Tag Archives: procurement challenges

Turning Point in SE Asia Supply Chain Challenges

A turning point has been reached in the challenges facing the South East Asia supply chain, say global consultancy Crimson & Co.

South East Asia Supply Chain

In the light of economic growth, rising affluence and booming consumer demand, many international businesses are seeking to capitalise on the growth in South East Asia’s developing markets.

The challenges in the South East Asia supply chain have reached a turning point. This is down to the scarcity of supply chain professionals, increased consumer diversity, and fragmented supply chains.

The many layers of suppliers, localised delivery and route to consumer practices, and lack of transparency and consistency in information flows, make it incredibly difficult for businesses to achieve the next wave of global growth.

SE Asia Supply Chain – Huge Promise

There is huge promise but transforming supply chains to reach market potential, handle diversified products, and provide outstanding quality and service to customers is a mammoth task. The businesses best able to overcome these challenges can transform their South East Asian supply chains to become a source of competitive advantage, and drive global growth.

With rising labour costs and the move away from an export-based economy, changes in China are creating opportunities for South East Asia in global manufacturing. This also positions global businesses to capitalise on growing demand in these markets.

For most companies the potential is clear. The challenge is how to address it.

The Time is Now

Richard Smith, Director of Crimson & Co Singapore, argues that the time to transform supply chains is now:

“South East Asia is an incredibly attractive region with rapidly growing markets and low cost operations. The challenge is how to address fractured supply chains and the shortage of supply chain skills.

“As companies move their factories from China to South East Asia, they should grasp the opportunity to carry out a full supply chain review to identify how they should configure their supply chains to better deliver on their current and future business strategies. Due to the significant costs involved in the transformation, businesses need to assess the real benefits and ensure it will deliver against objectives.

“Companies can accelerate their supply chain transformation by bringing best practice from elsewhere in their organisation, other industries and innovative local supply chain practices. Through understanding their businesses’ maturity and readiness to change they can identify where sustainable improvements can be made and how to leverage disruptive technologies to drive business performance.”

Challenges Remain

However Smith warns that a number of challenges remain across the South East Asian supply chain, such as high staff turnover, with employees quick to leave for higher salaries, as well as a lack of experienced professionals with supply chain knowledge across manufacturing, distribution, planning and supply chain management.

In order to ensure successful transformation, Smith also warns that knowledge and awareness of local culture and business landscapes is critical, with a long term focus on developing local supply chain knowledge and people capabilities. This can be done by establishing a physical presence in the region, and developing region-specific leadership and training programmes.

Smith concludes: “Opportunity abounds in the South East Asia region with unrivalled chances for market growth, logistics, sourcing and manufacturing. The time to reinvent networks and processes is now – transforming the South East Asia supply chain into a source of competitive advantage.”

Crimson & Co is a global supply chain consultancy, with a scope spanning supply chain strategy, planning, procurement, manufacturing, logistics and customer channels.

Are Traditional Views Limiting Procurement Innovation?

Is a lack of competitiveness and a risk averse nature holding back the progress of procurement innovation? New research seems to suggest so.

Procurement Innovation

New research shows that procurement is innovating and wants to do so even more in the future. However, the function’s risk averse nature, non-competitive attitude, and the prioritisation of collaboration over leadership, may be holding back its progress.

While many procurement professionals and leaders are embracing procurement innovation, many appear to be innovating within a safe environment, sticking with the things they know about, such as the supply chain.

Procurement says its ability to innovate is stifled by what others think it’s there to do, but isn’t it time that procurement stopped worrying what others perceive it as and started focusing on realising its full potential?

Limiting Procurement Innovation

Wax Digital’s new Procurement Innovation Pathway research, which surveyed 100 of the UK’s senior procurement professionals, shows that 69 per cent considered themselves pivotal to business innovation today, with 80 per cent expecting to be so in the future.

