boards. But when it comes to the senior end of town, the majority of roles are advertised through executive recruiters, who then headhunt talent. So this begs the question – how do you get noticed by these recruiters so you know about these roles in the first place, and get the opportunity to apply? 

Mark says that contrary to your standard job search, getting noticed by executive recruiters isn’t about applying: 

‘Candidates should understand that standing out isn’t necessarily about one application or one interview. It’s not about looking for a job when you need to find one.’ 

So what is standing out about, then? Mark recommends that you invest in continually building your profile over time: 

‘Candidates should work on building their online networks and personas over time.’

‘By being active on LinkedIn, sharing relevant articles, participating in discussions, and ensuring visibility, candidates are able to pre-position themselves to stand out to prospective employers and recruiters to represent them.’ 

Interviewing like a true CPO 

Interviews can be intimidating at any level and at an executive level, they can feel particularly intimidating. Fortunately though, Mark says that the key to ‘interviewing like a true CPO’ is really no different from how you succeed at any other interview: 

‘The number one fail I see, which I see at all levels, is that candidates are not fully prepared.’ 

‘Procurement executives are generally pretty confident in their own abilities, not to mention very busy, with the consequence that many will, unfortunately, try to “wing it.”’ 

‘As with most things in life, interview practice makes perfect – so ensure you’re prepared.’ 

But what should you prepare? Mark says that you need to be able to discuss your accomplishments in a concise manner

‘Research common questions and practice giving answers that highlight your accomplishments. Ensure that you’re able to distill large amounts of information into relevant and succinct responses.’ 

Preparing can help you deliver far better answers to questions, says Mark, But it’s also critical for your mindset: 

‘When your mind is prepared and ready to go on autopilot, it allows you to relax and let your conscious mind focus on listening to what is actually being asked. You’ll enjoy the interview more as well!’ 

Making your move – this year? 

If you’re the ambitious type, you’ll inevitably wonder whether it’s appropriate – or possible – to try to move into a more senior role this year. While the situation is certainly volatile at the moment, Mark believes that it could also represent a good opportunity for aspiring CPOs as they are more likely to be able to secure a role where their impact is felt: 

‘Usually, a conflict exists for many procurement professionals in their job search. Do they choose a profitable, fast-growing company where their impact is not felt as strongly, or do they choose a company under duress who needs their help?’

‘Right now, that conflict no longer exists. EVERY company needs your help – you can have your cake and eat it too.’ 

Interestingly, Mark saw a spike in demand for procurement professionals after the 2008 global financial crisis, a trend which enabled many aspiring leaders to step into great roles: 

‘Post-2008, the demand for procurement went up. While it’s unclear if we’ll see a repeat of that, I’m confident that for most job seekers, if they commit to their job search fully and completely, they will find what they’re looking for.’ 

Do you have any other tips for aspiring CPOs? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments below. 

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

If you’re based in the US, connect with Mark Holyoake if you’re looking for, or aspiring to be, procurement executive talent.  

How To Set Your Supply Chain Up For Coronavirus Recovery

How should you set your supply chain up for coronavirus recovery? Find out the steps here.


With the majority of the world still in lockdown, no detailed blueprint for economic recovery, and no vaccine in sight, the end to the coronavirus pandemic still seems a while off. But reassuringly, there’s signs that we may now at least be in the recovery phase, with many European countries contemplating easing restrictions, and the US announcing they may do so in May. With these reassuring steps, supply chain managers the world over, many who felt blindsided by the speed and force of coronavirus disruptions, are keen not to make the same mistakes again. So they’re now asking themselves the critical question we all need to know the answer to: How do we set our supply chains up for coronavirus recovery? And when we do enter the recovery phase, how do we ensure it’s successful and ideally, fast? 

Step 1: Ensure your cash strategy is fit for purpose 

Early on in the crisis, many optimistic leaders predicted that our economies would simply bounce back in what they called a ‘V’ shaped recovery. But as the pandemic has unfolded, it’s become clear that this is most likely not going to be the case. Economists now predict that we’ll have more of a ‘U’ shaped recovery, where business and consumer spending slowly return over time, although activity is still expected to be significantly subdued until a vaccine is found. 

