Tag Archives: procurement process

How To Solve The Extended Payment Term Problem

Extended payment terms can be a huge burden for buyers and suppliers. Not to mention the negative press. But there is a solution at hand.

extended payment

In response to the financial recession of 2008, many supply chain and procurement departments began pushing their suppliers for extended payment terms as a means to improve cash flow and limit the need to acquire credit, which was in short supply.

While the recession has long since past, the practice is still very much in use today. In fact, major companies such as AB InBev, Kellogg, Diageo, and Mars commonly establish payment terms that extend anywhere from 90 to 120 days. Additionally, a 2016 study revealed that buying teams are planning to extend their payment terms even further.

This push for extended payment terms makes sense for buyers. Extra cash in the coffers can be used to fund R&D, buy back stock, and invest in strategic initiatives. It also never hurts to have more free cash as working capital.

However, while buyers benefit greatly from extended payment arrangements, they can pose a tremendous burden to suppliers – especially small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

How Extended Payment Terms Hurt Suppliers (And Buyers)

Extended payment terms can be detrimental to suppliers for a variety of reasons, including:

1. Curbed Productivity

Many SMB suppliers have limited resources in terms of manpower and production capability. As a result, they can only take on so many projects and contracts at a time before reaching capacity.

When funds are tied up waiting for cash to come in, these companies are precluded from investing in new equipment, replenishing stock or adding to their workforces. This brings the company to a standstill, and could put it out of business altogether.

2. Lack of Financial Flexibility

While large corporations and buying teams have the purchasing power to demand extended payment terms, smaller suppliers do not.

As a result, these suppliers are forced to receive payments late while paying their own suppliers early. This creates a cash flow crunch in working capital that many can’t escape.

In fact, most firms operate on a month-to-month basis with cash reserves built to last only 27 days.  

3. Lower Employee Morale

In addition to the financial consequences of extending payment terms, the practice takes a human toll as well. Going three-to-four months without receiving payments from buyers makes it difficult for businesses to make their own payroll – usually the largest expense for a SMB.

As a result, small suppliers suffer from reduced morale and engagement. This can, in turn, lead to a decline in quality and production delays.

4. Limited Credit Options

With limited cash on hand, the only financial lifeline available to many SMBs is to apply for more credit. However, 50% of small businesses receive no money at all when they apply for credit loans.

SMB Credit
Source: Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Atlanta, Cleveland and Philadelphia

Extended Payment Terms Can Hurt Buyers, Too

In the end, buyers end up paying the price for extended payment terms as well. That’s because it introduces risk into their supply chains. If a trusted supplier is forced out of business or suffers a decline in productivity, it hurts the procuring organisation.

In addition, suppliers have long memories. Many will compensate for extended payment terms with higher costs, while others include steep late-payment penalties in their contracts.

Lastly, a high quality supplier whose products or services are in-demand supplier may simply choose to work with other companies that offer friendlier payment terms, and forego bidding new opportunities that come with onerous payment terms.

Reverse Factoring May Be The Solution

Reverse factoring allows a buying organisation to leverage its strong credit rating to acquire favourable financing, which is used to pay suppliers in a more timely manner.

Here’s how it works:

  • Supplier submits the invoice to the buyer.
  • Buyer approves the invoice and submits it to a 3rd party financial institution or factor, who bases interest terms on creditworthiness of the buyer.
  • Financial institution pays the supplier at their desired early term of net 30 days, discounting the invoice payment by the agreed-to discount rate.
  • Buyer pays the financial institution the face value of the invoice at their agreed-upon date, say net 90 or net 120 days.

The concept is fairly new, but it is already proving to be a great solution for buyers that want to reap the cash flow benefits of extended payment terms without putting their suppliers in jeopardy.

That’s because it is beneficial to every participant in the process. It allows both buyers and suppliers maintain cash flow while forging positive working relationships in the supply chain. The financial institution also benefits by generating a return on the funds lent to the supplier and reimbursed by the buyer’s payment.