On average, 76 per cent said that they are involved in a range of business innovations, but only 27 per cent are leading them. However, 86 per cent said they want to be a part of all ongoing product innovations and service developments in the future – not only those within the procurement function.

But procurement’s view of what makes a business innovative appears to be impacted by some of its traditional risk averse thinking. Having a clear business vision (42 per cent), reacting quickly to the market and customers (33 per cent) and reviewing and improving business processes (32 per cent) were procurement’s top cited factors associated with business innovation.

Other characteristics traditionally more innovation related, however, are at the bottom of their list. Only 20 per cent cited a willingness to take risks, and 19 per cent a high investment in R&D, for example.

Procurement Innovation Barriers

Procurement identifies a number of factors stopping it innovating, most frequently other departmental views (40 per cent), lack of required skills (33 per cent) and time consuming processes (31 per cent).

And while these factors clearly play a part, there seem to be attitudinal setbacks with procurement’s own mind-set. Only 10 per cent, for example, are focused on challenging business objectives; just 14 per cent prioritise competitiveness and 18 per cent leadership as skills within their team – which they also say are declining traits.

Commenting on the research’s finding, Daniel Ball, director at Wax Digital said: “It’s fair to say that the average procurement function today is a vastly different place to what it once was. Procurement is innovating – of that there’s no doubt. But are they heading in the right direction or truly prepared to break the mould? Clear indicators of some discomfort with taking risks and really leading and driving innovation suggest it’s not yet realising its full potential in this area.

“To become real innovators, procurement professionals must overcome these issues while fostering the right business relationships, nurturing the correct new skills and seeking to break ground in their approach to technology.”

The Innovation 2016 research was conducted by Morar Consulting in March 2016, involving 100 interviews to canvass the opinions of UK senior procurement professionals working in small to large UK enterprises.

You can find out more about the research, and download the report, by visiting the Wax Digital website.

12 Ethical Questions to Ask in Supplier Pre-Approval

In procurement, ethical practice is the key to a positive organisational image. Knowing the right ethical questions to ask can make a real difference.

Ethical Questions

Increasingly the corporate world is focusing on social issues in supply chains such as slavery, forced labour and human trafficking, typically referred to as “modern slavery”. Procurement professionals have an important role to play, by sourcing in a manner that enables and rewards suppliers for good ethical practices.

Local governments and consumers are increasingly aware of such issues and are supporting, if not demanding, that businesses act to implement ethical standards in their procurement processes. Organisations will suffer reputational damage if they are found to be sourcing from suppliers using exploitative labour.

Companies may also face legal sanctions if suppliers are found to be involved in corruption or bribery. Organisations naturally want to avoid negative impact.

The issue of modern slavery has highlighted issues in countries where:

  • Workers have fewer or no protections.
  • There are high levels of poverty.
  • There is widespread use of migrant workers.
  • Because of the industry and use of raw materials, there are high risks.
  • The supply chain is labour intensive, because the end product is cheap. 

Codes of Conduct

Many companies have a Code of Conduct. This is a great way to start out, but can seem ‘non-actionable’ when on its own. So instead, a company can also introduce initiatives such as:

  • Collecting and providing all parties with the information they need to plan more effectively (for instance by sharing audit reports).
  • Creating processes which ensure efficient communications and formalised, streamlined buying and production processes.
  • Empowering procurement professionals to reward good practice and leadership amongst suppliers.
  • Encouraging buyers and suppliers to collaborate with organisations who have expertise in addressing systematic problems within the supply chain.
  • Enable the supplier to collaborate with others who are purchasing from the same supplier.

Your Role as a Procurement Professional

Typically, a procurement organisation will establish some firm processes to ensure the ethical practices. In addition, you can, as a procurement professional, also make yourself aware of some of the most essential ethical questions that you can ask during a sourcing activity, within the supplier pre-approval part of the process.