This leaves most companies, and as a result, most all of us in a tight spot. The uncertainty of it all means that you may need to adjust your cash strategy to ensure it’s fit for purpose. 

Adjusting your cash strategy may take many forms. One strategy is to try to ensure you have more cash available by adjusting your accounts receivables strategy, for example, trying to get invoices out and paid more quickly, and removing barriers to debt collection. 

Another method is to adjust your accounts payable strategy, although if you do so, ensure you do it strategically. Take this opportunity to analyse your suppliers. Who provides the most strategic value? Can you strike a more favourable deal? If you can, ensure you negotiate, for example, perhaps you will give more business to a certain supplier in exchange for favourable payment terms? Analyse everything and strike the delicate balance between looking after suppliers and maintaining your business’s cash reserves. 

Step 2: Identify and assist at-risk suppliers 

Conserving cash is the first critical step in coronavirus recovery, and the key one when it comes to pure business survival. But recovery, when it comes, will be about much more than that. 

By now, most of us have realised how resilient – or not – our supply chains really are. Hopefully, we’ve all had time to look deeper into our supply chains, and map the manufacturing capabilities of each of our suppliers, looking into exactly what part is made in what location. Beyond that, hopefully we now understand – if we didn’t before – the exact dependencies of our products and what needs to happen when, and from where, in order to give our customers what they need. If you haven’t yet undertaken this analysis, now is the time to do so. 

Assuming you have, though, you may have encountered suppliers who are now struggling, or who will be struggling in the near future. Even if your suppliers may not have told you as much, signs that a struggle is indeed present include incomplete or delayed deliveries, changes in debt covenants, or sudden changes in your key contacts. 

As any supply change manager would know, protecting your suppliers is key, and now, more than ever, you may need to do what you can to help. If you’ve identified a supplier who is struggling, try to help by committing to orders or even exploring credit options, such as lending against future orders or applying your company’s credit to loans. In extreme cases, you may even need to look at an equity investment scenario if that supplier is critical to your production. 

Step 3: Look after your people

Cash and suppliers may be fundamental to our day jobs. But what would those look like without … us? 

As any seasoned leader understands, your people are critical to just about anything you want to achieve, and especially a ramp up after a prolonged period of stress and uncertainty. And while, with the current job market, you’re not likely to lose staff if you don’t make an effort right now, when recovery is in full swing, the difference in productivity between disengaged and engaged and motivated staff (which can be up to 22%), can be monumental. 

But what’s the best way to look after your staff right now? Experts recommend: 

  • Be realistic, kind and flexible: With the current crisis affecting the lives and livelihoods of most of the world, now is an extremely stressful time for all of us. Be clear about what you need from your staff, but also be kind and realistic about what you expect them to achieve, and be flexible about when you need it. 
  • Offer mental health support: Right now, the WHO (World Health Organisation) estimates that one in four people are experiencing new or heightened mental health issues due to the crisis. If you can, offer your staff counselling support or direct them to government resources so they can seek help, if needed. 
  • Give upskilling options: While having a high workload right now can be stressful, so too can not having enough to do. If your team isn’t that busy, do your best to reassure them that their jobs are safe (if possible). Beyond that, endeavour to offer upskilling options. These options don’t need to cost a lot or even take long – here are ten critical skills your procurement or supply chain team can learn, for free, for a $0 budget. 

Step 4: Look after your customers

How you treat your staff during a crisis will determine whether or not you’re able to retain them in the recovery period and beyond. Likewise, how you treat your customers is just as important. 

With significant disruptions to supply chains, freight and logistics worldwide, there’s a high chance that at some point, you may disappoint your customers. There’s two key ways you need to manage this: through communication, and through prioritisation. 

For the first, communication, you need to do your best to determine, far ahead of time and with your own suppliers, what delays might exist or what changes in orders you foresee. Once you know, let your own customers know and keep them regularly updated on progress. As always, it’s better to give a worst-case scenario and then delight them when orders do come through faster than expected. 

