Category Archives: Procurement News

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.

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. 

The article is available in the documents section once you’ve logged in. 

Easter Procurement – How Do They Make Yours?

They have been a staple in the Easter diet for many children (and adults too!) for decades. But just how does Cadbury make the Creme Eggs we enjoy so much?


The humble Cadbury’s Creme Egg has been an Easter staple since its launch nearly half a century ago. Global sales of the eggs are over 500 million per year, with the UK alone accounting for approximately 200 million per year (that’s around 3 each per year in the UK), with the majority of these manufactured in Birmingham, UK.

The Creme Egg brand has a value in itself of £55 million, which certainly isn’t bad for a confectionery item that’s only available between January and Easter each year.

Like them or loathe them, Easter just wouldn’t be the same without the instantly recognisable purple, red and yellow packaging (or green, blue, red and yellow if you happen to live in the USA). It’s no small feat to produce the volume of eggs to satisfy global demand, at such a specific time of year to take full advantage of the condensed sales period.

Before we delve into the supply chain and production process, some facts about this famous egg…

All Gone a Bit Egg Shaped – Fun Facts!

In fact, all Cadbury-manufactured chocolate is banned in the USA, Creme Eggs amongst them. The Hershey Company has the rights to manufacture all Cadbury chocolate in the USA and the move was to limit competition with imported items.

This is down to the recipes being altered slightly to adjust to different tastes, as well as to account for some ingredients that are banned in certain countries.

More on this below, but let’s just say that it did not go well…

Not only are the Eggs themselves shrinking thanks to ‘shrinkflation’, but in 2015 the multipacks dropped from six to five eggs. But that probably helps with the next fact…

  • They are really unhealthy (but you knew that and it doesn’t really matter anyway).

Each egg contains around the same volume of sugar as two bowls of really sugary cereal. And at around 6 teaspoons of sugar, it’s what the American Heart Association considers to be a full day’s worth of sugar.

Raw Materials

The Creme Egg that we buy and eat today has been in production since its introduction in 1963. It’s recipe has been the same since this time, using the same key ingredients. There was a brief period in 2015 when Mondelez, who currently own Cadbury, and Kraft, their parent company, changed the recipe. This involved changing the use of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate for the egg’s shell to a cheaper, cocoa-based shell.

And much like the ill-fated New Coke recipe, the outcry was much the same. After much protest the recipe was changed back, but not before the organisation had seen a loss in sales estimated at £6 million in 2015. FYI, for those of you outside the UK, don’t get a Brit started on what their feelings are on Cadbury’s chocolate in general since the firm was taken over by Schweppes and then Mondelez!

The key ingredients we’re looking at here are, of course, cocoa and, in Cadbury’s own words, “a glass and a half of milk in each bar”. The majority of the milk in the UK, over 50%, is supplied by dairy farm co-operative, Selkley Vale farmers, from Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

The cocoa is a bit more complicated and, in the past, a lot more controversial. As with most chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury sources its chocolate from countries with high volumes of cocoa production – Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil. Previously fully affiliated with Fairtrade, Cadbury drew criticism  of practices and its supply chain when it dropped this in 2016 in favour of a new scheme, Cocoa Life.

The scheme, which is, as of 2019 working in close partnership with Fairtrade, aims to use over $400 million to aid 200,000 cocoa farmers worldwide. Not only will this mean that more Cadbury chocolate is made from sustainably sourced cocoa, but farmers will still have benefits in line with Fairtrade goals, such as improved income, competitive pricing and tailored investment suited to their needs.

Cadbury has been able to leverage its supply chain well in recent years to provide a solid and stable foundation for its production in the UK, Canada and the USA. How do they go from that to the magic end product?

The Production

Ever wondered how Cadbury manages to get the very unhealthy, yet absolutely delicious, fondant filling into Creme Eggs? Had discussions over whether it’s an injection mould for the outer shells and then the fillings? Then wonder no more!

It’s actually quite simple really. The two halves of the shell are made separately and then filled with the fondant to create that ‘fresh egg’ look inside. The halves are then shut in a book mould to create the final product, that is then wrapped for sale. If you want to see everything in action, there’s a great video on YouTube (and below…) from Bloomberg on the full UK production process.

Probably the most bizzare thing in the whole production process, apart from the fact that there’s someone working for Cadbury whose job title is ‘Easter Shift Manager’, is that all of this happens in winter. Supply chains are year-round anyway, but production processes need to be done in such a way that the hundreds of millions of eggs are ready for shipping for the 1st of January.

