All posts by Procurious HQ

Businesses Alarmed by Digital Skills Shortage

A major training effort is needed to improve digital skills, and make sure people are not left behind in the digital age, say the Institute of Directors.

Digital Skills

The Institute of Directors (IoD) have stated that a major effort is required in the UK in order to ensure that workers have the digital skills required to keep up with technological advances.

The IoD was responding to a report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which suggested that, while 90 per cent of current UK jobs required digital skills, over 12.6 million UK adults did not have the skills to allow them to perform these roles.

The report also stated that two-thirds of digital-based organisations have struggled to fill a vacancy in the past 12 months, and that 93 per cent of technology companies have seen a direct impact on commercial operations from a digital skills gap.

This is despite over 12 per cent of Computer Science graduates still being unemployed six months following graduation.

Digital Exclusion

The House of Commons report also highlighted a worrying trend in digital exclusion, with 23 per cent of the UK population lacking even basic digital skills. These include a high percentage of disabled and elderly people, as well as those without a formal education.

However, the good news on this front, is that around 4.5 million of the 12.6 million are currently in full time employment, with employers being asked to assess how to aid with digital skills education and training.

While the impact on the economy of these statistics is estimated to be in the region of £63 billion per year, in lost potential GDP, individuals also miss out on savings of £560 per year on average by not being online.

The report concludes that there is more to be done by the UK Government, both in terms of facilitating the training of digital skills, but also putting the infrastructure in place to enable the entire population to have access to the Internet.

Digital Skills Education

In April, the IoD released a major report arguing significant changes to education and life-long learning were needed to enable the UK to adapt to rapid advances in technology and automation.

The IoD’s Chairman, Lady Barbara Judge, in a piece for the Sunday Telegraph yesterday said that society needs to make “a concerted effort to upskill and reskill its population, and not leave a whole generation ill-equipped to meet the new reality”.

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said of the House of Commons report: “This report shows the need for businesses to invest more in training British workers. We also must make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers require. Just as importantly, we must enable people already in employment to retrain or up-skill in order to meet the demands of the changing workplace.

“The IoD has called for the government to increase the use of technology in education — such as use of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) — to provide training at much lower costs and improve access to learning for all. We have also suggested the creation of tax incentives to encourage and enable people at all stages of their career to return to education and learn new skills”.

“The Committee says the UK needs another three quarters of a million workers with digital skills by next year. In order to meet the immediate shortfall, businesses must be able to access workers with the right skills from abroad.”

Working from Home: Heaven or Hell?

Working from home has become the latest trend and we are talking globally here. Every day, more and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home at least once or twice a week.

Working from Home

And even more companies are looking to outsource, looking for employees who can work from home and, sometimes, from a different country. We can see these “work from home” job offers increasing every single day on the different job boards and people are really starting to get into this new groove because, let’s face it, staying at home has to be better than going to the office every day.

However, this is not true for everyone. Working from home has its pros and cons, but, in the end, it depends on each person.

Benefits and Balance

Let’s begin listing some of the pros:

  • No commuting – That alone should convince you to stay home. No traffic, no public transportation, no people on top of you during rush hour, just bliss while you walk from your room, to the office space.
  • Flexibility – of both hours and in managing that time. Most of these jobs do not necessarily have a rigid schedule you need to follow, so you are able to manage your own time, especially if you are a freelancer.
  • Less stress – Since most people working from home are their own bosses, or their bosses are nowhere near them, stress can be reduced to a minimum.
  • Fewer distractions – hence more productivity. No useless meetings, no coworkers telling you about their 13 cats or children, no running around the whole office looking for a photocopier that actually works, no wasting time with small talk, just you and your family.
  • More family time – Since you are already at home, there is a really good chance you can spend more time with your family, or your dogs, while working from home. You just need to be organised, and know how to manage your time in a productive way.

Not All Good

Even though you are now probably ready to pack up your desk and go home, you need to know that working from home also has its disadvantages:

  • Isolation – Even though some people prefer being alone, others would rather have some company during the day, but if you have a family, this is not really a problem.
  • Distractions – we might have more distractions in an office, but that does not mean there are not any at home, browsing social media becomes your biggest enemy while working from home.
  • Separating work from home – this is probably one of the worst disadvantages of working from home. You need to be able to organise your day in a way you get to spend enough time working, and enough time with your family or friends. Try to have a separate space for working – do not stay in your bedroom, find a good nook in the house to do so.
  • Working endlessly – Since you have no one controlling your hours but yourself, you might feel the need to work at all times. That is why you need to be very organised with your time and prioritising your responsibilities.

Now you are ready to consider your options and decide whether you are a good candidate to work from home or not. Welcome to the future!