For the second, prioritisation, if you’re facing considerable shortages and you can’t find an alternate supplier, you may need to prioritise your most valuable customers. Look at factors such as profit margins and key customer segments when figuring out who to prioritise, or alternatively, look at allocations to certain customers if required.  

Get prepared – now 

Recovery might seem a while off, but it’s closer than you think. Make sure you take these steps, now, to ensure you’re in the best place. 

Is there anything else you’re doing to plan for recovery? Tell us in the comments below.  

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

Grocers Battle In COVID-19 Last Mile Delivery: Supply Chain News

As you sit home in your COVID-free sanitised domestic bubble, there’s a war raging outside your door.


As social distancing and lockdown measures are implemented around the world, a growing number of food and grocery players have been forced to ramp up their capability to handle last mile delivery. And it’s no mean feat.

Supply chains are adept at shifting a tonne of cornflakes to a remote supermarket in Northern Wales or Nashville, but a single ready-to-eat takeaway to someone’s door is an entirely different scenario – it’s a service that’s expensive and time-consuming to offer.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Right now, amid COVID-19 lockdown scenarios around the world, that’s exactly what everyday consumers need from their friendly corner grocery or takeaway retailer.

A report by CB Insights reveals that retail will be more personal, more immersive and more automated as we roll into 2020. Retailers and brands will have to understand shoppers better, and will continue to turn to new retail tech options. Profitability and technology will remain a top focus. 

The other battlefront for the grocery sector is keeping stock levels in check, as consumers stockpile household groceries around the world. Basic food items such as canned items, flour and pasta have been flying off the shelves far faster than they can be restocked.

While disruptions have so far been minimal and food supply has been adequate, there are predictions made in the media that this scenario could change as food supply chains are disrupted by COVID-19.

For example, if big importers lose confidence in the reliable flow of basic food commodities, panic buying could ensue, driving prices up.

Delivery startups bloom

Of course, there are already established last-mile delivery providers in this space. On-demand startups have mushroomed into the space around the world, transforming the way consumers order and enjoy takeaway food.

They’re all being handed the ultimate test as a huge surge in demand amid tougher operating conditions amid the shutdown of workplaces takes hold.

Uber Eats and Deliveroo are dominant players in this space, and have been run off their feet amid the pandemic in markets around the world. Deliveroo was crowned the UK’s fastest-growing technology firm by Deloitte last year, boasting an incredible rate of 107,117% over four years.

And while it’s hard to pinpoint just how much growth they’ve had in recent months, higher demand has led to higher pricing in some areas, while some companies are recruiting new drivers for their delivery staff.

Meanwhile, Amazon is run off its feet fulfilling one-hour delivery windows via Alexa.

To keep up with demand, the company is bolstering its capability, adding 100,000 jobs to meet customer demand and fulfil orders for essential products. It is also increasing capacity for grocery delivery from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market.

The challenge has been maintaining high levels of hygiene in the home delivery service, with many providers rushing to email customers and assure them that standards have increased.

Bicycles in London

Of course, home delivery of groceries is not new. Nearly 30 years ago, when just 15 per cent of Americans had a computer, Thomas Parkinson set up a rack of modems and started accepting orders for the internet’s first grocery-delivery company, Peapod, which he founded with his brother Andrew.

In an unprecedented move, Sainsbury’s in the UK is expanding its capacity to support its efforts to feed the nation and meet growing demand for home grocery deliveries. This comes in the form of bicycle deliveries in central London.

This has been an invaluable service offering for the elderly and customers with immune issues who were self-isolating in their homes.

Sainsbury’s is also trialling its fast delivery service Chop Chop to deliver groceries to customers from closed convenience stores, offering shoppers another way to access essential grocery and household items.

The supermarket, which was forced to temporarily close to a number of its local convenience stores across the UK due to a drastic drop in customers, is planning to use some of these locations as logistics hubs to deliver goods to the most vulnerable.

Sainsbury’s chief digital offer Clodagh Moriarty says demand has reached unprecedented levels and they’re doing all they can to find new ways to serve more customers. “While we started the trial in London, we hope to be able to bring this fast delivery service to other cities in the UK very soon,” he says.