There you have it – a brief history of, and the not-so-secrets behind manufacturing one of the pillars of Easter. Now, I don’t know about you, but we’re off to the shops for a few Creme Eggs before they disappear for another year…!

Leading Under Fire Is Leading With Heart

Leading with empathy in the face of adversity


When the Prime Minister of New Zealand declares the tooth fairy and Easter bunny as an essential service, it brings warmth to the otherwise repeated drudgery of Government press conferences. It brings a smile to those facing the grind of lockdown and isolation – even if only for a moment.

“You’ll be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers, but as you can imagine at this time, of course, they are going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well with their own bunnies.” Jacinda Ardern 6.04.2020

You can watch a short clip from the press conference here

Credit: Radio New Zealand

The way was paved long ago

Leading with warmth and heart is not a style of leadership that is learned and it does not appear overnight, you cannot pretend or try to switch it on. What was called an “Ardern effect” during her election campaign is now proven to be a signature style.  

What she was once criticised for now defines her. Ardern has an undeniable charismatic ability to relate to people. This is what cements her as a leader, when things get tough and when really crappy things happen to us, she is there to be our strength when we can’t hold ourselves.

Her response to the mosque attacks showed the world who New Zealand is. I was at a mosque in Wellington when she arrived unannounced to express her condolences. While the spontaneous songs that erupted through the crowd were captured by the media, what was not captured is what I saw. I saw her slowly approach the building taking time to look at all of the chalk drawings on the footpath that local children had made. She then took the time to embrace a Muslim woman who audibly gasped in shock that she was there right in front of her and so close – this is the same woman who stood at the gate handing out tissues to us well-wishers and providing us support while we tried to process the incomprehensible act.

While the Imans’ and Muslim leaders were being strong for us, Ardern became their strength. The strength she provided was through human connection and a hug. Warmth and heart. The cameras weren’t there and that’s what really counts. Her values are inherent to her as a person, she does not switch them on and off.

COVID-19 Ardern style

When the COVID-19 viral filled cloud looked to be approaching our shores and spreading, Arden was met with a barrage of criticism from the opposing side. Their volleys were able to land while she held off pushing us further up the alert levels, knowing that level 3 and 4 would begin to impact the economy.

As soon as NZ showed a potential case of community transmission she acted. “Go hard and go early” was her slogan and it seemed to work. We closed the border and went into lockdown.

Next, the nay-sayers said we didn’t have enough test kits and that we weren’t doing enough testing. This was only a lag due to supply issues. As of yesterday, NZ has the highest testing rates per capita in the world.

Leading with empathy in the face of adversity is perhaps the toughest gig of all. But it didn’t take long for the measures to start to make an impact and NZ was soon revered worldwide as a leader in this situation.

We aren’t just flattening the curve, we’re smashing it.

How does she do it?

She stays cool, calm and collected but she never switches off her heart. She acts when required but won’t be bullied or pressured into pulling the trigger too soon. She has a few trusted advisers and what must be an epic home base to support her.

We can all take lessons from her style and not step into a persona at work. Be yourself 100% of the time and lead with compassion. Ardern provides the perfect template of an authentic leader in action.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

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.

Can China Continue To Be Trusted As The World’s Factory?

After the coronavirus, can we still trust China to be the world’s leading manufacturer? Find out here.


With the coronavirus pandemic now spreading its deadly tentacles into most countries of the world, the temporary blip we all experienced when China (albeit briefly) went offline and disrupted 94% of the world’s supply chains seems a thing of the past. But is it? Many experts were asking then – just like they are now – whether the coronavirus could be the end of China as a world manufacturing hub. And the answer seems to be divided into two camps. 

Firstly, there are those that believe China’s dominance is so well-established that no other country could ever compete, or not anytime soon. They believe that although geopolitical issues and rising costs in China are a concern to some, that China is simply too good at what they do. They believe that it would be nice to have our eggs in more baskets, there is simply no other feasible basket. 

Then, there are those that believe the opposite, and specifically, those that believe it is now Mexico’s time to shine. Given its close proximity to the US and cheaper labour costs, these experts believe that Mexico is uniquely positioned to become a manufacturing hub, and more and more businesses will soon realise this. 

