All posts by Procurious HQ

How can we procure in a smarter way?

The need for smarter procurement

Procurious is in Cardiff for Procurement Week 2015. We sat in on the 4th FAPPE (Faster Adoption of Public Procurement in Europe) Meeting where the group discussed  pertinent issues that need addressing when deciding on a roadmap for smarter procurement.

We’ve taken these concerns and have chosen to present them to you in the form of an infographic.

Smarter procurement infographic
Smarter procurement infographic

FAPPE is the brainchild of Rui Patricio – the Managing Director (Procurement & Innovation Management Consulting) of Digitalflow. Digitalflow is a Portuguese boutique consulting firm that offers a full range of services to support the implementation of business-to-government processes making use of electronic platforms.

Internet retailer Amazon on putting people first

File of a box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado

Work hard, have fun, make history

Procurious is at Procurement Week 2015 in Cardiff – ahead of our exclusive interview with Amazon’s Gary Elsey – Operations Manager for Amazon.co.uk, we present some bite-size tidbits into Amazon’s people-centric philosophy.

Amazon in 1995 – started life an online bookstore (VHS, DVDs, CDs etc. came later), but at that time there was no discernible way of searching through the product listings. A far cry to the behemoth that stands before us today.

Amazon on customers

Amazon’s vision is simple – no matter what it’s doing, what products it’s launching – the customer is always the end goal.

As a company Amazon has always strived to work backwards from the customer. ‘What can we do differently, how can we distinguish ourselves and innovate?’ These are all essential touch-points that the Seattle-born retailer has obsessed over since day one.

For an example of Amazon’s customer-centricity, look no further than the release of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system. When it went on sale, as soon as Amazon sold through all its original allocation, it made the ballsy move to direct customers to competitors websites. No ‘out of stock’, or ‘awaiting stock’ messages here… Amazon is an altogether different beast.

With seperate online properties operating in United States, United Kingdom & Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India and Mexico, ultimately logistically problems do arise… But here is where Amazon plays its trump card, as the retailer offers almost-instantaneous conflict resolution. If you choose not to opt for online chat or a response by email, an Amazon representative will offer to phone you back.

In Amazon’s history there have even been examples of purchases being personally delivered when the situation dictates…

…On passing back savings

Unlike most, Amazon employees don’t carry business cards. Why? They’re an unjustifiable spend. Amazon always asks, ‘does the customer need this?’ If the answer is no, then the outcome is quite clear (no business cards…) It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that every decision is examined in this way. Amazon always seeks to maintain low operating costs, so it can pass the savings back to the customer.

…On hiring

Amazon’s ethos is very much: ‘I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person’

…On inspirational leadership

‘My own view is that every company requires a long-term view’ – Jeff Bezos. It is worthy to note that making a profit is not one of Amazon’s goals. Instead it employs elements of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Theory: ‘What, how, why’.

It is said that Amazon’s CEO – Jeff Bezos, spends a couple of days every year on the service desks to field customer feedback. Even better than that, send him an email and he’ll personally see to it that someone from Amazon responds to your query.

Nurturing new talent – the lure of the graduate

The graduates are coming

Procurious is in Cardiff for Procurement Week. Are you attending?Come and join our #PW2015 group!

Today we’ve heard from Chris Nye of Axiom. Axiom is a service-driven business, specialising in the medical, industrial, and military fields.

In just a couple of years Axiom has doubled its workforce and trebled its turnover – and as any organisation knows
keeping this momentum is paramount to the success of the business.

And of course there are always challenges – for Axiom, number one was the realisation that its recruitment strategy needed a little help.

Axiom woke up to the idea that graduates can fill the skills gap.

What improvements can be made?

Axiom previously had trainees come and go, it was classically recruiting the wrong individuals. What it needed was a blank
canvas (with the right skill-set), and saw determined graduate trainees to be the best fit.