Customers who might be self-isolating or unable to get to a local store will be able to order a top-up shop of up to 20 grocery products through the Chop Chop app and have them delivered to their doorstep in as little as an hour.

A further 400 essential grocery and household products are available on the service, offering customers another way to access the essential items that are most important to them quickly and conveniently.

Demand Down Under

In Australia, both major supermarket brands Coles and Woolworths were forced to halt  online deliveries to catch up with demand in recent weeks.

However, Coles has announced a move to advanced robotics in recent weeks to help double the number of home deliveries it can make. The supermarket giant has entered into an exclusive partnership with British supermarket and solution provider, Ocado, to deploy its end-to-end online grocery solution.

Ocado includes an online grocery website, fulfilment technology and last-mile routing management technology.

One thing is for sure. Once things return to normal, customers will continue to expect the convenience of home delivery from food and grocery players now offering this service.

Just how key players manage this demand is yet to be seen.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

How 4.0 Tech Is Cracking The COVID-19 Code: Procurement News

How to use Industry 4.0 technologies to weather the Covid-19 crisis


Industry 4.0 technologies have come into their own in helping combat COVID-19.

China confronted the virus with a futuristic mix of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robots.

Now that the epicentre has moved to the western world, leaders look to China for clues to stop the spread.

Here’s a look at how China’s use of 4.0 tech is now influencing the way America and Europe identify, treat and track the virus.

Predict

A voice of warning

Speed and accuracy of information are everything in a crisis.

The first global warning of the virus didn’t come from the World Health Organization (WHO) or the US government.

No, it came from artificial intelligence. A Canadian company named BlueDot used an algorithm to identify the possible outbreak days before WHO made its announcement.

BlueDot uses AI to analyse news reports and internet data to detect the spread of infectious diseases. The algorithm predicts where diseases will spread, based on millions of flight itineraries.  With this information proving invaluable, BlueDot is now working with countries in North America and Southeast Asia to predict virus hotspots.

Diagnose

Faster testing

There are widespread complaints of testing shortages.

On top of that, there are concerns about the long process of taking a sample, analysing it in a lab and reporting the result.

Luckily, necessity remains the mother of invention. Several companies are racing to invent easier, faster ways to test.

Researchers at UK universities are trialling a smartphone app that can give results in just 30 minutes. The app is linked to a small device that analyses a nasal or throat swab. No lab necessary.

And an invention from an American-based company can give positive results in five minutes using a device the size of a toaster.

Managing supplies

It’s no surprise that supply chains are still recovering from the shock of the pandemic.

Hospitals are experiencing a testing swab shortage, owing to supply chain disruptions from suppliers in Italy and China.

Several hospitals are making their own test swabs with the help of 3D printers. One medical provider in New York, called Northwell, is printing 3,000 swabs a day. Side-by-side test results show the 3D-printed swabs are just as reliable as the traditional swabs.

There’s also a swell of companies using 3D printing to make facemasks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Fever pitch

Authorities in China found a safer way to take temperature: augmented reality (AR) glasses.

Someone wearing the glasses can identify a person with a fever from 10 feet away.

To finish reading this article, join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

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The World Is Running Out Of PPE. What Can We Do?

Could we have prevented the shortage through better supply chain management?


If we’ve learnt anything from the past few months, it’s that one supply chain matters more than almost all others, and that’s medical supply and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) one. Yet, it also seems to be the one that isn’t functioning half as well as it needs to be, with devastating stories emerging worldwide of doctors and nurses forced to wear bandanas for masks and rubbish bags for gowns. Many on the front line are also gravely concerned for their own welfare, and devastatingly, over 100 doctors and nurses have now died fighting the virus.

As procurement professionals, we look at these statistics, shake our heads and immediately ask ‘what could we have done better?’ But realistically, could we have prevented this? Is there anything we can do right now to change it? And what important lessons do we need to learn now that we can apply to our supply chains, forever more? 

Could we have prevented the shortage through better supply chain management? 