The Mexico vs. China question is exactly the type of debate we love having at Procurious, so we invited a number of the world’s foremost experts on the topic to have it in our latest webinar, ‘Alternate Sources of Supply: Is it Mexico’s Turn?.’ This article will explain why some experts believe China will definitely continue to be the world’s factory … and why you shouldn’t consider moving your supply elsewhere. 

History 

2020 marks the 40th year of mass manufacturing in China and in that time, China has become so proficient at what they do, that nearly 30% of the world’s goods are manufactured there. Beyond that, there isn’t much that China can’t produce, and they’ve certainly become experts in a number of niches, from electronics to textiles and steel. 

It’s for this reason that Kobus Van Der Wath, CEO of Axis Group, a global supply chain advisory group, believes that other countries simply cannot compete with China: 

‘Manufacturing in China began in the early 1980s so that has meant that the whole world has been dancing with China for three to four decades.’ 

‘It’s hard – or honestly, close to impossible – to compete when you’ve got a country that has had such a long lead time.’

Wages and conditions 

Beyond China’s long history as a global manufacturer, many experts also point to wages and working conditions as a reason that China has retained its stronghold on production. And at the time of writing, both of these reasons seem just as relevant as ever.

China is the most populous country on earth, with just over 1.28 billion people. This means that from a supply and demand perspective, China has a competitive advantage insomuch as there is a near-neverending stream of low-wage workers available for factory work. China’s history has also contributed to this – until the late 20th century, there were a lot of rural poor in China, and millions have now migrated to cities to work in China’s factory cities.

Although some people point out that wages in China have increased – and they have – they are still very cheap. As of January this year, the minimum hourly wage in China is…

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 over an 8-week content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

The article is available in the documents section once you’ve logged in. 


Deciphering The Sales Speak – 5 Common Phrases Used In The Sales Process… And What They Really Mean

The top 5 software sales claims may seem familiar – but what do they really mean, and what questions should you fire back?


As procurement pros, we like to think of ourselves as experts who can cut through the fluff of the sales pitch and get down to what we think really matters.  

But let’s face it . . . some salespeople are so darn good that even the sharpest of us can’t quite sort the wheat from the chaff. And with procurement software sales teams often being some of the best in the business, well, we have our work cut out to decipher their code for ourselves.

I have had more than a few years of experience trying to work through this myself and though practice may not always make perfect it definitely gets us closer to where we need to be.  So, from my years of experience in being involved in more than 500 software evaluations, and being the one who has to make it all come together as the implementer, I want to help you navigate through the language and the catchphrases that we often hear from software sales teams.

Here are my top 5:

1. ‘The integration is easy’

One of the most common things we hear from sales teams that are trying to speed their way to a sale is that “Integrations are easy.”  Getting the system to do what it’s supposed to while talking to other systems is pretty straightforward. We all want to believe it, but as you find out when you are involved in an implementation, there is real work that must be done that is not easy, and someone has to do it.

I always laugh when I hear this stated in front of my clients IT teams.  You see, IT knows the work that is involved in a project like this and are certain that the word “easy” does not belong in the same sentence. They also know that anyone that does call it “easy,” is most likely someone who has never attempted to do this type of work.   

When you hear this it’s a good idea to have your questions ready, including:

  • What business objects are typically in scope in a project like this?
  • If you have multiple ERP’s, will each of them need to be interfaced with?  Who will be responsible for transforming each file?
  • Who will be doing the field level mapping?
  • Is there a middleware or any prebuilt connectors that can be leveraged?
  • Where has this middleware or connector been used before?
  • Do they have similar volumes/scale/complexity?
  • What  system dependencies are there?
  • What systems have you integrated with – even what version of systems? 

No question is too basic here – in my experience keeping it direct and to the point works best. 

2. ‘Your suppliers are already connected to our network’

A word can mean different things to different people and the secret to understanding the sales-speak here is to work out what ‘connected’ really means. It can mean your suppliers have participated in a sourcing event or once received a PO from another customer.

It can also mean that they have log-in information and have received all of the really great welcome emails that new suppliers are bombarded with that they have no idea what to do with. Or it can mean they are actually transacting through the system and are receiving POs and payments from other customers in the manner in which you intend they start doing for you.. In that case, they’ll know exactly how to work out what they need to do to make your life and theirs easy as you get your new system implemented.

Ask lots of questions here, especially when it comes to your big suppliers, the ones that would spell chaos for you if things didn’t go to plan . . . it’s not a bad idea to ask them where they’re at in the process of being enabled with other customers and identify any potential issues you may have before you get too far.  