Graduates represent young, intelligent, questioning minds, and more importantly a lack of baggage. By hiring graduates
you can allow them to find their own skills and own career fit. Give them the opportunity to find themselves within the
business, to see what sticks and what interests them.

Axiom’s approach is not overly prescriptive – an entrenched view falls prey to shortsightedness, and errors can be locked into a vicious cycle. Instead you shouldn’t dictate the graduate’s path, encourage independence and let them find their own way. It is important that after the training period ends, graduates are deployed into only what they enjoy and
excel at – the fields they have chosen to specialise in and want to develop these skills further. The path should be continuously monitored and adapted as necessary to ensure the graduate is shaping the role.By adopting this approach it is possible to maintain the graduate’s youthful enthusiasm throughout the development plan.

The new power generation

By training (and inevitably employing) graduates you will often find this exercise opens-up new opportunities, and  you’ll be able to fill newly-created roles. What’s more graduates can be thought of as thought-provoking and questioning assets to any team. By mixing up your team and employing new blood, it encourages an honesty when it comes to looking for solutions. It’s all about balance – the graduates provide the business with a different view. Sometimes all it takes is fresh eyes…

Axiom put this into practice a couple of years ago – now, 2 years on it has welcomed 5 graduates through its doors.

By looking towards graduates you’ll be furnished with bright, young minds who possess an unquenchable thirst to continuously improve. The graduate solution is indeed a brave new world, the only constant being change…

Gravitas skills are key to unlocking door to boardrooms for women

Less than 25 per cent of board members of FTSE 100 companies are women…

Getting women into the boardroom

Britain’s boardrooms would change from ‘male and pale’ if more would-be leaders learnt to develop the skill of gravitas, according to author and leadership communications coach, Antoinette Dale Henderson. 

Antoinette regularly speaks on leadership identity, influencing with integrity, building inner confidence and communication excellence. In 2007, she launched Zomi Communications to commit to that mission, working with people to identify their purpose and define their unique leadership voice.

“Women, younger people and people from ethnic minorities often face particular challenges in tackling misconceptions about gravitas needed for the boardroom and that needs to stop” – says Antoinette.

“Gravitas is not an inherent trait – but it is an essential skill for successful leaders. My aim is to turn the old-school image of gravitas on its head and demonstrate that it’s a skill that can be developed by anyone who wants to fulfil their potential as a manager or leader. This book will help anyone, no matter what level of experience to use their own individuality to command respect and make a lasting impression. “

Leading with Gravitas is based on research conducted with a broad range of leaders including politicians, business and community executives, small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Her book aims to demystify the concept of ‘gravitas’ through exploring what it means for Britain’s successful leaders. Using a six-key model, it explores what the reader can do to develop their own gravitas and leadership style through practical exercises and tools.

Developing your own gravitas and leadership style

There are a number of practical exercises and tools which will allow you to develop your own gravitas.

The following is encouraged:

•Gain a clear understanding of the vital components of gravitas by analysing how you currently perform and what you can do to improve
•Increase awareness of your unique expertise and qualities as an authentic leader
•Access a range of powerful techniques to help communicate and present with impact
•Enhance your confidence, influence and ability to inspire others and deliver results
•Harness your passion and individuality to maximise leadership presence and project your best self

More information about Antoinette and her learnings can be found at www.leadingwithgravitas.com

Blast off! NASA announce new procurement chief

NASA announce new procurement chief - Kaprice Harris

In what may be one of the most interesting jobs in procurement, NASA has announced that Kaprice Harris will take office in the space agency’s Executive Service position of Procurement Officer and chief of the Procurement Division.

Harris started her career at the NASA in 1996 and has held various roles both within and outside of the procurement function over a career spanning more than two decades.

Harris will hold responsibility for planning, organisation and establishing the strategic direction of the organisation’s procurement function.

Speaking on the appointment NASA Glenn Research Centre Director Jim Free said: “Kaprice’s agency wide experience combined with her leadership will be a valuable addition to our Procurement Division.”