On the issue of preparedness, many in hospital procurement roles are facing the tough questions right now. Saskia Popescu, a US epidemiologist, recently told Vox that the issues we’re currently experiencing is something we all should have foreseen: 

‘Whenever we have done exercises for pandemic preparedness, supply chain issues were a well-documented challenge. It’s surprising that we let it get this bad.’ 

While some countries are taking drastic action to ‘catch up’ from a supply chain perspective, including in the US where Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to order companies to produce everything from ventilators to masks and hand sanitizer, many argue that it’s too little, too late – and that reactionary measures never quite work when it comes to supply chain management. 

Supply chain shortages now have life and death consequences 

Shortages of PPE equipment causes significant issues for our health systems. Hospitals around the world right now are approaching, at or over peak capacity, meaning that any nurse or doctor who gets infected is one less to treat patients who are already sick. Sick doctors and nurses have a domino effect and may threaten the ‘flattening of the curve’, which is something we all know we need to do in order for our health system to cope.

In a nutshell, sick doctors and nurses create even more fear within the health system community, and may lead others to refuse to come to work. This, in turn, creates a shortage of health staff when they are needed most. Val Griffeth, an emergency doctor who is leading the new movement #GetUsPPE, sums it up perfectly: 

‘If you have health care workers who don’t feel safe, you may very well have people who don’t come to work.’ 

‘Worse, you have people who come to work, get infected, and end up in the hospital taking up a bed and also not seeing patients that day, that week, or that month.’ 

But how did we get here? 

Many procurement professionals looking at the current issue with PPE point to the drastically increased demand we’re now experiencing as the key issue that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. But when you dig under the surface, that’s not the whole story. 

As with the virus itself, the issue began with China. As the world’s primary producer of face masks (China produces more than half of the world’s total supply), the Chinese themselves originally needed what they produced, so instead of exporting, they began to produce masks, and then hoard them. Around the world, the hoarding continued, with some countries, such as Germany, swiftly banning PPE exports. The problem, then, became one of supply and demand – as demand rose world-wide, there were already supply issues with the world’s major suppliers as they had effectively used what they would otherwise export. 

When the epidemic turned quickly into a pandemic, the demand side of the supply chain also suffered a major hit as the public soon began buying masks en-masse. Despite the fact that medical authorities have repeatedly suggested that masks aren’t needed for healthy people, they continue to be purchased in almost every country, meaning that demand is at an almost all-time high. In a situation like this, is it almost inevitable that a supply chain would fail? 

What should we do about it?

With the real life-or-death situation we as procurement professionals find ourselves in, the question now is not what we should have done but we can do.  According to Matt Stewart from RiseNow, the situation we find ourselves in isn’t inevitable. Matt believes that technology can be our ‘secret weapon’ to create the kind of supply chain agility we need to respond to events such as the coronavirus:

‘Technology integration inside your organization (and that of your trading partners), along with the ability to onboard new datasets and suppliers, can actually help you respond almost instantaneously to non-forecastable events, such as the current pandemic.’

Although this type of integration certainly sounds like supply chain nirvana, Matt also believes that a number of factors need to be in place to achieve the level of supply chain agility you’d need to respond to something as serious and sudden as we’re currently experiencing: 

‘Effective supply chain agility begins with developing one or more plans of action based on simulations to any potential supply chain threats, then determining their impact.’

‘To do this, you need an extremely high level of data integration. You also need an early warning detection program, and then, once a threat is identified, you need to retrieve a predetermined action plan, and modify it if need be.’

Also key to supply chain agility, Matt says, is the ability to increase sourcing and detect consumption-side threats: 

‘You need the ability to speed up sourcing, and quickly, which can be achieved through your technology system – but critically, your “data source of truth” must be clean, conditioned, harmonized and accessible.’ 

‘You also need to understand consumption threats, so you’ll need to understand acceptable substitutes, distribution capacities, and the ability to retask existing assets (as we’re seeing with the US at the moment).’ 

Finally, Matt says that logistics flexibility is the final key area you need if you want to respond in almost real-time to large, unexpected supply chain interruptions: 

‘Flexibility within the logistics environment is required as decisions may need to be made to change product offerings and warehouse assets and systems will need to respond to new locations to ensure that productivity stays as high as possible.’ 