Vanessa Fardi is the Leader of US, Central America, and Latin America Team for Canadian startup neuvoo. Neuvoo is a job search engine that indexes jobs available online in one unique platform, without any charge for the source of the job. It was created in 2011 and is currently available in more than 60 countries.

Don’t Risk It – Why Your Organisation Needs Supplier Pre-Qualification

Workplace accidents have other costs apart from the tragic loss of human life. They can damage your brand, cost your company millions and, if you’ve failed to mitigate a known risk, could put you behind bars.

Pre-qualification Risk
Cell tower climbing – One of the world’s deadliest jobs

It’s difficult to write about the business consequences of a workplace fatality. It can be hard to see beyond the immediate human tragedy – from shattered families to a saddening waste of life when someone is killed on the job.

But the business consequences do need to be talked about, not only due to the financial impacts, but also because it’s up to big businesses to drive the safety improvements that could one day make workplace fatalities a thing of the past.

Risk Management Expertise

Insurance companies understand this, as do the risk management experts who take a holistic view of the impacts of accidents and fatalities. Angelique Navarro, of supply chain risk management firm Avetta, gives the example of a major telecommunications organisation that suffered eleven fatalities amongst its cell tower climber contractors before it acted to pre-qualify suppliers.

“The human cost was horrific, but the business costs were high as well. There is always significant public anger when preventable deaths occur, and people generally vent their frustration at the provider at the top of the chain – even though the safety lapse may have occurred two or three tiers down the supply chain.

“Cell tower climbers potentially have the deadliest job in the United States, so it’s a prime example of an area where you need to be 100 per cent confident that your suppliers, and their suppliers, are doing the right thing. Since the telecommunications organisation has partnered with us to bring in rigorous pre-qualification, there have been zero fatalities to date.”

Highly Visible Organisations

Navarro’s point about the most visible corporation taking the blame for its suppliers’ errors is borne out by the example of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Public anger – from placard-waving protesters to President Obama himself – was directed almost entirely at the highly-visible oil giant, BP.

We didn’t hear anywhere near as much about the operators actually responsible for the spill, namely oil-field service company Halliburton and offshore drilling contractor Transocean. Almost seven years on, BP is still suffering from the enormous brand damage that this environmental disaster incurred.

“Consumers lose trust and confidence in what your organisation can do for them”, says Navarro. “But brand and reputation damage aren’t the only negative effects. There are huge insurance payouts involved, and of course lost production time and revenue. Knowing that you work with suppliers who are completely qualified mitigates that risk.”

Avetta’s 300+ major clients, such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Verizon and John Deere, tend to come from some of the riskiest industries – oil and gas, chemicals, construction, utilities and energy, telecommunications, transport and manufacturing. This core group of more than 300 clients has approximately 50,000 suppliers over 100 countries – every one of which carriers a degree of risk.

“We vet suppliers and partner them with clients and industries across the globe”, says Navarro. “And the results speak for themselves. We’ve saved a global leader in oil and gas $6 million in one year by managing its health and safety program.

“We’ve reduced the incident rate at a chemical company by 74 per cent, saved lives at a major telecommunications company, conducted 14,000 performance reviews for a well-known construction company, and Avetta is an integral part of a major airline’s recognition as the safest airline in the world.”

Six Steps to Pre-Qualification

While every industry and business model is different, there are six key steps that can be taken to pre-qualify suppliers and reduce your risk profile. Ensure your suppliers have:

  • risk as a top agenda item for their board or senior team
  • the right employees: conduct background checks, ensure rules and regulations are being followed
  • the correct level of insurance protection with up-to-date insurance certificates
  • safety manuals in-hand and accredited training programs in place
  • prequalification for anyone coming on site
  • a consistent level of auditing multiple levels down the supply chain
  • rigorous tracking and data collection.

Navarro comments that risk-savvy procurement professionals work very closely with their organisation’s environmental health and safety teams, who have been in the risk-management space for a long time and can give some valuable advice. It’s important that we share safety learnings across industries as well. “You need to ensure your organisation is competitive”, she says, “but when it comes to safety we’re seeing major organisations come together to share best practice”.

Personal responsibility

There are executives behind bars for not acting to mitigate risks, with members of the C-level now being held personally responsible for fatalities and other accidents. “There’s little defence if you knew about a risk and didn’t act on it, or if you’ve been warned before yet let it happen again”, says Navarro. “When someone goes to work for a company, they have a reasonable expectation that they will come home safely to their family at the end of the day.”

To learn more about Avetta, visit their website. Avetta Founder John Moreland is President of Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit organisation dedicated to rescuing children around the world who are victims of sex slavery. Click here to learn more.

