All posts by Trevor Stansbury

5 Best Practices for Raw Material Procurement

How do you leverage consolidated raw materials demand for best practice procurement? Here are five industry best practices.

This article was originally published on Supply Dynamics on October 22, 2020 and is republished here with permission of the author and website.

It takes tons – both literally and figuratively – of raw material to manufacture an aircraft. From fasteners to injected molded plastics and countless variations of metals, electronic components, and resins are needed to produce the millions of individual parts required to deliver a completed aircraft on-time and on budget. Case in point: An average commercial aircraft contains approximately 387 tons of metal alone!

If you’re an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in the aerospace industry such as Boeing or Airbus, raw material procurement and sourcing for countless parts can result in chaos. And this problem isn’t unique to aerospace. It persists across industries including oil & gas, automotive, industrial equipment, among others.

At Supply Dynamics, we estimate that our customers outsource on average 50-80% of product parts and components. This trend has resulted in complex, highly fragmented supply chains, reducing transparency for the OEMs, while increasing dependence upon contract manufacturers and their ability to manage their own complex supply networks.

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Raw Material Procurement

How many metals, plastics, electronics and fastener sources do your part suppliers purchase from? Five or 500? As long as you get your parts on time, does it even matter? Of course, it does.

As a procurement leader, you understand there are efficiencies in streamlining raw material procurement at all levels of the supply chain. What if OEMs could orchestrate the joint-negotiation and forecasting of such materials to eliminate waste and improve efficiency through a systemic process?

By value-stream mapping actual raw materials used in part production and linking that to the demand for those parts, Supply Dynamics can help you forecast consolidated material requirements and provide a dynamic snapshot of your sourcing strengths and vulnerabilities. Sharing this information with contract manufacturers and raw material sources then enables transformational collaboration.

After more than a decade of helping our OEM customers obtain and leverage this kind of information, we’ve learned a few things. In order to successfully leverage consolidated material demand across a supply chain, we recommend OEMs follow these procurement best practices:

1) Calculate and share detailed raw material demand forecasts at regular intervals with service centers and mills

By sharing what we call a “material demand profile” with the sources of the raw material, OEMs can reduce risk for their raw material suppliers enabling them to operate more responsively, while increasing the OEMs ability to control pricing and ensure availability. Sharing a top level forecast only, with no definition of order form preferences (i.e. sheet vs coil or bar vs plate), discrete sizes and specifications, is virtually useless to a Distributor.

With such a forecast, Service Centers avoid speculation regarding which materials will be purchased or to what sizes and specifications and which site or contract manufacturers in the supply chain will purchase it. Knowing this in advance ensures service centers can stock the appropriate inventory quantities of the correct materials at the right time. This also serves to reduce lead-times. Some of our customers see their lead time reduced by 50% or more.

2) Make sure that shared forecasts contain a level of detail that reduces risk at the raw material source

If you ask a mill, distributor or standard catalog part manufacturer what really drives material prices (whether you’re talking about metals, plastics, or printed circuit board components) the answer might surprise you. While the quantity of material purchased and number of releases over time is a factor, other factors may have equal or greater impact on price, including

  • What is the accuracy of the forecast?
  • Are there limited life considerations associated with the material?
  • Are there unique packaging requirements?
  • Are there processing requirements or unique specifications associated with the order?
  • Can the customer specify quantities required by specific user, over specific time frames, and by unique sizes and specifications?

This kind of information is the proverbial “Holy Grail” for a mill or distributor because it allows them to service your business more efficiently, reducing the risk of obsolescence and allowing them in some cases to level load production and better manage inventory levels over time.

3) Establish “directed-buy” or “right-to-buy” contracts with Mills and/or Distributors

Ideally, an OEM establishes standard raw material purchasing agreements with Mills and Distributors and allows its Contract Manufacturers to purchase off those agreements. Transparency is essential to ensure that such agreements are followed.

On the flip side, if a raw material supplier cannot fulfill orders placed down the supply chain, the OEM is aware of the situation in advance and can properly address any potential delays.

An aggregation program gives the OEM significant leverage over raw material suppliers and contract manufacturers. It goes without saying, the OEM could switch suppliers should suppliers fail to deliver the promised level of service. However, suppliers are also incentivized to participate in these programs because their costs are reduced through better planning – a win-win throughout the supply chain.

4) Enforce the agreed purchasing behavior

Aggregation programs provide considerable benefits to the OEMs, contract manufacturers, and to the raw material suppliers. However, reaping the benefits depends upon all parties within the supply chain doing what they have agreed to do and properly utilizing and executing upon the agreed “terms of engagement.”

If contract manufacturers fail to purchase forecasted materials from the agreed upon source, the value of the demand forecast is questioned and the service centers are left holding the proverbial bag when it comes to excess inventory. For this reason, it is imperative that the OEM have a robust means of monitoring and enforcing agreed upon terms of engagement (across Contract Manufacturers, Distributors and Mills.)

5) Provide a means to validate material sizes, forms and specifications while keeping bills-of material up-to-date 

No two Contract Manufacturers make a part the same way and therefore no two bills of material (even for the same part) are ever the same. For this reason, the OEM must provide a simple, easy way for Contract Manufacturers to update or “validate” bills of material.

For example: Say an OEM needs 1,600 pieces of a specific aluminum part in the coming year. The blueprint suggests that the optimal way to manufacture the part is to machined it out of an 8.0” long piece of aluminum grade 6061, 2.0” diameter round bar. However, the minute the OEM outsources that part to an external contract manufacturers, it loses visibility into the actual form and size of material actually purchased. For instance, one contract manufacturer may choose to purchase material in different form or size than another (2.25” vs. 2.0” for example).

In addition, any sustainable program will require a thoughtful and systematic way of accommodating changes in the supply chain such as:

  • New Part Introductions
  • Engineering changes to existing parts
  • Transitions of parts from on Contract manufacturer to another

So how does it work?

We understand – this sounds like an Industry 4.0 unicorn, right? Likely, you’ve been managing your raw material procurement data with a team of folks sharing a macro-crazy Excel spreadsheet. This is where Supply Dynamics can help. Our Part Attribute Characterization service and SDX multi enterprise platform enables OEMs to captures contract manufacturers’ raw material data for each part without asking the part supplier to do all the heavy lifting.

In this way, OEMs can accurately forecast raw material requirements and manage the timely purchase and supply of material requirements across the enterprise.. All of this allows for better pricing and contract terms, shorter lead-times, and higher levels of performance from the supply chain.

For too long OEMs, contract manufacturers, and raw material suppliers have relied on historical data or guesswork to forecast future raw material demand. By better understanding the raw materials used in its products and sharing information with the sources of those materials OEMs can achieve step-change improvements in their cost of doing business, and actively monitor purchases of program-related materials. In addition, they can improve overall supply chain efficiency and ultimately improve on-time delivery of more profitable products.