Onward and upward? 

Although manufacturers worldwide are working harder than ever to resolve the current shortage of PPE equipment, it’s already proven to be a disastrous, life-or-death problem. But while we can’t change what has happened in the past, supply chain professionals have every opportunity to learn from this pandemic, and to do whatever we can to ensure we protect our supply chains – and the lives of our fellow countrymen – now and into the future. 

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

Will Mexico Overtake China As The World’s Biggest Manufacturer?

Will Mexico soon overtake China as the world’s largest manufacturer of goods? Find out here.

With supply chains the world over now disrupted and many of us now scrambling to find a plan b, c and beyond in order to produce or procure goods, there hasn’t been much room for asking ourselves the big questions. But with life in China now quickly returning to normal, and some European countries already planning to lift restrictions, it’s time we did. If our supply chains can be broken so easily, so quickly, should we continue to trust China with almost all of our manufacturing? But if we move, where should we move? 

Many experts believe that China’s dominance is so well-established that moving elsewhere is simply infeasible. Yet others disagree, and Mexico is quickly becoming a favoured location for plan b – or potentially plan a – manufacturing for a number of reasons. Forbes even went as far as to say that Covid-19 will end up being the final curtain on China’s nearly 30 year role as the world’s leading manufacturer.

Given the monopoly China has had on our manufacturing to date, it’s sometimes hard to imagine an alternative. But many experts believe we have to, and now is the time to do just that. So when the crisis fades, will we all continue manufacturing in China as we’ve always done, or will we be forced, or will we want to, explore what a better alternative might look like?

Mexico has free trade

Ever since their manufacturing boom started nearly four decades ago, China has had various versions of near free-trade agreements with most countries. But in the US at least, that all changed when Trump became president in 2018. Trump, who had long accused China of unfair trading practices, promptly placed tariffs on more than USD $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, with the aim of encouraging Americans to buy local. China retaliated, and many US goods were also heavily taxed. 

Although the two countries are in continued negotiations and some tariffs have been removed, the US and China are far from reverting to anything close to a free-trade agreement. This, from America’s perspective at least, makes Mexico a very attractive prospect for manufacturing. Owing to the existence of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), goods manufactured in Mexico don’t attract a tariff if imported. 

But Mexico’s advantage is broader than just with the US, says Diego De La Garza, Senior Director Global Services and Delivery, Corcentric. He believes that Mexico has an advantage not just with the US, but with the world:

To finish reading this article, join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

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Coronavirus: What You Missed

Last week’s critical covid-19 news

New technologies gaining traction in the fight against Covid-19

If our supply chains are at war with the coronavirus, then technology is our ammunition … and it’s working. Right now, we’ve got every reason to be excited about the future of technology and how it can help us better mitigate risks. Some technologies are proving particularly useful, including AI and automation, reports EPS, as well as a suite of other digital technologies.

Toilet paper, renewables and restaurant supply chains still broken

By mid-February (which feels like aeons ago), Fortune had already declared that 94% of the world’s supply chains had been disrupted. Now, we believe that number would be closer to 100%. But there’s a number of supply chains that continue to make the news for the issues they’re having, including restaurant supply chains, renewables, and perhaps unsurprisingly, toilet paper.

Can China still be trusted as the world’s factory?

With some countries already planning their transition back to ‘normal,’ whatever that might mean for the future, many supply chain professionals are wondering, is now the time to start asking ourselves the big questions? Many say it is, and something that’s come up often is whether or not we can continue to trust China as our key manufacturer. 

It’s a contentious question, and many people have heated views on it. Read all the  compelling reasons why Kobus Van Der Wath, CEO of Axis Group, Beijing, believes China’s dominance will continue unabated in our latest expose, Can China Still Be Trusted as the World’s Factory?

Coronavirus vaccine trials start mid-May

In the best possible news Easter could bring, The New York Times is reporting that Norvavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, will start human trials of a coronavirus vaccine mid-May. It’s one of two dozen companies that have announced promising vaccine programs. The solution to end this pandemic might be closer than we think.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.