How one tweet from Elon Musk wiped $580 million from Samsung SDI

More than half a billion dollars was wiped from Samsung SDI’s market capitalisation this week in response to a single tweet from Elon Musk about Tesla’s supply chain. 

Musk

Rumours were swirling earlier this week about Tesla’s supply chain for its lithium-ion battery packs. Investors believed that the official supplier, Panasonic, may not be able to produce enough batteries for the much-anticipated Model 3, and that Samsung SDI (Samsung’s battery and display division) would be brought in to meet production targets.

Elon Musk set the record straight on Tuesday with the following tweet, clarifying that the arrangement with Panasonic is exclusive.

Musk

The effect of Musk’s tweet was immense – Samsung SDI’s shares plummeted by US$580 million (or 8%) on Wednesday, while Panasonic added $800 million to its market value on the same day.

Tesla’s Model 3 is slated to be a comparably affordable electric car with a range of at least 215 miles (346 km) per charge. At $35,000, it’s Tesla’s first step away from the luxury space into a price range affordable by mid-level buyers. It’s expected to be an enormous success, leading to significant interest from investors who follow Tesla news very closely indeed. This has led to a situation where a single tweet from Musk can cause huge disruptions in the share market, comparable to the shockwaves caused when Apple makes announcements about its supply chain.

A similar situation occurred in April when shares for Taiwan’s Hota Industrial Manufacturing, Tesla’s sole supplier of gearboxes, plunged rapidly as news broke that Tesla may be looking for a second supply source.

Stock market shocks are compounded by Wall Street firms’ usage of high-frequency trading, where computers use algorithms to comb through the internet to read news items (including tweets), executing thousands or millions of small trades per second based on that information.

Gizmodo’s Matt Novak has observed that if Musk’s Twitter account has so much power, the consequences of a hacking could be disastrous. “We hope he has a strong password and two-factor authentication turned on … If Musk ever got hacked, it could send markets into a minor tailspin.” Novak gave the example of a fake tweet that caused a $130 billion stock market crash in 2013, when hackers used the Associated Press Twitter account to announce that Barack Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House.

Musk has a longstanding partnership with Panasonic, which invested $30 million in Tesla in 2010. This investment is now estimated to be worth more than $300 million, and Panasonic holds a supply agreement for 1.8 billion cells through to 2017 for Tesla’s luxury Models S and X. Panasonic is also playing a significant role in Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, which will supply 500,000 Tesla cars per year with lithium-ion battery packs by 2020.

Tesla has since tweeted that Samsung may still be involved in making Tesla Energy products, namely its Powerwall and Powerpacks (stationary batteries used in homes). 

We’ve been keeping track of the major stories making the procurement and supply chain news this week…

Amazon’s massive investment in logistics

  • Amazon continues to make aggressive capital investments, with some observers claiming the company is positioning itself to take over the last mile of delivery from UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Recently, Amazon purchased an air cargo network previously owned by DHL, purchased thousands of 53-foot trailers, and is leasing 20 Boeing 767s at a cost of $300,000 per month.
  • The organisation has built over 100 global fulfilment centres between 2009 and 2016, with 125 million square feet of global warehousing. The warehouses themselves contain 30,000 Kiva Robots (acquired by Amazon for $775 million).
  • Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said his company’s goal is to “heavily supplement and support”, rather than take over, peak season fulfilment.

Read more: https://logisticsviewpoints.com/2016/06/06/does-amazon-have-a-first-mover-advantage-in-logistics/

 World Bank to launch modernised procurement framework

  • The World Bank will launch a new procurement policy on July 1, 2016, modernising an outdated framework that has remained unchanged for decades.
  • Moving away from a rules-based procurement system to one that focuses on performance and achieving development goals, the new framework allows for much greater flexibility.
  • Changes in the new framework include a sharper focus on achieving value-for-money, an increased number of procurement methods and approaches, greater streamlining, more attention to contract management, and enhanced support for borrowers in low-capacity environments.

Read more: http://blogs.worldbank.org/governance/imminent-transformation-world-bank-s-procurement-framework

 Johnson & Johnson: Controls need to be in place when buying digital ad placements

  • Johnson & Johnson was recently alerted by shocked customers that one of their baby product ads was played before a video about paedophilia, leading senior digital marketing strategic Louisa Thraves to comment that more responsibility needs to be taken. The issue is caused by automated keyword matching, such as “baby” or “children”, and can be remedied by creating a watch-list of topics to avoid being paired with.
  • Thraves used cold and flu remedy Codrol as an example of a brand that could be damaged by erroneous media placements, which she said could never be associated with alcohol in an advertising environment.
  • Marketing procurement professionals must ensure they know where and when digital ads will be played, and what other content they will be associated with.