3. ‘Training and change management aren’t needed for your end users and suppliers’

We all love digital technology – and sites such as Amazon and Google are designed to make it pretty easy for us to use them without the need to be trained. But we can probably all agree that many systems built for the enterprise seem to struggle to bridge the gap on major process and use case changes that take someone out of their comfort zone.  Even if it appears easier. Especially when their job does not involve them being in the platform all day, every day. 

Here’s where it is important to put yourself in the role of the user and see the system through their eyes. It’s even better to get them involved early and ask them how much change they anticipate for their department/region/etc and what type of support they will need to be successful.  

Don’t let the salesperson, or an enthusiastic user, convince you that you don’t need any change management resource. You can work out how much is needed – and, if your salesperson is right, it might not be that much. But it’s always a smart move to let your stakeholders and suppliers know what is happening, why and how it is going to impact them.  If you get any resistance, you will be thankful you have change experts at the ready to address it.

4. ‘You don’t have to have clean data prior to starting implementation’

You don’t have to follow a recipe when cooking something for the first time. But it will help – unless you like surprises and don’t need them to be good ones. Your sales team will say this because, honestly, who wants to spend time on boring stuff like data cleansing . . . especially when we all know it can take 4 to 12 months to clean up if you’re lucky? And they’re smart enough to know that too much time and effort upfront without real results can kill the deal. While we all want to get on with the really cool analytics, there’s a reason you need to do your groundwork.

If and when you hear this one, go ahead and ask the question we all know: What about the saying ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’? You never know: your sales team may be able to share some new things they have tried where data cleansing hasn’t been needed. And they might have some examples of where this has worked before – and that’s definitely worth finding out about. If not, put a plan in place now for how your data will get cleansed and adjust what modules you purchase, sequence of rollouts and your implementation plan accordingly.  

5. ‘Don’t worry about transforming your processes as the technology has best practices already built in’

‘Leverage’, ‘optimise’, ‘game-changer’ . . . It’s only a matter of time before your salesperson drops the gold standard of corporate buzzwords in – ‘best practice’. While the phrase can be meaningful, most of the time it’s a sales pitch to get us over the line. We can implement a new system and get to best practice at the same time? Sign me up! But best practice means different things across organisations, industries and sectors.

When you hear this, two things need to happen. Firstly, take a look at your implementation plan and make sure it includes a review of all of your direct and related processes. And secondly, take a look at the ‘best practices’ that are included. They may be right for you, and now is is a great time to update and improve dated processes. If not, you’ll have done your review and know that what you have ended up with is the best thing for your business.

So when you hear these or similar claims as part of a sales pitch for software, remember what they typically really mean. Be prepared with questions for the sales team to ensure that the tech solution you sign up for really is a good fit for your organisation.

Did you know that Matt has just teamed up with Procurious to launch ‘Major Tech Fails’ – a series looking at everything from implementations to getting buy-in. Register here

4 Reasons To Be Excited About The Future Of Supply Chain Technology

What’s next in supply chain systems? There’s plenty to be excited about


First-generation supply chains were good at automating and optimizing processes. But they were restricted to functional silos – and that’s not enough for what we need in supply chains today.

Advances in supply chain technology are needed if procurement teams are to manage supply chains that are dynamic, responsive and interconnected with ecosystems and external processes. The new tech needs the capacity to manage much, much more data (by several orders of magnitude). This in turn will make it possible for an individual procurement manager to make sense of entire supply chain ecosystems in real-time.

These demands are driving progress – which is why I am excited about the future of supply chain technology.

1. We’re actually getting fairly good at applying AI repeatably in supply chains.

In order to continue to maintain the labor ratios and level of service to which we’ve become accustomed, we need AI within supply chains – this is non-negotiable.

The IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite gives end-to-end visibility, real-time insights and recommended actions to turn disruptions into opportunities for customer engagement, growth and profit. 

It’s an open, integrated platform that easily connects to a company’s supplier ecosystem. And that connection and openness provides the data necessary to build self-correction into supply chains.

2. With blockchain, we finally have a chance to change the way we manage multiparty sharing of supply chain data.

It’s clear that use of AI in supply chains will be essential. But it is important to start from the understanding that organizations are at different stages of maturity in this area. Nevertheless, companies can make dramatic improvements simply by deploying existing tech to digitize and implement an organizational commitment to information hygiene and managing data effectively. Being able to digitize, catalogue and normalize supply chain data means having real-time information in the right place to make decisions quickly.

