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Three Reasons Why Procurement Has A Beautiful Future

Why should you be excited about procurement’s future? Three experts weigh in as we close out 2020 and look forward to a new year.


Now is the perfect time to be in procurement.

Think about it – when have we ever enjoyed so much trust, influence, and freedom to make changes?

We asked three experts why they’re excited about procurement’s future.

We can protect our companies 

Procurement is finally shedding its image as a support function. Now the c-suite is learning how much strategic value we can add.

Just ask Dr. Jonnie Penn, an artificial intelligence expert at the University of Cambridge and keynote speaker at the 2020 Big Ideas Summit.

He says the last 40 years of supply chain management were characterised by a push for efficiency.

“We see now that that’s too fragile a metric amid deglobalisation,” Penn says. 

“You need to start to incorporate other measures that give you security in the resilience of your system. 

“In the past you might have made a push for weekly or monthly planning. We’re now looking at a shift to continuous planning.” 

That puts supply chain management forward strategic leaders, able to prevent future disruption.

And the c-suite desperately needs that help.

Just look at one pharmaceutical CEO, who predicts the industry will move from global supply chains to more localised providers.

You have the opportunity to use data in a similar way to improve resilience.

But you might have to think about the way you see data, says Penn.

Great data meets three criteria:

  • Real-time
  • Structured in a way that’s easy to consolidate
  • Combines information from lots of different areas

Penn calls this ‘thick’ data, “which means that as opposed to just hiring let’s say a data scientist to crunch your numbers you’re also bringing in remote sensor engineers or ethnographers, sociologists.”

Those different perspectives are crucial to finding the best solutions.

We can drive innovation  

And that includes collaborating with your suppliers. 

Just look at Apple.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, the screen was plastic.

Yet the next day, Jobs noticed the screen was covered in scratches and called his VP of Operations, Jeff Williams, demanding a glass screen for the official release.

Williams said it couldn’t be done in just six months. Every glass prototype they tried had smashed, and it would take years to create a shatter-resistant, thin glass.

But Jobs insisted.

So Williams worked with speciality manufacturing company Corning to create damage-resistant Gorilla Glass in time for the launch.

Now every smartphone in the world uses Gorilla Glass.

It’s interesting to note Williams joined Apple as Head of Worldwide Procurement. He’s now COO and tipped to replace CEO Tim Cook someday.

That proves procurement teams can meet specific business needs by working with suppliers to innovate, says Dr. Marcell Vollmer, Partner and Director at Boston Consulting Group

He says every procurement function of the future will drive supply innovations – including saving our environment.

Dr. Penn agrees. 

“To go it alone is just not sustainable,” Penn says. “You need to look at building common frameworks and using standardisation.”

And that includes sustainability.

We can save our environment

After all, Penn cites McKinsey research that 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and 90% of the impact on biodiversity come from the way supply chains are managed.

Depressing, right? It’s actually great news. It means we can have a huge influence on creating a sustainable supply chain – together.

Penn uses the example of the 240 million packages sent daily. Of that, 40% is dead space.

But new technology can scan each object and use optimal packaging. 

“That means that you can reduce the 40% air and ultimately all the derivative effects, down the supply chain of the plastic use and shipping and storage requirements.”

Another example is monitoring factory emissions in real time by combining satellite imagery with machine learning.

Clearly, there are countless ways supply chain professionals can make the planet better, says Supply Chain Revolution CEO Sheri Hinish.

“Supply chains are the conduit for building a better world; designing a better world,” Hinish says.

“We can come from different backgrounds, different parts of the world but at our core, we fundamentally want the same things. 

“So, it’s real and when you think about collaborating within a global context… this is what wakes me up every morning – to create a world that’s bearable, viable and equitable.”

Our beautiful future

That’s why all three of our experts say procurement has a beautiful future.

Combine your skills with technology advancements, and you’ll have endless opportunities to lead significant change.

And if that seems daunting, don’t worry; you’ve got experts on your side.

“Feel free to be in touch as you develop your data strategy and your AI strategy to accomplish your sustainability and resilience goals, says Dr. Penn.