Read more: https://mumbrella.com.au/jj-marketer-says-clients-need-take-responsibility-brand-safety-series-shocking-ad-placements-372929

How Blockchain Technology Can Revolutionise Procurement & Supply Chain

Blockchain technology could prove to be a valuable tool for procurement and supply chains in their quest for transparency.

Blockchain Technology

In today’s world, the process of procurement, and even supply chain management, is facing more scrutiny than ever before.

Due to several different advances in technology (many of which relate more to our personal lives than business management), people are more sensitive than ever to issues of accuracy and matters of record. We want transactions verified, sources authenticated, and, generally, transparency in all things.

Where procurement and supply chain management are concerned, that level of transparency has been pretty much impossible in years past. However, there are some that believe that Bitcoin’s blockchain technology, of all things, has vast potential to alter how procurement is monitored and could improve accountability on all sides.

Blockchain Explained

For those who may be unfamiliar with how blockchain technology works, this overview of Bitcoin explains that it’s essentially a public ledger on which all Bitcoin transactions are recorded.

Every transaction generates a series of letters and numbers indicating the two parties involved and the amount of Bitcoin exchanged. While specific identities are protected, it makes it absolutely, automatically clear where your Bitcoin came from, such that amounts of Bitcoin can be traced back through various transactions.

It’s basically a fool-proof system of transparency meant to guarantee the authenticity of these transactions.

Supply Chain Transparency

But how exactly would such a system help companies dealing with procurement and supply chain concerns?

This explanation clarifies the idea in a very effective manner, stating that a blockchain can track what went into a product, and who handled it along the way, revealing the provenance of a product to everyone involved, from origin to end user.

The article uses the example of a taco supply chain. When you buy a taco from a food truck you’re making a lot of trusting assumptions: that the truck is sanitary, that the taco’s ingredients are fresh, etc. But with a system of transparency in place you can personally check that those assumptions are indeed based in reality.

Considering that example with a product in the process of procurement, you begin to see the immense potential value of a blockchain.

Authenticity Checks

Indeed, the same article discusses a range of examples covering different industries and points of interest along the supply chain. For instance, you might be able to look at a blockchain-style log and determine if a shirt you might buy was made with child labor, or you might see if a bottle of olive oil is just olive oil, and if so where else in the world it might be procured. You might even be able to confirm the authenticity of an antique or special product before purchasing.

Perhaps the most interesting example, however, comes in the form of a new company that’s arisen as a result of the blockchain to combat fraud and crime in the diamond trade.

Everledger is essentially building a vast data network, tracking diamonds in circulation by their identifying features and serial codes, and thus legitimising an industry that’s frequently been overrun by criminals and fraudulent transactions.

With a public ledger, diamonds could be traced back to their origins, appropriate values could be maintained, and selling a stolen diamond without being on record as doing so, would be all but impossible.

At this stage most of these examples concern consumer issues and supply chain transparency. However, as blockchain technology becomes more common, it’s easy to see its potential aspects in procurement as well.

For a technology that’s fundamentally simple, it’s somewhat amazing that it might solve transparency issues that have persisted in business transactions for most of human history.

ISM’s Jim Barnes: three major L&D challenges for procurement

Are you clear about the capabilities your role requires? Do you regard yourself as financially acute? Does your organisation have processes in place to capture vital knowledge from departing professionals as they retire?

Jim Barnes

Jim Barnes is a busy man. He’s the managing director for ISM Services, the Institute for Supply Management’s team learning and development arm, and the nature of his role means he’s on the road, or in the air, for much of his working week. His team and its affiliates are truly global, working around the clock with top corporations across the US, Latin America, Europe and Asia – in Barnes’ words, “the sun never sets on ISM Services”.

Procurious was lucky enough to get some time with Barnes at ISM2016 in Indianapolis. We asked him for his top three concerns for the future of learning and development in procurement. From his unique viewpoint near the pinnacle of one of the biggest supply management associations in the world, Barnes sees the following three shared challenges:

1. Lack of clarity around procurement roles and competencies

With procurement role definitions and responsibilities becoming increasingly fluid in modern businesses, Barnes has become aware of confusion around what many roles actually entail. “We’re seeing a lack of alignment between job roles and organisational needs. There’s also a lack of clarity in what it takes to get to the next level in your procurement career”.

ISM’s solution was to launch the Mastery Model, which CEO Tom Derry has referred to in the past as “the world’s greatest collection of job descriptions”. All of ISM Services’ content and training now maps to this model, and it’s part of Barnes’ role to ensure the model itself stays relevant in a fast-changing profession. “We’re constantly updating the Mastery Model”, he says. “That’s the whole point – procurement has moved so fast that we’ve almost outstripped the ability to have formalised career structures, but the model is designed to stay ahead of the latest trends.”