Offering friendlier payment terms is just one way to build stronger relationships with suppliers. Discover more on how to improve your relationships with SMBs in our latest tip sheet.

Ed Edwards is Audience Outreach Manager at THOMASNET.com. He leverages his extensive experiences in engineering, manufacturing and procurement, to educate procurement and engineering professionals on how to streamline and improve their work.

Ed provides customised training to organisations’ engineering and sourcing teams and helps buyers with their challenges and finds them new opportunities.

How Procurement Can Support SMEs in Tendering

SMEs can provide formidable USPs to procurement. But procurement first needs to take steps to support them in the tender process.

smes

99 per cent of all businesses within the UK are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – those companies which are made up of 250 employees or less.

At the end of 2015, the total number of companies this size in the UK stood at 5.4 million.

Recently, within public sector procurement, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of contracts awarded to SMEs. Given that SMEs have long since made up the majority figure of all businesses within the UK, it is interesting to see that only now are they being brought to the forefront of the bid and tender process.

Wave of Change

A recent study has shown that nearly three quarters of public sector procurement contracts have been awarded to smaller organisations. This is in contrast to a few years ago, where just over half of contracts were awarded to SMEs.

Historically, larger businesses have been able to gain competitive advantage on SMEs in the contract bidding wars. They have been able to provide extensive financial data, as well as time and money, to work through the complex tender processes.

However, the wave of change has arrived. Public sector organisations are helping make that tender process a lot easier in a bid to support local businesses. With less red tape, SMEs are able to provide an enhanced USP to procurement. This includes access to local products/services, innovation, ethical trading and overall a more competitive offering.

Simplifying the Procurement Process

Leading the way, some organisations have already begun by standardising tender documentation. They require less financial information about the company, and are setting up electronic portals to help make the process as efficient as possible.

All of this is in aid of simplifying that bid process for SMEs to encourage them to apply and succeed in winning contracts.

For procurement professionals, this simplification of the tender process not only supports local SMEs, but also helps to cut out inefficiencies in day-to-day procurement jobs.

When it comes to reviewing bids now, procure have less financial data to wade through, and a more comprehensive tender document to look over. Plus, taking advantage of technology is also helping save time and money.

Procurement Heads is all about getting to know great Procurement people and recruiting Senior Procurement professionals.

Procurement Heads understands the value of working in partnership, both in helping people develop their careers and in supporting organisations to build world-class teams.

Changing Times for Low-Value Procurement Processes

Old practices die hard, particularly in low-value procurement. However, an Australian start-up aims to change this.

Low-Value Procurement

The dubious, but common, practice of ‘get three quotes but still use the same suppliers’ is firmly under the spotlight. And, thanks to public scrutiny and increasing procurement governance, it might soon be gone for good.

A growing number of Australian Governmental agencies and private sector organisations are looking to make their spend more transparent. And many of these organisations are turning to a Melbourne start-up to increase their accountability.

Ending Entrenched Procurement Culture

Award-winning platform VendorPanel is revolutionising decentralised sourcing in corporate Australia, with growth in the past two years exceeding all expectations.

Launched in 2008 by James Leathem, VendorPanel has been through a number of iterations over the years. It aims to put an end to the corruption-riddled ‘three quotes and no change’ procurement approach that has become entrenched in Australian corporate culture.

The platform is used by hundreds of Australian organisations, predominantly government agencies, to increase transparency, compliance, and savings in quote and tender-based purchasing from their approved suppliers and the marketplace.

Leathem explains that low-value procurement had been largely ignored across public and private sector organisations in Australia. This represents a multi-million dollar risk for procurement professionals, with massive corporate financial leakage, and formal governance processes being allowed to fall through the cracks.

“It’s confusing and difficult for buyers. Traditional procurement systems and processes are complex. Buyers are left to navigate preferred supplier panels, approved contractor lists and the market with no real assistance. This complexity serves to make processes slow and painful, so buyers often just go with what they know,” he explains.

“Problems are compounded when staff are dealing with arrangements managed by multiple external departments or organisations, and where contract information is accessed via multiple websites, documents and intranets.”