Top five ways mindfulness can help you in the workplace

Work-life stress is taking its toll on the nation

A new study has revealed that cases of anxiety and stress are on the rise and taking their toll on our careers – in fact, other than being poorly, stress and depression are listed as the top reason people take time off work with one in five respondents admitting to taking time off work due to stress.

Is work-life stress taking its toll?

The research, which questioned 1,000 respondents and was commissioned by Anamaya to examine the impact our stress levels have on both our work and home lives, also revealed that more than half of us (52 per cent) actually only feel fully relaxed for just a couple of hours each week.

So what’s the answer?

Almost a third (32 per cent) of people questioned acknowledged that they felt mind training and meditation could make a real difference to their day to day stress levels but a quarter were unsure how to integrate mind training into their busy schedules.

Graham Doke, founder and narrator of the Anamaya app and ex-city lawyer, comments: “The majority of us have experienced how, at one point or another, the stress and strains of our work life can be brought back home with us on an evening. If not addressed, this stress can have a detrimental impact on our lives.

“When you look at the US and UK firms that have introduced mindfulness in the workplace, the results are overwhelming and show that simply taking 5-10 minutes out during your work day to focus on mindfulness, relaxation or to meditate, can have some truly remarkable results.”

Last year the US trend of focussing on mindfulness in the workplace began to take off in the UK, with firms such as the NHS and Transport For London introducing mindfulness and meditation sessions for their staff. 

The top five ways mindfulness can help you in the workplace:

1. Increased awareness of your emotions – office politics, rivalry, jealousy and competitiveness can all have a major impact on your work experience.  When executed properly, meditation and mindfulness training can increase awareness of emotions and the awareness of other’s emotion – helping you to control your reactions and be more aware when people are trying to provoke.

2. Manage anxiety levels – anxiety is proven to be an inhibiter of good performance, and it produces a self-feeding cycle of greater anxiety and stress. Awareness of your anxiety leaves you able to deal with the emotion itself, and clears the way to better performance.

3. Ease the pressure – People claim they ‘work best under pressure’, and managers often feel they get the best from their team by being aggressively demanding. However, neuroscience shows that stress, pressure, reaction to aggression all produces a negative reaction in our brains. Anyone who thinks they operating best under pressure is simply not thinking straight! Meditation reduces the activity of this part of the brain and means we can think clearer.

4. Problem solving – meditation can change the structure of the brain, particularly the pre-frontal cortex – this change is measurable with MRI scans and leaves the meditator able to modify their behaviour. One of the most empowering changes that mindfulness can bring is the ability to be less fearful and more willing to approach a problem than previously.

5. Work/life balance – In the modern environment of instant information, instant reaction, and 24/7 availability, it is difficult to achieve any kind of balance. In this ‘always on’ culture, where it has become increasingly difficult to switch off thanks to technology, employers are now much more obligated to ensure their employees’ health and wellbeing is maintained.

You can download the Anamaya app here via the iTunes store.

Marks & Spencer’s future lies in its supply chain

Marks & Spencer supply chain

Marks & Spencer, once the darling of Britain’s high street, has developed a reputation in recent years for tired stores and even more tired fashion. However, the company believes that a supply chain revival will turn this perception around.

As part of broader supply chain optimisation project, M&S has elected to bring a significant amount of its previously outsourced operations back in-house. The firm has hired new designers and rejuvenated its online presence in a bid to revive its image and win back its core customers.

The moves are thought to be a reaction to changing consumer preferences in the British retail sector. The rise of the ‘fast fashion’ model of companies like Zara and H&M is creating a shift in purchasing patterns of the company’s most loyal customers (women aged over 50). These consumers are now looking for more contemporary designs.

Patsy Perry, a lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester said: “There’s a killing to be made if they can serve older women better. Unless you have money to buy designer clothes, it’s hard to find what you want on the high street unless you want to look like your daughter.”