ISM Services surveys individuals to determine their competency levels across no fewer than 73 sub-competencies in the Mastery Model, identifying individual or group-wide gaps and devising a targeted investment plan for training and career feedback.

“There are so many ways people can be up-skilled”, says Barnes. “It could be formal training towards ISM’s CPSM or CPSD, or eLearning, or on-the-job mentoring and coaching. It’s all about targeted investment to address identified gaps. Most importantly, the Mastery Model helps procurement professionals understand what competencies they need to excel in their current roles, and what skills they’ll have to master to move to the next step in their careers.”

2. Procurement professionals need greater financial acumen

“If you’re in procurement, you need to ensure you have a basic understanding of business finance and accounting. For example, when selecting suppliers, you should be able to look at the financial data around their business to understand their dynamics”, Barnes says.

Being able to speak intelligently about finance will greatly benefit your ability to engage internal stakeholders and talk their language. “This is especially important when engaging with Finance, of course, and the C-level will expect you to have a good grip on business finance.”

Barnes says that more and more universities are offering quality courses in procurement and supply chain that address the gap in financial knowledge. “We’re seeing some terrific graduates coming out of these courses, including this year’s impressive group of Richter Scholarship recipients”.

Barnes’ advice to newly-minted graduates looking for a great role in procurement? “You’ve got to be willing to travel’, he says. “Lots of manufactures have plants in regional areas, often in the middle of nowhere – we can’t all land jobs in San Francisco”.

3. An ageing workforce

US electricity and gas company Duke Energy, says Barnes, is a prime example of the ageing demographic in procurement. “Over the next five years they’ll lose two-thirds of their supply chain staff. They’re replacing 200 people a year”. Barnes’ main concern with the demographic shift is capturing lost knowledge. “Of course there’s going to be a ‘brain drain’ – companies need to be very proactive about capturing as much knowledge from outgoing professionals as possible. But it’s also an opportunity to shift the skill set in procurement from old-school tactical to cutting-edge strategic.”

Barnes notes that ISM is on the front foot when it comes to developing millennial talent, most noticeably in its 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars program (in partnership with THOMASNET.com) and through its innovative eLearning initiative.

“The eISM online learning options make skills acquisition so much more accessible. We’ve now got people in remote places accessing our guided learning by webcam – they may not have been able to attend a workshop in person due to time constraints and travel expense. Trainers have to be able to accommodate people’s needs – and some procurement and supply chain professionals simply can’t find the time to leave their jobs”.

Virtual learning benefits trainers, too

On a personal level, Barnes is very pleased about the increasing popularity of virtual learning. “There’ll always be a need for face-to-face learning, networking and workshops, but one of the great benefits for me is that hopefully I won’t need to be on the road quite so much in the future!”

Silo Busting: Using savings management to drive collaboration

In a perfect world, savings management should follow a clear pattern: set targets, identify then prioritise initiatives, track initiatives and, finally, review the targets. However, managers know that in reality, these five steps are beset with difficulty. They have to deal with unknown targets and goals, manual inputting, approval difficulties, siloed projects, sporadic monitoring and, worst of all, focus on the wrong projects.

How to bust silos when nothing seems to work

Many of the woes besetting procurement professionals can be traced back to organisational silos, which hamper effective communication, hinder compliance, and impede transparency. You’ve tried everything to improve collaboration – from issuing company-wide news bulletins, increasing the number and frequency of interdepartmental meetings, and even drastically altering the seating arrangements … but sometimes, silo-type behaviour is just ingrained. No doubt, you have wished there was some sort of silver bullet that will do away with silos once and for all.

According to SciQuest’s Karen Sage, there is. Sage is excited about launching a new solution that will bring everyone on board with procurement savings initiatives. “Our new Portfolio Savings Manager (PSM) is really going to hit those organisational silos hard”, says Sage. “It encourages interaction, creating cross-collaboration within the business. You’ll have all of these different silos working together on your procurement savings initiatives, and those frustrating savings management difficulties have been ironed out into a seamless and efficient process.”

SciQuest has been in the spend management space for a long time – 20 years, in fact – and services a wide range of industries and organisations including many of the Global Fortune 500. Customers using SciQuest’s Source-to-Settle Suite wanted a way to track projects in a single interface that incorporates multiple aspects of the procurement process, whether it be savings tracking, project management or workflow management. The company responded with the creation of the innovative PSM, which can be used as a stand-alone product, but its full functionality is revealed when integrated with the existing Source-to-Settle Suite.