Undetected Low-Value Procurement Expenditure

Most low-value procurement expenditure remains undetected. This is because it’s either hidden in email, or the transactional amount is too small for management to bother scrutinising.

This makes it pretty easy for an employee get away with giving low-value contracts to the same business every time, instead of a better performing, or cheaper, company.

“It’s not necessarily full-on corruption, but a ‘better-the-Devil-you-know’ approach of using familiar suppliers. Either way it can land professionals in hot water, particularly in government when it’s public money being spent,” Leathem says.

While the broader procurement industry complained about the issues that came with low-value procurement, nothing was being done to bring about change.

“There was a quiet acceptance that things were never going to change. Procurement professionals appeared resigned to the fact that a solution was impossible, because the problem was too big and messy. This was especially the case for procurement of Services.”

VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.
VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.

Procurement Match-Making

Leathem set out to disrupt the market after working with a professional services firm for corporate clients such as ANZ Bank, Fairfax Media, Macquarie and GE.

As part of his role, Leathem was involved in sourcing and engaging with supplier markets. The approach being taken was the best available to anyone at the time. It was a mostly manual approach using a series of internal databases and search processes.

“I saw an opportunity to automate the procurement match-making process by creating a honey pot that attracts the right people to you, rather than buyers always having to scour the market for what they’re after.”

Leathem started out by working with the local government sector, with the rationale that if it could work there, it could work anywhere. He secured a pilot across 155 local governments, and based on its success, VendorPanel was rolled out nationally across 550 local governments within 18 months.

The platform’s growth comes as the broader procurement industry searches for better, more efficient ways to tackle their role.

However, VendorPanel then had an unexpected challenge of showing the rest of the market that the technology was transferrable. Several years down the track this has been achieved, with hundreds of organisations now using the platform.

VendorPanel has now processed more than AUD$1.3 billion worth of sourcing from organisations’ own preferred suppliers, plus an undisclosed amount of public tenders and marketplace sourcing, making it one of the fastest growing technology companies in Australia.

Are Charities & Non-Profit Organisations Getting the Most from Procurement?

We’ve all donated to charities at some point, but do we know where our donation is being spent? How effectively are third sector organisations able to leverage their procurement?

Charities Donation

This article was originally written for, and published on, Novo-K.

A bucket in the street. A bake sale or coffee morning. A fun run. A phone call. We’ve all donated to charity at some point in our lives, and we frequently put our money down without thinking about where it goes to. But do you know how your donation is being spent?

With an ever-increasing number of charities in existence around the world, organisations need to be seen to be spending money wisely, or else donors could take their money elsewhere.

It’s not something that immediately springs to mind when you make a charitable donation, but charities and not-for-profit organisations rely on procurement teams in the same way as the public and private sectors. And the role that procurement plays for them is just as valuable.

Procurement Complexity

Despite my experience working in procurement, and the countless conversations I have had with procurement professionals, I will admit to a lack of extensive knowledge on procurement in the third sector. I had also (mistakenly) thought that procurement might be less complex than in other industries such as manufacturing.

However, following some conversations, and giving the subject more consideration, it’s clear that there is just as much complexity as in any other organisation. It’s not just indirect procurement activities as people might think.

In many cases charitable organisations are looking at procurement of a range of services, highly complex machinery, chemicals and drugs, and even construction services for new buildings.

Fighting the Same Battles

I asked the Procurious community whether they thought that got the most from their procurement activities. What struck me was that these organisations face the same issues the wider procurement community, one in particular being maverick spending.

In charitable and non-profit organisations, as with procurement across the world, there is still the need to convince business stakeholders, end users and other functions of the value procurement brings to the organisations.

Traditional mind-sets of, “But we’ve always done it that way”, and “We’ve used that supplier for years”, exist in these organisations. You might think that convincing stakeholders might be easier for a charity – more procurement involvement means better deals, means more money to go on research or helping people.

Effective Procurement

All of this brings me back round to my original question. In truth, as a donor, I don’t really mind what my money is spent on, just that it is being used to support the charity’s cause. As a procurement professional, however, I feel that there is more that could be done to make this more transparent, and also to support these organisations when procurement is less mature or experienced.