Brothers in garms

Marks & Spencer’s bold new supply chain practices were kick-started with the hiring of Hong Kong based brothers, Neal and Mark Lindsey, as the joint sourcing directors in 2014. The pair had previously worked with high street retailer Next, and bring a wealth of experience in optimising fashion and retail supply chains.

While the benefits to simplifying supply chain processes appear clear in theory, in practice, implementing these measures will not be simple for the retailer.

Marks and Spencer’s supplier relationships and indeed its current business model date back decades. Until recently, the firm outsourced all elements of its garment production business, from design through to warehousing and delivery, to third party suppliers.

Previous supplier relationships were based around producing high quality products and lead times have generally been long. As the firm looks to emulate the ‘fast fashion’ model, these relationships must undergo drastic change.

Speaking on the challenges this may cause, M&S Bill Mills – a textile industry consultant who used to manage factories for M&S suppliers Courtaulds and Coats Viyella, said: “On the one level there are some cost savings, but on the other hand M&S will have to place resource in their buying offices, whether that be UK or local, to manage the factories. It is not a panacea.”

While there is a long way to go for M&S, both in reconfiguring its supply chain and in reclaiming some of its lost market share, the firm as already made some impressive steps in its supply chain optimisation program. By halving it’s number of fabric supplier, the team has already been able to negotiate improved terms to its remaining providers.

New initiative champions best practice to recruit and retain female professionals

More needs to be done to recruit and retain women and last Sunday’s International Women’s Day was just the start…

More needs to be done to train and retail female professionals

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has joined forces with Prospect, the trade union representing professionals in the UK, to announce a new joint working group to help companies recruit and retain more women engineers and scientists.

The group, which has grown out of a conference to coincide with International Women’s Day, will establish best practice guidance to share across industry on how best to recruit and retain women in science and engineering roles.

Read more: It’s time to tackle career stereotypes

Whats’s holding women back? 

In the engineering industry alone, only six per cent of engineers in the UK today are women. This is due to a number of factors from the careers advice girls are given in schools, to schools not instilling girls with the confidence to opt for science and maths at A level. But it is also due to some employers needing to make their approach to recruitment and retention more female friendly. This is unfortunately an issue all too common, that affects women from all walks of life, engineering or otherwise.

Supported by Meg Munn MP, Baroness Prosser, Naomi Climer, President of Sony Media Cloud Services and IET President-elect, and Denise McGuire, Vice President of Prospect, the group will also have industry representation from a range of major employers who attended the conference, including the Met Office, Atkins Global and BAE Systems.

Unconscious bias: How can organisations and individuals shift subconscious social attitudes, stereotypes and ingrained recruitment and promotion attitudes that exist and negatively impact a more diverse workforce?

Good practice for retention: How can we encourage organisations to recognise that creating a level playing field for women benefits everyone. Flexible working, fair pay and a more inclusive culture should be on all organisations’ agenda because they are proven to improve overall staff retention, and are good for business.

Commenting on the new working group, Naomi Climer, President-elect of the IET and a member of the working group said: “We have talked about the lack of women in engineering and science for many years now. More female-friendly retention and recruitment practices are an important part of the challenge. By bringing together a working group which for the first time has representatives from Government, trade unions, industry and professional bodies, we want to get to the crux of the issue and come up with some hard hitting and practical guidance that can help more companies address this significant problem.

“While International Women’s Day is about championing women’s achievements, it’s also about making sure that women are achieving their potential. And it’s also about making sure our world economies – which increasingly depend on engineering, manufacturing and technology – are not being hampered by the fact we are missing out on the talent and contributions of 50 per cent of the potential workforce.”

Denise McGuire, Vice President of Prospect, said: “Women are in STEM for careers, not just for International Women’s Day! We need to stamp out Unconscious Bias and make the world of work a fairer place for everyone.”