The cross-functionality of PSM enables team members in any department, from sourcing and procurement to finance and operations, to:

  • identify potential savings and process optimisation projects
  • approve and prioritise initiatives
  • assign tasks and allocate resources
  • track milestones and results, and
  • monitor progress against forecast and budget.

The system is a project-manager’s dream, automatically determining milestones and tasks required to complete initiatives and allocate resources. PSM replaces tedious manual processes such as spreadsheet inputting, project tracking and database updating. It captures strategies and savings initiatives from inception to realisation, forecasting, scheduling, tracking and reporting savings. Users benefit from historical project and savings visibility, without having to dig into the database or spreadsheets for lost information.

Savings management made simple in five steps

 PSM users follow an intuitive five-step process, with a focus on simplicity throughout:

1. Identification

Users are guided through the completion of a savings initiative creation with the aid of a left-side navigation section that indicates counts and completeness.

  1. Authorisation

Approval workflows are applied to the initiative based on business compliance requirements.

  1. Prioritisation

The user assigns a priority to each initiative on a scale of 1 to 10. Priorities can be adjusted to reflect current business and resource parameters.

  1. Execution

Deliverables and tasks assignees can update their tasks status, mark them in-progress, complete or reset the due date.

  1. Achievement

Reports and graphs are automatically generated and displayed on customised dashboards.

Having the right system in place enables procurement professionals to stop spending valuable time trying to persuade unwilling cross-departmental colleagues to collaborate. Concentrate instead on getting everyone interacting with your new system, see the silos melt away, and watch the savings flow.

SciQuest’s Portfolio Savings Manager will be available for purchase in July 2016. For more information, please visit www.SciQuest.com.

Four tips for working with SMBs from the experts

Procurious caught up with Ed Edwards, Audience Outreach Manager at THOMASNET.com, to discuss his organisation’s recommendations on connecting with small and medium-sized businesses.

SMB big business

THOMASNET.com knows that it’s tough to connect with SMBs. The product sourcing and supplier discovery platform has been in the business of connecting buyers and suppliers for no less than 118 years. Recently, though, their analysts have noticed a worrying trend. “We run sourcing events through the platform”, says Edwards. “We discovered that large Fortune 500 companies were only getting a 12% response rate when they issued a sourcing event to 100 suppliers. Further investigation revealed that SMBs are increasingly unwilling to engage, and buyers need to make more effort in this respect.”

Why SMBs are important to you

Ignoring SMBs means turning your back on half of the potential supply base – in the US, 49% of manufacturers have between 5-99 employees. According to Edwards, the trend towards supplier consolidation is a false economy. “More supplier choices means less dependency, and therefore less risk”, he says.

It makes sense to source regionally from SMBs. THOMASNET.com’s research shows that 41% of organisations always prefer a local source, while 57% generally prefer a regional source. The further away your source becomes, the more risk and cost are introduced into the supply chain. Edwards explains that when things go wrong, you need to be able to respond quickly and creatively. “Local and regional SMBs can do things better with less resources at a lower cost”, he says. “They’ve got the advantage of being nimble and innovative.”

Working with SMBs is also one of the best ways to reduce costs, as there’s a strong correlation between the size of a company and the average payroll. A US manufacturer with 5–9 employees, for example, has an average payroll of $36,313 per employee, while a manufacturer with 500+ employees pays an average of $61,150. “If you only work with large suppliers, you’re going to be paying for their higher overheads”, says Edwards. “More bureaucracy equals more cost and less innovation – and more people equals more bureaucracy.”

Understand where SMBs are coming from

Small and medium-sized businesses often have an owner-proprietor and operate with limited resources. They generally need to be cautious in investing time and energy in pursuing new business, while running their existing operation. Common concerns held by SMBs around engaging with large buyers are:

  1. Can I fulfil the order?
  2. Am I wasting time bidding on an opportunity with very little chance of winning?
  3. What happens to my other business if I become beholden to a large company?
  4. What if the new opportunity becomes 50% of my business and it dries up?

Four recommendations for improving your relationships with SMBs

THOMASNET.com has worked with suppliers and buyers to create a list of best-practice recommendations for working with SMBs:

  1. Be transparent throughout the process to convey that winning your business is possible.
  • Outline your process upfront
  • Provide a timeline with milestones
  • Be specific regarding vendor selection criteria
  • Divulge who the decision makers are (if not by name, by role)
  • Convey number of suppliers under consideration
  • Provide case studies of similar relationships you have built with SMBs
  • Divulge why you are looking for a new supplier
  • Be specific regarding quantities.
  1. Simplify your process to increase the likelihood that more SMBs participate.
  • Only ask for information that is critical to the specific supplier qualification process
  • Break lengthy supplier questionnaires into smaller chunks.
  1. Humanise your process to build trust and reduce downstream confusion.
  • Leverage phone communication early in process
  • Provide specific Procurement and Engineering contacts
  • Provide feedback
    • Communicate timeline and process changes
    • Let suppliers know if they have been eliminated from consideration along the way
    • Let them know why they were eliminated.
  1. Consider shortening payment terms and offering financing to minimise your risk and ensure your suppliers have sufficient working capital.
  • Create a special program with reasonable payment terms for SMBs
  • Consider adopting a Supply Chain Finance Solution (reverse factoring).