One survival from the old-tech world of supply chains is the use of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems built to manage the data for each individual company. Each company’s ERP was its view of the world. The procurement team spent their lives comparing notes with other ERPs to reconcile differences. Everything from invoices to purchase orders had to be reconciled and supply chain processes were put in place to facilitate this.

For the old-world supply chain really to change, we need to recognise that we can’t each have our own copy of what we believe to be true. We need to have an accepted, shared view of the truth. This idea of multiparty shared data is a promising one. And technology such as distributed databases, shared ledgers and blockchain helps build these common views of the world.  


3. We are seeing the emergence and coordination of specialty ecosystems and networks that can be integrated in a ‘network of networks’.

Before hyper-interconnectivity and the opportunity to create ecosystems or a network of networks, we operated in a limited way – for example, connecting one value-added network (VAN) to another VAN in a logistics network with practical applications like document exchange for advance shipping notices and the like.

We’re now seeing that an interconnected ‘network of networks’ really adds value. People are using technology and data to work together to solve domain-specific issues like fresh food provenance with Food Trust and ocean-shipping visibility with TradeLens.

These specialized ecosystems can be seamlessly integrated into existing business networks to provide a wealth of information about previously opaque areas of the supply chain – where things went dark at critical moments.  

4. It’s possible to have personalized ‘control towers’ that can track the essential elements of global ecosystems but are tuned to what we each want to measure and act on.

Finally, we’re able to see the world the way we want to – from each of our perspectives – bringing together actionable recommendations from real-time intelligence to act on supply chain implications. 

From a simple example of inventory management that can have downstream supply implications for a logistics analyst, to the same information tracking financial implications and payment terms for a financial analyst, the varying views, insights and interrelated metrics stemming from core supply chain activity helps everyone across the organisation.  

Also knowing that no two supply chains are the same means the ability to quickly configure and personalize ‘control towers’ is twice as useful as simply having the static data.

So just when the need for a strong supply chain has never been greater, technology is increasingly proving itself up to the challenge of meeting this need. And what’s more, small changes can have big impacts.


Hear Vijay present in our recent webinar – 4 Supply Chain Capabilities You Need For The Decade That’s Going To Change The World here.

 

How To Lead Your Team In A Crisis: Covid-19 Procurement News

How should you lead your procurement team during a crisis? Here’s what you need to do

“The ultimate measure of a leader is not where they stand in moments of comfort, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly onto something when he said that leaders are tested not in not the good times, but in the challenging times – and everyone can agree, we’re certainly experiencing the latter right now. All of us – literally every single one of us across every continent of the world – are experiencing our own unique stresses and pressures, and our leadership ability may not be our focus. But likewise, now is also the time when our teams need us most. 

So how do we lead amidst so much uncertainty? We talked to Justine Figo, People and Culture author, and Naomi Lloyd, Director Procurement and External Manufacturing Partnerships Asia Pacific at Campbell Arnotts, to get an insight into how to lead your procurement team during a crisis. 

Managing expectations

With the coronavirus situation changing weekly, if not daily, helping your team understand what’s expected of them, as well as manage the expectations of executive leadership, can be a challenge. But according to Justine and Naomi, what your team really needs from you at this time is a realistic challenge, and more clarity. 

Justine believes that leaders need to have the courage to challenge their team to be productive – but at the same time, understand that there might be significant barriers at the moment: 

‘Right now, it’s about taking stock of what is going on for everyone at the moment, and saying: “What is the best possible challenging standard I can set for myself and for my team?” 

‘Of course, you need to understand that people will be disrupted, but still have the courage to give them purpose, with compassion.’ 

Naomi believes while realistic challenges are important, what’s more important is that you realign your priorities with your team – and communicate your expectations clearly, with much more granular direction: 

Want to hear more of Naomi and Justine’s great advice? 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 over an 8-week 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 COVID Could Kill Excessive Pay?

Mind the Gap? We most certainly do but will it finally start to narrow?


Funny memes, inspiring posts and far too much fake news – we are being inundated with information to entertain, amuse, inform and frighten us while we are in lockdown or self isolation. However, one post that really caught my eye was about the value of people’s work – it reflects a sea-change in attitudes towards excessive executive pay. 


To give them their due credit, a significant number of sports stars are taking pay cuts, several celebrities have announced vast donations to Covid-19 relief efforts and even Lady Gaga is giving a percentage of profits from her beauty brand to support food banks. 