There are a number of ways that procurement in charitable and non-profit organisations can be supported. In the UK, the Charities Aid Foundation provides various services on a pooled basis for smaller charities.

There are also opportunities for procurement professionals to work with charities and social enterprises on a pro bono basis. This is a great way for the organisations to access procurement skills, without having to pay for a full-time staff member.

Another option is to expand our procurement networks, getting as many people involved as possible. By creating global networks, procurement professionals can access a wide range of knowledge and experience.

If you have a procurement issue, the chances are high that someone else has dealt with it before. By creating networks, we can help create real value.

All this can help to raise the profile of procurement within charities, educate stakeholders to procurement’s role and value, and make a major difference to how (and how effectively) money is being used.

How Top Procurement Professionals Conduct Reverse Auctions

Using reverse auctions opens up a wealth of benefits for procurement professionals. But it’s important to fully understand when and how to use them. 

Reverse Auctions
Image from reynermedia

Reverse auctions have been around since the late 1990s, and have been regularly used as a tool by procurement professionals to obtain better pricing and lower supply costs. The use of reverse auctions can benefit companies of all sizes, but it really comes into its element when used by professionals within the procurement industry.

In an ordinary auction, buyers would compete with each other to obtain a product or service, yet in a reverse auction, the roles of the buyer and seller are reversed, and involve sellers competing to supply goods or services to a buyer. Over time, the price in the auction will start to decrease. Think of it like an eBay for the supply chain.

For procurement professionals who still haven’t started on the reverse auction or e-auction game, we’ve taken a look at how some of the finest procurement professionals use reverse auctions in their daily lives, and what benefits there are to using the service.

Time is of the Essence

When it comes to reverse auctions, as the supplier does most of the work, one of the greatest benefits is that the procurement professional can save time.

In the case of a traditional contract, businesses send out a request for a proposal which would have to be completed by the seller. The business would then sort through the proposals to make a qualified decision. The process of a reverse auction means that the whole process can be done online, cutting the requirements for manpower and time, with a decision being made much quicker.

Most reverse auctions won’t last longer than an hour either, meaning that the actual process can be wrapped up quicker, and both business and supplier can get on with what they do best.

Money can be Saved

Many companies these days are under economic pressure to become more streamlined and to reduce costs. In 2014, it was reported that the DLA, the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, had found that by using reverse auctions they were able to save around $1.6 billion in a year – with $400 million coming from three auctions alone.

Whatever the size of your business, reverse auctions can be a great way of saving lots of money. Pitting suppliers directly against one another will mean that the lowest prices will be offered, and you be able to purchase services at a highly competitive price. Many companies will also tend to buy in bulk, meaning that even greater savings can be made to the bottom line.

The net will be opened up

Reverse auctions provide a great opportunity for smaller and lesser known businesses to get involved, and compete for something they may have otherwise never have had the opportunity to. Depending on the situation, the process can help to create new, long-lasting relationships between the business and the supplier.

In the past, companies may have felt limited to choosing suppliers local to their area. Nowadays, thanks to the growing reliance of technology, this is no longer a major issue. The net has been opened and allows businesses around the world to compete, which in turn allows both the buyer and supplier to network and build connections.

Reverse auctions are not for everyone

However, reverse auctions are not for everyone. It’s important that procurement professionals are able to determine when it’s right to use the service.

As it is a service that is mostly fixated on providing the lowest price, it can be hard to determine the level of quality or service that will come with that low price. In many cases, the lowest bidder may not necessarily be able to provide the highest of quality, and this can end up having a knock on effect on other aspects of the business.

To tackle this issue head on, Market Dojo believes you should use price as a stepping stone only, and not a set rule. Obviously, you want to be able to pay as little as possible, but if you factor in levels of quality and the reputation of the seller, then you are more likely to make a better buying decision.

Finally…

Ultimately, reverse auctions are a great tool for the procurement professional in today’s technology-focused climate. The buyer can spend less resources on purchasing decisions, whilst new suppliers can take part in sales that they wouldn’t otherwise.