“We’ve become very efficient at communicating in the 21st century”, says Edwards. “But at the end of the day, decisions are made when people connect with each other. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of humanising the procurement process if you want to connect with SMBs.”

ED EDWARDSEd Edwards enjoys educating procurement and engineering professionals on how to use THOMASNET.com’s Supplier Discovery and Product Sourcing platform to streamline and improve their work. As part of this mission, he provides customized training to organizations’ engineering and sourcing teams at their offices and online. Ed and his colleagues work together to listen to the challenges facing buyers, and help them address those issues as well as new opportunities.

THOMASNET.com exists specifically to help you find, evaluate, compare and contact suppliers for what you need, where and when you need it. Access 700,000+ North American suppliers in 67,000+ categories – create your free user account today.

*Update: Check out THOMASNET.com’s new eBook The ABC’s Of Making The Shortlist, written to help you shore up any shortcomings that may prevent you from making buyers’ shortlists and put you in position to win more business.

Editor’s Choice: 5 Big Ideas to energise your day

On April 21st, 50 of the world’s most influential procurement minds joined forces with over 14,000 digital delegates to crowdsource Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Big Ideas

By popular demand, we’ve brought together five thought-provoking Big Ideas from some of the biggest names in procurement.

Big Idea – Millennial Talent Response


Nic Walden, Director – Procurement P2P Advisor at The Hackett Group, talks about the greater expectations that Millennials have for job roles.

From expectations about working on CSR projects and building sustainable relationships, to the technology that they will be working with, Nic argues that procurement needs to change the way they engage with the Millennial generation in the workplace.

Big Idea – Maximise Social Impact


Hugh Chamberlain, Commercial Procurement Lead at Johnson & Johnson, challenged procurement professionals to buy from social enterprises in his Big Idea.

Buying from these enterprises can help add value to society, the community and the planet, as well as giving buyers immense personal satisfaction.

Big Idea – Everyone Can Contribute


Nathan Ott, CEO e.g.1 Ltd and Director at The GC Index Ltd, argues that while not everyone is a ‘Game Changer’, everyone is capable of making a game-changing contribution, from the top to the bottom of the organisation.

However, in order to do this, organisations need to create a culture where it is safe to fail, and these ‘Game Changers’ are not seen as disruptive, pigeon-holed, or made to conform. Only by doing this can organisations create real step change.

Big Idea – Harness the Crowd


Lisa Malone, GM – Europe at Procurious, talks about how procurement can lead organisations in harnessing the power of the crowd, and the concept of ‘hackathons’ in order to drive innovation.

Hackathons provide an opportunity to work on the business, rather that in the business. They give employees the chance to take time out and come up with new ideas, and communicate and collaborate with people they would not have the opportunity to do so with otherwise.

Big Idea – Challenging Traditional Procurement


Lee Gudgeon, Client Engagement Director at REED Global, says that the increasing role of procurement has highlighted a shortage of candidates with the right skill sets available to come into the profession.

Lee argues that procurement recruiters also need to be up-skilled in order to recognise the relevant skills and capabilities required in procurement, in other functions, and open up the market to people who might otherwise have been overlooked.

Want to see more Big Ideas? Check out our extensive library containing two years’ of Big Ideas from some of the world’s leading thinkers in procurement.

Buying a better future – Procurement’s sustainability leaders recognised

Once seen as a ‘niche’ part of the profession, sustainable purchasing is fast moving into the mainstream. The misbelief that sustainable solutions cost more is quickly giving way as businesses recognise that competitive advantage lies in developing innovative, sustainable supply chains.

Sustainable purchasing

Evidence of this came this week with the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) recognising 12 organisations and one individual who are using their purchasing power to advance the long term health and vitality of society, economies, and the planet.

Winners were recognised across a range of sustainable purchasing initiatives, including cooperative buying contracts for green cleaning products, a week-long zero waste initiative at the Phoenix PGA Open and supplier incubator programs designed at improving environmental performance.