Read more: International Women’s Day

Fighting for the animal’s right in the food chain

The Sunday roast, the Christmas turkey dinner and the summer BBQ – most of us enjoy meat as part of our diet. But do we give enough consideration to animal welfare in the supply chain?

Fighting for the animal's rights in the food chain

For many people, meat plays a part in most meals during a week. Traditionally, the Sunday roast was a time for families to sit down and enjoy a long, relaxing meal and some quality time together.

However, over the past couple of years, there has been increasing focus on the welfare of the animals, from battery and caged hens, to stall-bred pigs and cows. Despite the best efforts from some high-profile organisations, there are concerns that there is much still to be done.

Meat Sales on the Rise

In the past year, sales of all meat in the UK have increased, following falls in 2013 in relation to the horsemeat scandal. It may come as a surprise to many, but sales of horsemeat have actually increased too, with more people enjoying the meat as a leaner alternative to beef.

Sales of Scottish meat have been given a boost by a new partnership with Swedish retailer ICA, while Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) – Meat Promotion Wales – aims to increase Welsh beef and lamb sales by more than one-third by 2020. Part of the HCC plan involves ensuring that farmers are balancing efficiency with sustainability and strong environmental credentials.

Welfare Concerns

But further afield, welfare concerns still abound. Australia has seen a boom in exports of live cattle for slaughter to Vietnam, with a 274 per cent increase in sales between 2013 and 2014. However, exports are predicted to slow dramatically in coming months due to a number of factors, one of which is the suspension of facilities due to animal welfare concerns and suspect supply chain practices.

It was also reported in the USA last week that both McDonalds and Costco are phasing out the use of human antibiotics in their chicken supply chains. The move comes after consumer pressure and concerns that the common use of these antibiotics could increase bacterial resistance to treatment, potentially creating ‘super-bugs’ in humans.

Although McDonalds has given suppliers two years to comply, many experts warn that it will take up to a decade to fully eradicate the practice.

Similar timescales can be expected on the eradication of caged-hen eggs in supermarkets. In Australia, Woolworths and Coles, both came under public scrutiny for stocking caged-hen eggs in the past year. Both have since removed own-brand caged eggs them from their shelves, but they won’t be fully removed from shelves until 2018.

Global Efforts

Full-scale, global change in animal welfare will take time. Organisations need to take responsibility for not only their own practices, but also the practices of their supply chains, down to second and third tier suppliers and beyond.

In late 2014, Nestle signed an agreement with World Animal Protection to improve the standards of animal welfare in its supply chain, while Subway, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer all have existing commitments to sustainability and animal welfare as part of long-term goals.

As consumers, we can also play our part by purchasing sustainably. If it becomes unprofitable for organisations to source in a way that is not sensitive to animal welfare, then it’s more likely that change will take place.

Find out more about UK animal welfare policy by clicking here.

Read on for the other procurement and supply chain stories making the headlines.

Fairtrade Foundation assesses female participation in international supply chains

  • As the world prepared to celebrate International Women’s Day Sunday (8 March), Equal Harvest, a new study published by the Fairtrade Foundation, states that enabling more women to join the organisations that grow produce such as bananas, cotton and tea, could benefit businesses and support global development, as well as bringing gains for women.
  • Although women make up almost half the agricultural workforce in developing countries, they account for just 22 per cent of the farmers registered as members of the 1,210 small producer organisations that are certified by Fairtrade. Legal, social and cultural norms often act as barriers to women’s participation, for example, membership of co-operatives can be dependent on owning land or crops, some agricultural work may be deemed inappropriate for women, and women may be expected to undertake most of the domestic work in the home, giving them less time to participate in producer groups.
  • Fairtrade says that increasing the participation of women farmers could boost productivity, improve development outcomes for communities and provide opportunities to launch new products such as the ‘Grown By Women‘ range marketed by Equal Exchange.
  • A female banana producer in the Dominican Republic said that enabling women to become members of producer organisations is important because “it gives women the right to vote, to participate in decision making, to receive benefits and to live with dignity.” A male cotton producer in India said that women should be supported to take up leadership positions because “women are more disciplined and organised and will run these institutions better, whereas men fight amongst themselves and let egos come in the way.” 

