Tag Archives: supply chain complexity

No More Supply Chains? Another Procurement Term Bites the Dust

With the advent of the supply ecosystem, the concept of the linear chains is outdated and misleading. Perhaps it’s time to let this term disappear.

broken supply chains

Introducing Watson Supply Chain from IBM. Get to know Watson here.

The thing about chains is that they’re linear.

No matter how complex they might be, supply chains are sequential by definition. They stretch from one geographical point to another, each link representing one of many upstream or downstream businesses that make up the whole.

But in a hyper-connected, interdependent world, the concept of the chain no longer does justice to the complexity of a supply manager’s role. Any attempt to map out a modern international supplier network will end up looking more like a cluster diagram, or a series of cogs and gears.

Or, to take an analogy from the natural world, a “supply ecosystem”.

Supply Ecosystems versus Supply Chains

To unpack some of the key differences (and similarities) between ecosystems and chains, let’s examine some key terms.

  • Interdependency

While a single link in a supply chain is only directly connected with its two immediate neighbours, each part of an ecosystem relies upon every other. This has been referred to as “super-connectivity” or “hyper-cooperation”. This comes with enormous benefits in terms of visibility, data collection and knowledge transfer.

  • Cooperation

Rather than having a single purchasing organisation sitting at the top of a supply chain, a supply ecosystem may involve a network of competing business with shared challenges. Collectively, they create and nurture a sourcing base that will benefit their individual businesses and the ecosystem as a whole.

  • Fragility and resilience

When a link in your linear supply chain snaps, the whole structure is at risk of collapse. A supply ecosystem is similarly fragile, as each component has its own important part to play. However, the difference is that the entire extended stakeholder network can work together to rapidly replace any missing part.

  • Knowledge

While organisations are eager to unlock potential innovation among their suppliers, they are often frustrated by a lack of visibility beyond the first-tier, or the neighbouring link in the chain.

Within the super-connected ecosystem, there is an increased flow of data, and better exchange of skills and knowledge. This means shared challenges are more likely to be solved through crowdsourcing among the entire network’s talent pool.

Again, problems will be tackled and solved with the conviction that what is good for the overall ecosystem will also benefit every member therein.

IBM Watson Gets It

IBM Watson helps supply professionals illuminate risks and opportunities to make better decisions through a proactive, predictive and innovation supply network.

The cognitive procurement technology leverages the entire ecosystem rather than the usual first-tier suppliers. This enables collaboration across every supplier organisation in your network to identify gaps, share capability and mitigate risks before they become obstructions.

The Supply Management Lexicon is Changing

The procurement and supply management profession is changing rapidly, and the language we use is changing with it. In 2016 alone we’ve gone so far as to declare obsolete three frequently used terms in procurement:

Do you agree that these terms have passed their use-by date? What other frequently-used supply management terms are also likely to disappear within the next decade? Leave a comment below!

Procurement exists in an ever-changing environment. Keeping up to date, even with terminology and concepts, can be a struggle. However, technology, like Watson Supply Chain, can help by making information available wherever we are. Find out more here.

Throwback Thursday – Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

If we’re to change the image of procurement, we need a figurehead to point to. Could Apple CEO, Tim Cook, be the ambassador the profession needs?

Tim Cook - Procurement Ambassador

One of the key goals of Procurious is to improve the image of our profession. We are the brown cardigan brigade no longer (unless it’s a snazzy, modern cardigan!). The latest generation of procurement pros are highly intelligent, motivated, and tech-savvy.

However, to help push the image change along, procurement needs a figurehead. A high profile ambassador for the profession, who highlights just how far you can go. And Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, could be that ambassador we need.

We take a look back at an article from last year, highlighting Cook’s journey to the top.

Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

It’s fair to say procurement has received a bad rap over the years. We’ve been dubbed corporate policemen, paper pushers, roadblocks, as well as a raft of other unflattering names we dare not mention.

Thankfully, due to the innovation and hard graft of procurement professionals, the function is shedding this negative image and starting to become recognised as an integral part of any successful business.

Perhaps the greatest exemplar of procurement’s ascendancy to date is Apple CEO Tim Cook.

In 1998, Tim was the vice president of Corporate Materials for the Compaq computer company. The role saw him hold responsibility for the organisation’s procurement and inventory operations.

Despite having no real intentions of leaving this role, the enigmatic Steve Jobs managed to convince Cook to take on a role at Apple (pre iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone).

Stellar Performance

Tim’s performance at Apple was stellar, particularly from a procurement point of view. In his authorised autobiography of Steve Jobs, Walter Issacson described Cook’s methodical approach to supplier rationalisation and inventory management.

“Cook reduced the number of Apple’s key suppliers from a hundred to twenty-four, forced them to cut better deals to keep the business, convinced many to locate next to Apple’s plants, and closed ten of the company’s nineteen warehouses.

“By reducing the places where inventory could pile up, he reduced inventory. Jobs had cut inventory from two months’ worth of product down to one by early 1998. By September of that year, Cook had gotten it to six days. By the following September, it was down to an amazing two days’ worth.

“In addition, he cut the production process for making an Apple computer from four months to two. All of this not only saved money, it also allowed each new computer to have the very latest components available.”