Mass altruism is a global phenomenon. 

But what about businesses? Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), it seems, is just a way to brand businesses as caring. So far, they are doing little sharing. 

With footballers deferring 50% of their pay and tennis ace Roger Federer donating 1 million Swiss francs to vulnerable families, why aren’t we seeing CEO after CEO lining up to do something similar? 

While “ordinary” employees are being laid off or furloughed, most of the C-suite seem to be keeping quiet on pay. 

WE WILL REMEMBER THOSE WHO GET THIS RIGHT – AND THOSE WHO DON’T 

There are few exceptions… and they will not be forgotten. Those executives who are sharing the pain are doing a fantastic PR job for themselves and their businesses. 

Take the CEO of hotel group Marriott Worldwide, Arne Sorenson, who will not be taking any salary for the balance of 2020 and whose executive team will take a 50% cut in pay. While Ford’s top 300 executives will defer 20% to 50% of their salary. 

However, considering the vast pay packets these top execs earn, a cut (or a lesser sacrifice of a pay deferral), seems pathetic compared to the generosity of sports personalities and stars of stage and screen.  

Yet as more and more leadership teams follow suit, other boards will be under pressure to make similar sacrifices on salaries – or they could fall foul of public opinion. 

When News Corp Australia announced that the executive team would take a “significant” pay cut in response to Covid-19 – showing that those at the top of the pay scale are sharing the pain of those at the bottom – it also added that executive perks such as entertainment and travel events were also being halted. It doesn’t look good to be seen to be enjoying the perks of a private jet at a time like this. 

It shows just how mindful organisations are of public opinion. 

There will come a point when bosses who haven’t budged on pay and bonuses will start to stick out…and it will be noticed. 

THE BALANCE OF OPINION IS SHIFTING – AND IT’S GREAT NEWS FOR SOME ORDINARY WORKERS 

At the other end of the scale, there is beginning to be more appreciation of those in essential but poorly paid roles. Take Food City supermarkets in Chattanooga, Tennessee making headlines for giving its 16,000 employees a total US$3 million bonus reflecting their hard work ensuring people can still buy food at this difficult time. 

In Singapore, frontline healthcare workers – who are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 – will be given a special bonus of up to one month’s pay.  

Across the world, there are similar stories of those at the bottom of the pay scale finally receiving some appreciation (in the form of hard cash).  

MIND THE GAP? WE MOST CERTAINLY DO BUT WILL IT FINALLY START TO NARROW? 

With trillions of dollars wiped off the value of the global economy – and the G20 pledging to inject $5 trillion to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic – any exec whose remuneration package is based partly on performance is in for a big financial hit. 

This could finally do something to narrow the phenomenal gap between pay at the top and bottom of organisations.  

CEOs in the USA earn 265 times more than the average worker according to Statista, while in S&P 500 Index firms this increases to is staggering 361 more for the top boss than the average rank-and-file worker. 

Yet back in the 1950s the typical CEO made only 20 times the salary of the average employee.  

SHAREHOLDERS MIGHT WIN THE DAY – AFTER SUFFERING SUCH HIGH LOSSES 

Shareholders have suffered some catastrophic losses. So they are likely to put significant pressure on executive remuneration committees to bring salaries back in line. 

Or, as global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson puts it: “there are reasonable expectations to see directional alignment in the change of realized executive pay relative to shareholder value”. 

BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY – IT’S PUBLIC OPINION THAT REALLY MATTERS 

In the UK new regulations requiring certain UK companies to disclose their executive pay ratios are also designed to shine a light on inequality. And it’s quite timely that the first reporting is this year. So, the requirement could not have come at a worse time for overpaid executives. 

With the UK’s Corporate Governance Code asking boards to create a culture which aligns company strategy with purpose and values – and explicitly requiring remuneration committees or RemCos to explain how pay policies for executives are appropriate in their annual reports – 2020 was supposed to be the year when the value of CEOs was brought into question. 

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK for every CEO appointed, another 100 candidates could just as ably fill the position. 

In a world where you cannot find 100 nurses or doctors or first responders to fill every vacancy, it is going to be hard for these RemCos to justify pay excess. And it is not just an issue in the UK. As with the coronavirus, this is a global issue and very much one that will dominate the corporate world in 2020. 

Want to join in on the coronavirus discussions? We have procurement and supply chain professionals from all around the world crowdsourcing confidence in our Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group.