Tag Archives: demand

8 Ideas To Have In Your Procurement And Supply Chain Tool Kit

Supply chains are under intense scrutiny right now. That increases pressure on supply chain leaders, but also creates new opportunities to do things better for everyone: companies, customers, and the planet. Top influencer Rob O’Byrne gives his take on where we’re at and what’s coming next.


Procurious founder Tania Seary recently talked with Rob O’Byrne, CEO of Logistics Bureau, and a top 10 supply chain social media influencer.

Here’s his take on where we are, how we got here, and what’s next.  



“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from factory to store.”

Not long ago, many of us struggled to explain supply chain management to our friends and family.

Now? The pandemic hit and suddenly everyone’s a supply chain expert, says Rob.

“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from the factory to the store, and it’s really put supply chain in the spotlight,” Rob says.

With that extra awareness comes an expectation that supply chains should work more efficiently — and that will change the way we all operate.

“We lost touch with local markets.”

Before we can make impactful changes, we need to understand how we got here.

Rob says the two biggest trends that shaped the pre-Covid era are centralisation and rationalisation.

Increasingly, large global players were centralising their supply chains through regional or global hubs.

Why? To improve management, visibility, and consistency — all of which are important for optimizing supply chain operations. But centralisation comes at a cost.

“The challenge is [these companies] are a lot more remote from their markets and sometimes you actually need to have a finger on the pulse,” Rob says.

“[You have] headquarters in one part of the world trying to dictate what happens in a supply chain in another part of the world. Sometimes they lose touch a little bit.”

Rationalisation led to similar challenges.

For all of the cost savings and visibility benefits, rationalising led to less contact with markets.

“[Companies] are tending to rely a lot more now on AI-based communication systems to talk with customers,” Rob explains.

Great for the bottom line, but frustrating for customers who often want to speak to an actual human instead of a bot.

“We can be in danger of alienating our market.”

“Companies still don’t understand the ‘cost to serve’ in their supply chain”

One of the greatest challenges right now in supply chain management is managing costs, says Rob.

And it’s more than “total cost of ownership.” It’s about knowing the end-to-end costs.

“So many companies still don’t understand the cost to serve across all the different channels in their supply chain. And that’s become even more critical during the pandemic because our distribution channels have changed,” Rob says.

“In the current climate, it’s really challenging because there’s so much expediting going on. We’re having to use different transport modes than perhaps we would normally.” 

Visibility is also a struggle.

“That really came to the fore during the pandemic because everything was moving so much more rapidly,” says Rob.

“Supply and demand peaks and troughs have been so much more severe. The visibility of that real demand was so important, so there’s a much greater need for improved demand planning and inventory management.”

“Forecasts are always wrong”

To illustrate that need, Rob points to the huge demand for one specific medication during the pandemic. 

Patients who used the drug to treat symptoms of a specific disease,  were stocking up, while other people were buying it because they thought it might fight the virus. Hospitals also stocked up because people who needed the drugs would need more if they caught the virus. Demand skyrocketed.  

“So I think that’s part of the challenge in terms of inventory visibility,” Rob points out. “It’s separating the true demand from the noise…that’s where we’re going to see much more sophisticated inventory management tools coming in the future.”

Although some companies still use spreadsheets for forecasting, “on the other end of the scale, there’s some really, really advanced tools being used and all of that is giving us much greater visibility of our supply chains.

“We can use the weather to predict food sales.”

One example is creating demand forecasts based on weather, not previous sales.

Companies can actually predict food requirements at a shopping mall food court by analysing parking spaces and the weather.

They harness data on parking space occupancy, (from those red and green lights) combine it with the weather forecast, and predict how many people will turn up at the shopping centre.

“That’s real forecasting,” says Rob. “It’s not looking at what we sold last month or the month before.”

“Less lean and more fat.”

Along with smarter forecasting, what does the future hold?

Rob says a rapid retreat from lean management might be on the cards for many businesses.

“Lean was all the fashion for the last 10 years or so,” Rob recalls. “And at the time it was probably the right thing to do for the right businesses and the right products.”

But that’s all changed now.

“I just wonder for a lot of supply chains whether it was a step too far when we’ve seen the fragility of our supply chains over the last six months or so,” Rob says.

Where you have the traditional supply chain like an automotive factory, lean and ‘just in time’ works really well, but where you’ve got volatile markets we’re starting to see the cracks appear.”

“I think we’re going to see a little bit more fat, certainly in terms of inventory, just to buffer for uncertainties.”  Because it will be a long time before market demand becomes anywhere near normal, and it may never look like pre Covid demand again, as alternative distribution channels become more popular.

Rob also says we can expect the decline of ‘traditional’ third-party logistics. 

“There are a lot of companies around that ‘uberised logistics’ – whether it be transport or storage, and I think we’re going to see third party logistics particularly moving much more towards the gig economy. There’s no reason why not.”

“There are people delivering to my home at the moment who are doing it a few hours a day, and that’s where third-party logistics is going.”

“Let’s not waste packaging.”

Rob also predicts swelling interest in circular supply chains.