Background on some of the award winners includes:

Leadership Award for Overall Sustainable Purchasing Program (SPLC’s highest honour), presented to The District of Columbia for having put in place a comprehensive sustainable purchasing program that exemplifies the qualities defined in SPLC’s Principles for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing. DC conducted extensive market research and stakeholder engagement to develop sustainable purchasing guidance and specifications for more than 100 priority products. Hundreds of employees have been trained on the guidance, which DC shares publicly.

Leadership Award for a Special Sustainable Purchasing Initiative, presented to The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Responsible Purchasing Network for leading the establishment of a cooperative contract through which agencies in multiple states can now buy independently certified green cleaning products at favourable pricing and with specialised training and outreach.

Leadership Award for Public Interest Advocacy, presented jointly to International Campaign for Responsible Technology and the GoodElectronics Network for organizing the “The Challenge to the Global Electronics Industry”, which has been endorsed by more than 200 organizations and individuals in 40 countries. The Challenge calls on the global electronics industry to respect human rights, workers’ rights, and community rights, including the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and to healthy communities and a safe environment.

This award was also presented to the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance for bringing together a coalition of businesses purchasing minerals and metals, mining companies, NGOs, affected communities, and trade unions in order to promote a world where the mining industry respects the human rights and aspirations of neighbouring communities, provides safe, healthy and supportive workplaces, minimises harm to the environment, and leaves positive legacies. Through the many years of collaboration, IRMA has developed the Standard for Responsible Mining, which is currently being piloted.

Leadership Award for Purchasing Innovation
Two organisations were recognised for leveraging sustainability to find and promote innovation: King County (Seattle, WA) for purchasing battery-electric busses for its Metro Transit fleet and documenting significant cost savings and environmental benefits associated with this new technology; and Philips Corporation for innovative procurements that have enabled the company to achieve carbon neutrality in its North American operations while saving money. The Philips’ Procurement and Sustainability groups have collaborated on energy efficiency, onsite renewables, renewable energy certificates, and long-term Power Purchase Agreements for wind power.

Sam Hummel, Director of Outreach and Operations for SPLC, says that the breadth of award categories demonstrates that sustainable procurement is about more than just buying green. “We are talking about human rights, ethical conduct and supplier diversity”, says Hummel. “Sustainable procurement is a holistic approach.”

In other news:

China mandates renewable energy procurement across 11 provinces

  • China’s National Development and Reform Commission has forced grid companies to buy enough renewable power to enable wind farms to operate at least 1800 hours per year, and solar farms to be utilised at least 1300 hours per year.
  • The mandatory procurement is applicable across 11 provinces, including Xianjing and Gansu.
  • Solar capability in China has increased seven-fold and wind has almost doubled since 2012, with China aiming to generate 15% of its power from renewable and nuclear energy by 2020.

Read more at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-01/china-s-order-for-green-power-purchases-lifts-wind-solar-shares

World’s longest – and deepest – rail tunnel opens in Switzerland promising to transform Supply & Logistics in the region

  • The Gotthard rail link has taken 20 years to build, cost more than $12bn (£8.2bn), and is tipped to revolutionise Europe’s freight transport.
  • At 57.1km in length, 4,00,000 cubic metres of concrete were used to create the tunnel, employing 2600 people.
  • Its maximum freight amount is 377,000 tonnes per day, the equivalent of 15,080 shipping containers.

Read more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36416506

Human Rights Watch calls for binding global convention on supply chains

  • HRW has released a report calling for governments to effectively regulate business activity to protect human rights in supply chains.
  • The report highlights abuses including child labour, labour rights, environmental damage, and lack of safety.
  • Juliane Kippenberg, Children’s Rights Director at HRW, said. “It’s clear that a binding standard on human rights in supply chains globally is needed to ensure that businesses live up to their human rights responsibilities.”

Read more: http://www.cips.org/en/supply-management/news/2016/may/binding-international-convention-is-required-to-protect-human-rights-in-supply-chains/

Autonomous taxi startup nuTonomy raises $16 million in funding to compete with Uber

  • Autonomous taxi startup nuTonomy hopes to bring self-driving taxis to the road by 2018.
  • The company counts the government of Singapore as one of its main partners. It runs a fleet of R&D vehicles in Singapore and is the first private company approved to test on public roads.
  • The startup is promising to develop the whole suite for driverless taxis, from autonomous navigation software (nuCore), fleet routing and management, remote vehicle teleoperation, and smartphone-based ride requesting.
  • The firm uses retrofitted Mitsubishi iMiev electric cars and is expected to add Renault Zoe EVs in its autonomous cab service later this year.

Read more: http://futurism.com/a-new-uber-competitor-just-raised-16-million-in-funding-for-complete-autonomous-taxis/