Ken Ballard is a supply chain Project Manager at Source One Management Services, responsible for leading sourcing events to optimize the spend and operations of clients in the areas of supply chain and IT, working directly with the clients and their respective suppliers through all stages of the strategic sourcing project – from data collection, through selecting and conducting go-to-market strategies, to negotiation and contracting, to implementation.
In today’s competitive market landscape, simply having a centralized procurement organization is only the first step to better managed supplier relationships and spend. Leading organizations are quickly realizing that procurement and sourcing groups can offer far more value than tactical support. World-class procurement groups aren’t focused on processing POs and fulfilling orders. Rather, they’re focused on supporting each business unit at a strategic level.
Fleet operations can absolutely be an overwhelming category to manage. Between deciding on the right vehicle manufacturer, understanding the ever-changing vehicle features, selecting the appropriate maintenance plans, managing fluctuating fuel costs, and more – the active time required is substantial. However, rather than looking at this category as a mountainous challenge, Fleet should be seen as a major cost saving opportunity.
There are multiple triggers for evaluating the fleet category from the top down beyond just due diligence:
Evaluating internal versus external management of the fleet.
Mergers and acquisitions will prompt the evaluation and consolidation of fleet operations.
A new company strategy may mandate the need for a new fleet policy.
Maybe the organization lacks a concrete fleet policy or management structure and has outgrown a passive management phase.
In all of these hypothetical situations, a few best practices can be used for an effective category evaluation that enables both cost savings and process optimization.
For any of the reasons listed above, the fleet evaluation/optimization process benefits from taking a two-pronged approach that includes both a comprehensive OEM evaluation and a Fleet Management Services (FMS) provider evaluation. If the fleet administration and management function is housed internally, this two-pronged approach still applies in terms of analyzing the internally managed program (reactive and preventative maintenance programs, acquisition and resale processes, etc.).
As we covered in Nearshoring: Why Now?, outsourcing production operations to Mexico (or nearshoring) offers a number of tangible and intangible benefits over traditional “low-cost” country sourcing. Take China as a prime example: with labor rates in China, on average, exceeding those in Mexico since approximately 2013 and holding an advantage in productivity per worker, Mexico is increasingly becoming a hub for U.S.-based companies looking to transplant their supply chain operations. In moving operations closer to home, many companies are either fully or partially outsourcing manufacturing to suppliers in Mexico and in some cases, even placing full production facilities in that country. Sourcing suppliers in Mexico, however, is not without its obstacles: challenges that can quickly halt nearshoring operations for unprepared companies.
When you think of outsourcing manufacturing operations, what country do you typically think of? China? Vietnam? Philippines? Yes, Asia is typically the go-to region for companies looking to cut costs by outsourcing production processes - and for good reason. Asia possesses both the labor and raw material resources to make the region an effective substitute to higher cost labor in the U.S. and the limited availability of certain raw materials in North America.
While outsourcing to low-cost countries such as China has its benefits (i.e. labor/overhead costs, raw material costs, scalability, freeing up the business’ time to focus on other critical functions, etc.) it comes with challenges as well. Lead times, language barriers, time zone differences, IP integrity, and a general lack of physical presence make outsourcing certain functions a constant struggle for US-based manufacturers and can outweigh the initial savings gained over the long-term. Companies oftentimes look at the price-tag of outsourcing functions such as IT support or manufacturing assembly work, figuring the decision is obvious. However, to minimize risk and to optimize/streamline domestic manufacturing operations it is important to weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing, especially in deciding which low-cost region to outsource to, which processes to outsource, and which partner(s) to use.
Continuous cost reduction in the manufacturing industry is a supply chain best practice, but all too often it is mistakenly seen as unsustainable by strategic sourcing and procurement departments. For many companies the question is, ‘how can I reduce costs while limiting the impact on quality?’ Before jumping right to substituting materials, there are other options for delivering cost savings - yes, even over time.