Read more on Supply Chain Digital

Retailers told to step up

  • The retail industry is not doing enough to “clean up its act” with suppliers, the UK’s supply chain body has warned alongside a new survey highlighting the damage that bullying tactics are having on the sector’s reputation.
  • Figures from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) out today revealed that 88 per cent of supply chain managers think supplier bullying is giving procurement a bad name. Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents cited“pay to stay” charges as the worst bullying tactic being used to squeeze suppliers, while 35 per cent gave late payments or long payment terms as the worst example of malpractice.
  • David Noble, CIPS group chief executive, said: “It’s time the industry sat up and took notice.”

Read more at City A.M.

Saudi Arabia world’s biggest, Turkey 9th defense importer

  • Saudi Arabia passed India to become the world’s biggest arms importer last year whileTurkey was the ninth country, as concerns about Iran’s ambitions have increased tensions in the Middle East.
  • India was the second-biggest arms importer in 2014, followed by China, the UAE, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia and Turkey. Saudi spending rose 54 per cent to $6.5 billion last year, while India imported $5.8 billion, according to data released Sunday by IHS, a leading analyst of the global arms trade. Imports will increase 52 per cent to $9.8 billion this year, accounting for $1 of every $7 spent globally, IHS estimated, based on planned deliveries.
  • “This is definitely unprecedented,” said Ben Moores, the report’s author. “You’re seeing political fractures across the region, and at the same time you’ve got oil, which allows countries to arm themselves, protect themselves and impose their will as to how they think the region should develop.”

Read more at Todays Zaman

Clogged transit costs billions, highlights supply chain weaknesses

  • Both government and private research agree: America’s freight system is under serious pressure, and supply chains are particularly vulnerable to the strain.
  • Over the next two decades, 45 per cent more freight will move over America’s already crowded roads, rails, seas and skies, according to the Department of Transportation, which recently released a white paper, Beyond Traffic 2045. The report highlights the need to ease congestion and warns that without a solution, companies are wasting significant funds on their procurement operations.
  • Nike, the DoT found, spends an extra $4 million every week and carries up to two extra weeks of inventory to cover anticipated shipping delays.
  • But these delays impact more than just the procurers of these goods stuck in gridlock… Research shows that technology and innovation will be paramount in smoothing out the congested supply chains across the U.S., and throughout the globe. But findings also show that players in the supply chain are using highly outdated technology, if any at all, to make the procurement process more efficient.

Read more at Pymnts.com

The next generation of location aware supply chain applications

  • It has long been possible to build a geofence and detect when an inbound carrier was 20 miles out from a warehouse.  But warehouse managers, and transportation planners are busy.  What good would those notifications do?  These managers and planners don’t have time to look at every carrier notification and examine whether that truck will hit their dock on schedule.
  • Supply chain planning applications have long been in-memory applications.  This is a fancy way of saying that these applications were based on technologies that allowed them to solve very big problems very quickly. But now there is a new generation of in-memory computing.  That means the problems we can solve quickly are getting bigger and bigger.
  • JDA is an example of one supply chain software firm looking to utilize the new generation of in-memory computing to build larger supply chain models spanning planning and execution. Today a company with advanced logistics capabilities would have a warehouse management system (WMS), a dock scheduling and yard management solution, and a transportation management system (TMS) in order to improve their logistics capabilities. Both WMS and TMS have good business cases associated with them.  But these applications are laser focused on their own domains.
  • JDA is beginning to build JDA Intelligent Fulfillment, a set of logistics planning and execution solutions that understand constraints that cross warehousing, the yard, and transportation.

Read more at Logistics Viewpoints