I would recommend that you, as part of your pre-approval process, get inspired to use some of the following ethical questions and observations in your process:

You want the supplier to have good labour standards, a positive impact in the community, and actively work to improve standards.

You should be looking for:

  • Staff turnover at production sites
  • Good human resource management systems
  • Good labour standards audit results
  • Sharing of good practice with other suppliers
  • Willingness to discuss issues such as pressures on working hours and pay
  • Retrospective comparison of planned vs. actual timings and volume outputs, measured against overtime worked at site

You want the supplier to demonstrate improved working conditions at all times.

You should be looking for:

  • Sites with initiatives such as active trade union representation
  • An existing recognition agreement and collective bargaining agreement
  • Number of workers with long term agreements
  • Analysis of working hours

You want the supplier to demonstrate stable relationships with own suppliers and subcontractors.

You should be looking for:

  • Average length of relationship with individual production sites
  • The dialogue they have with their suppliers/subcontractors on labour conditions

What is the Biggest Challenge Facing Procurement?

From talent management, to ethics and transparency, there are some major challenges facing procurement in the current environment. But which is the biggest challenge?

Biggest Challenge

When considering the potential issues and risks that procurement professionals need to be aware of in their day to day work, it’s difficult to single out one in particular requiring greater focus than the rest.

In fact, if you were to ask the question of what is the biggest challenge currently facing procurement, the chances are high that you would get a considerable number of topics listed. However, that is exactly what Deltabid did with a survey of over 500 procurement professionals. More on this shortly.

Blind Spots

During the Big Ideas Summit 2016, Procurious asked its delegates to tell us what they considered to be procurement’s blind spots, and major areas of risk, in the coming years. Our panel of experts highlighted these areas:

  • Too great a focus on savings
  • Dealing with the wider business
  • Talent attraction and management
  • A lack of ambition in procurement
  • Working with legal teams

A contributor to the Procurement Leaders blog commented that, “CPOs face one of the most complex roles in an organisation”, and highlighted skills required for the future including a focus on strategic relationships, management of global supply chain risk and use of big data.

At the 9th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, The Faculty will be discussing the need for procurement to leverage supplier-enabled innovation, and a focus for procurement on SRM in order to make this a reality.

And when you consider the prevalence of stories and news reports on sustainability and supply chain transparency, it seems we are reaching a point where not only can we not reach a consensus on what the biggest challenge is, but also facing a lack of understanding about how we tackle these challenges.

Making Progress?

The other issue to consider is whether or not the procurement profession is making progress dealing with its biggest challenges. A quick search reveals a number of articles from the past couple of years asking a similar question of procurement leaders, including this one from Spend Matters.

In it, the top 5 challenges for CPOs are highlighted, including mitigating spend creep, the visibility of realised savings, compliance, technology, and procurement skills and capabilities to deliver on strategies. Starting to sound familiar?

What procurement must do is set out to tackle these challenges, and actually make some progress on them, instead of moving on to the next thing. And also to realise that these challenges don’t go away – it’s going to be a continuous process.

Biggest Challenge

This circles back to being able to identify the biggest challenge facing the profession, and perhaps assessing an order for them to be in, and a plan of attack for meeting them head on. This is where Deltabid’s research can help.

A survey of over 500 procurement professionals found that the biggest challenge was supplier-related issues, including finding and qualifying suppliers and maintaining consistent supply, with strategy selection, and cost reduction making up the top three. You can see the full results in the infographic below:

Procurement Biggest Challenge

While the results may not be surprising, they go some way to helping generate a consensus on the biggest challenge facing procurement. It’s now down to the profession as a collective entity to work out the best way to tackle these challenges.

One of the best ways of doing this is by collaborating openly, sharing knowledge, information, and lessons learned, and flexing our collective muscle in order to change the profession for the better.

If you have any comments, ideas, thoughts, or anything else you would like to share, please let us know in the comments below. If you have also had successes in dealing with any of these challenges, then we would love to tell your story!