To be effective at buying goods through the reverse auction medium, those in the procurement industry need to remain vigilant and try not to focus entirely on price. High quality goods and delivery times also need to be factored in order to make the process efficient and cost-effective. Otherwise, you may just end up paying out more.

About the Author: Adam Maidment is a Content Writer for Portfolio Procurement, specialists in the recruitment of experienced procurement professionals throughout the UK.

Why Automation Can Help Procurement Achieve Its Goals

Automation is frequently talked about in manufacturing, but rarely in the field of procurement. Could it be the key to helping procurement achieve better outcomes?

Automation and Robotisation

Download GEP’s white paper on achieving P2P Excellence through Procurement and Finance alignment here.

Czech writer Karel Čapek was the first person to use the term “robot”.  In his 1920 play “Rossum’s Universal Robots”, he conjured the image of synthetic humans, carrying out the tasks that original humans no longer cared to do, yet remaining largely happy in their work. For a while.

Inevitably things went South, so to speak, and the robots learned to resent their drudgery.

Stories of automation leading to unforeseen misfortune are at least as old as Goethe’s 1797 poem, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. Yet automation remains a goal, if one that is not without challenges.

Automation in Procurement

Automation is often seen as a good thing, because it accelerates processes (sometimes) and frees up valuable human resources (sometimes). In the context of manufacturing, introducing automation has been hugely successful because of the requirement for a production line to continually repeat identical tasks within exact specifications. Automation is therefore understood to be just that, the effective ‘robotisation’ of a process.

In a sense this is also desirable in Procurement because a good percentage of the tasks and processes are repetitive and of the same type. However, that is not the same as being identical, and it is often less than desirable to force a range of different variants into a single model.

Thus, what we need is the acceleration of the process and the reduction in administrative overhead but still maintain the unique aspects of each event in the process. This is where automation gets tricky.

Importance of the ‘Right’ Process

From the perspective of software design, the practitioner must be able to automate those parts of the process which are identical time after time, and permit the customisation of those parts that are unique, whilst accelerating the whole.

This is where an understanding of Procurement (and associated processes) is key in the design and implementation of the software.  As one of our senior project managers put it, “It is not a good idea to use automation to accelerate a broken process.”

What he means by that is this: whereas in manufacturing, the process of machining a particular widget by hand is already the ‘right’ way to do it, and automation simply repeats the task; in Procurement it cannot be taken as read that the sourcing methodology, contracting process or requisition-to-invoice workflow, are in any way the ‘right’, most efficient, or best, way to go.

In reality, then, for procurement software to provide a solution it must involve not only automation, but transformation. Using the imposition of an automating technology to review where the challenges in the current manual processes lie is a vital part of any such program. That way the eventual automation of the task will be more accurate and, ultimately, more useful.

Accounting for Whole Process

Another key consideration is best made with a manufacturing analogy again. If the entire process from raw material to finished goods is automated, then the rate of arrival of the end-product at the packing and shipping station will be considerably greater than in the pre-automation set up. If account hasn’t been taken of the impact ‘downstream’, then one can foresee the conveyor belt of products backing up and overflowing.

In Procurement this can be a real issue. Accelerating the order-to-invoice process is all very well for purchaser and supplier, but if Accounts Payable are periodically swamped with invoices to be paid, there can be significant impacts on administration overheads and, indeed, cash flow.

Furthermore, an accelerated sourcing process only works if the suppliers are on board, and a super-efficient bid-to-contract process will only work if the company’s attorneys buy in to it.

Thus automation is far from being a matter of “install software, use software, improve efficiency, get ROI”. Get it wrong and it can be a matter of “install software, use software badly, make matters worse, stop using software, can project, start again”.

But get it right and the “automation” program can see dramatic impacts on time to reach savings goals, supplier engagement and performance, and cash flow management downstream.

GEP have produced a white paper on the challenges facing the marriage of convenience between Procurement and Finance which explores these ideas further. You can download it here.