The procurement and supply chain decisions made by Cook highlight the critical importance of procurement to Apple’s success. The strength of the company (and arguably its competitive advantage) has been in building and managing a complex network of suppliers.

The company has then successfully leveraged this network to produce ground-breaking technology products. Put simply, without the supply network, there is no product.

Recommendation From The Top

Cook’s performance in Apple’s supply chain clearly caught the attention of Steve Jobs, who gave the follow recommendation of Cook during his departure from the firm.

Jobs stated, “I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.”

The promotion of Cook to CEO shows that the board of Apple understands the critical importance of external suppliers as a source of innovation for the company. Apple clearly sees the procurement function as the conduit to successfully managing these relationships and ensuring the future success of the business.

Apple is the world’s most valuable brand. It has undergone a remarkably successful business transformation, and has produced products that have changed the way we interact with each other and the world around us.

With so much of this success being attributed to great procurement practices, could there really be a stronger endorsement for our profession?

“Tim Cook came out of procurement which is just the right background for what we needed.” – Steve Jobs

Contract Lifecycle Management: Stop Being Foxed by Your Suppliers

Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital, explains how organisations can minimise supply chain risk through effective contract lifecycle management.

Outfoxed Contract Lifecycle Management

Today’s businesses are increasingly reliant on global, multi-tiered supply chains. While they can contain the essential ingredients for competitive advantage, cost efficiency and innovation, supply chain complexity also contributes to greater supply chain risk.

Consequently, contract lifecycle management (CLM) has become progressively crucial to organisations as they attempt to keep track of suppliers and their sub-contractors. Analyst group Gartner claims that no organisation is immune to the complexities of today’s contracts, or the pace at which businesses operate in the global economy.

Regardless of the sector you operate in, for anyone with a growing and increasingly complex supply chain, CLM has become a critical business process.

Mitigating Supplier Risk

You don’t need to search very hard to find examples of organisations whose complex supply chains have caused them significant issues, affecting both their reputation and bottom-line. Tesco’s infamous horse meat scandal is a classic example of how uncontracted and unvetted suppliers can become part of your supply chain and cause unforeseen damage.

The store was left at the mercy of the public and the media for months after the scandal broke causing huge reputational damage and financial loss to the organisation. Unfortunately for Tesco, the complexities of its supply chain meant that visibility was restricted, and it was unaware that one of its suppliers was sub-contracting work to an unknown and unvetted supplier.

Supplier risk can raise its head in many forms. The importance of ensuring all your suppliers have the necessary certifications required to work with your organisation shouldn’t be understated.

It’s irrelevant whether they are supplying food, people, commodities, electronics, or complex mechanical parts. Take the construction sector as an example. A building company’s supply chain manager will diligently vet all contractors required onsite to ensure they have the necessary health and safety certificates and public liability insurance details in place, as part of the supplier on boarding process.

But when pressed could they honestly claim to know when each of these certifications is due to expire, and that when that contractor is next onsite, his certifications are all still in date? If the answer to these questions is no, then an organisation could find itself in a very vulnerable position if an accident occurs, and the contractor’s health and safety certifications have expired.

Contract Lifecycle Management & Legal Compliance

What’s more, new sentencing guidelines have been introduced to create a more consistent and proportionate approach to sentencing for those individuals or businesses convicted of health and safety, food hygiene offences or corporate manslaughter. These new guidelines mean that all organisations should be looking to assess risk, both internally and across their entire supply chain, to ensure standards are maintained at all times.

Legal compliance with legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley or ISO standards can also be monitored as part of CLM. The healthcare, financial services and manufacturing sectors are all subject to compliance demands. Stiff penalties can be applied if an organisation is found to be non-compliant.

Contract Management Databases

Contract management databases play an essential role in ensuring organisations know exactly when their suppliers’ contracts are up for renewal. No-one wants a contract which is no longer valid for your current business needs to roll over for yet another year. As important as that is, arguably the main benefit contract management offers is complete visibility of supplier performance and compliance.

Moving all contracts to a secure, electronic contract management database enables an organisation to practice effective contract lifecycle management and keep a firm eye on its entire supply base – both direct and indirect.

A contract management database that hosts all of an organisation’s contracts, and details on the criteria (certifications, regulatory requirements and SLAs) that its suppliers are contractually obliged to meet, enables organisations to quickly identify specific types of supplier able to compliantly fulfil a project.

It also allows organisation to identify their business-critical suppliers, and ensure their necessary certifications are in place and that any KPIs agreed at the start of the contract are being met. Some systems can even offer visibility into tier two suppliers. This is extremely beneficial if your supply chain is becoming increasingly complex, and can help identify who your critical suppliers are sub-contracting to.

Visibility at Your Fingertips

The benefits delivered by CLM are undeniable as it becomes increasingly important that organisations ensure that their compliance procedures are in place. Contracts filed away, stuffed in drawers or indexed on a spreadsheet can’t issue an alert if they’re about to expire. Nor does it make life very easy if you’re looking to identify which of your suppliers has the right credentials in place to fulfil a certain role.

Storing all suppliers’ contracts in a secure, manageable database, that is quick and easy to access, ensures that you have supply chain visibility at all times. Should the time arrive when you need evidence to defend your organisation, or pinpoint the cracks in your supply chain, you’ll certainly be glad to have this level of visibility at your fingertips.