“We’ve got to wake up and start making our supply chains much more sustainable in every element of the supply chain,” Rob says.

“We’ve paid lip service to it and there are companies around the world that we hold up and say, ‘Look what they’re doing; they’re amazing.’

“But I think generally as an industry we’re just not really very good at it. People think it’s about reverse logistics but it’s not. It’s about removing waste in our products too.” 

“Let’s not waste transport; let’s not waste packaging.”

“Supply chains aren’t competing against each other.”

Finally, Rob says supply chains have the opportunity to work together.

“We’ve been very slow in collaboration,” Rob says.

“I think in supply chain, a lot of companies have been fearful of sharing warehousing sharing transport – that physical end of the supply chain – because their competitors are going to see what they are doing.”

“We’ve had that mantra for years that supply chains compete, not companies. I don’t know that they do anymore.

“I think it’s more about brands and it’s about service. I really don’t see a reason why we can’t see a lot more collaboration in our supply chains.”

Rob O’Byrne is CEO of Logistics Bureau and one of the top 10 supply chain influencers on social media.

This interview is part of “The Future of Supply Chain Now” – a week of webcasts with the fresh opinions from the most influential people in supply chain. Brought to you by IBM Sterling Supply Chain and Procurious. Read more on Digitally Perfecting the Supply Chain and How Inventory Visibility will Drastically Effect the Customer Experience.

Is It Fair Game, Or Not OK, To Send Your Supplier A Letter Demanding Cost Cuts?

Is it acceptable – or not – to send your supplier a letter asking for a discount? You would be surprised…


Here at Procurious, we’re always trying to be progressive, challenge the status quo and push for our profession to be more innovative and value-adding. And in good news, we’re starting to see that many in our community feel the same. How do we know? 

In a now-viral post on LinkedIn, our Founder, Tania Seary, posited the question: Is it fair, or not okay, to send your supplier a letter asking for cost cuts? 50,000 views and 60 comments later, we now know this is a hot topic for our community!

It’s something we’ve debated before, but not to this degree. So in times where businesses all over the world are struggling, and there’s more pressure on procurement than ever before to secure discounts and keep organisations moving (or afloat?), is it fair game to demand cost cuts from your suppliers? Here’s a snapshot of what everyone thought … see if you agree. 

‘A stuck in the nineties’ approach

The vast majority of people who commented on our post did agree that this year has been a particularly challenging one for businesses and by association, for procurement. One Senior Procurement Director summed it up when he said: 

‘Procurement leaders need to be looking for cost reductions to support the strained financial positions of their organisations.’ 

Yet should those cost reductions come from a demand letter sent to your supplier? Many people did not think it was okay to send your supplier a letter demanding cost cuts, regardless of the organisation’s circumstances. In the main, procurement professionals thought this approach was akin to a ‘power play’ and was a little arrogant, giving off the attitude that a big organisation is simply ‘a big brand, doing it because they can.’ 

Many procurement professionals recognised that while this tactic may have been appropriate at some other time, it no longer was. In fact, many people made reference to the nineties as a time where this may have been acceptable … but realised that those days were far gone. One person noted: 

‘This practice [the practice of demanding reductions] was used at Volkswagen in the 90s under its famous CPO. Though it showed a lot of success at the time, I believe such a practice belongs to the 90s – a lot has changed since then.’ 

Why doesn’t this approach work? 

Beyond the fact that the practice of sending a letter asking for a discount seemed ‘old-school,’ many professionals noted that for at least a few reasons, this tactic doesn’t actually work. 

The first reason why people thought this wouldn’t work was because essentially, demanding a discount goes against all the good work that procurement usually does in developing meaningful and strategic supplier relationships. Procurement professionals always need to remember that suppliers exist within a delicate business ecosystem, and it’s best to manage this responsibly: 

‘Customers depend on suppliers and vice versa. It’s a big ecosystem, and [we all need to remember that] if you squeeze out small suppliers and competition lessens, costs will inevitably increase.’ 

Beyond this, though, when making demands of suppliers, procurement professionals need to remember their negotiation training, insomuch as: 

‘Blind one-size-fits-all letters are a forced outcome, not a negotiated win-win discussion.’ 

What’s the alternative? 

It seems that within the procurement community, sending letters requesting discounts is absolutely a no-go. But in a time where discounts might, for some companies, be needed more than ever, what is the alternative? 

Being the savvy community that it is, procurement professionals had plenty of better options when it came to negotiating a better price. 

The most popular suggestion was to employ a process to assess cost saving opportunities in partnership with your supplier. This would lead, according to a few different people, to the supplier further negotiating, and then a potential automatic reduction in expenses for both. 

The other option available is to negotiate better terms, a tactic used often, but which should be done through a strategic lens. One person recommended that we all should: 

‘Engage with our suppliers and explain what we need in terms of realistic cost savings and the end goal.’ 

‘You’ve got many tools at your disposal, including SRM and category management, so much so that you need never revert to the dreadful “give me money off or else” letters.’ 

Do you agree? Or would you still send a letter requesting a discount if you needed it? Let us know in the comments below.