Buyers Meeting Point procurement by Kelly Barner

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Are Smart Contracts the Future of Contracting?

Are Smart Contracts the Future of Contracting?

Some of you may be aware of smart contracts. They are a new approach to contracting which uses technology to execute and enforce the negotiated terms. In this article we explore what the future of contracting may look like with smart contracts.

What is a Smart Contract?

In essence it is the creation of a contract using computer code rather than the written word. The computer software is then used to enforce and manage the contract, enabling both parties to utilise the contract as a living breathing document.

“’Smart contract’ can refer to any contract which is capable of
executing and/or enforcing itself.”

 

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Nearshoring: Why now?

Nearshoring: Why now?

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.

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Are Suppliers Faceless Entities?

Are Suppliers Faceless Entities?

The term supplier is banded around with such ease, yet has it devalued the relationship and removed the individual, resulting in generic and stale business relationships?

The supplier

The associated business activity of a supplier is simple enough: the supplier delivers goods/services to the buyer in order to fulfil a contractual requirement. However, the challenge is that the term can also be used in many other ways. For example:

  • It can be used as an excuse to blame poorly structured contracts. “The supplier didn’t agree”

  • It can be used to justify the buyer not doing something they don’t want to do “the supplier didn’t support it”

In essence the word “supplier” is used as a generic label to cover all and any activity between the buyer and their supply chain.

Labels

Society has a habit of labelling many areas of the world we live in, ranging from how one’s spouse might be identified “The wife/husband” through to labelling social, economic, political, regional, and religious groups.

When a label is used it can de-humanise the individual. Sometimes this is a deliberate approach to make it easier to talk about a wider group, however when used incorrectly it can also have a detrimental effect on how the individual identifies their value and how others evaluate their contribution.

Human relationships are behind all commercial contracts, and so de-humanising the relationship may feel like a convenient model for addressing multiple aspects but one needs to question if it will really drive the best out of the relationship.

Who Cares?

When we look at the relationship between the buying organisation and their supply chain, we see a trend. Suppliers who are valued are rarely labelled as “the supplier” but are identified by either the company name or account team members. When this supplier is discussed internally, the ability to name the company/account team demonstrates to the business the value placed upon the relationship.  This has a knock on effect within both organisations, a greater focus placed on the human relationships creates a stronger desire to accommodate and collaborate.

With more and more automation being introduced into the procurement processes, it has the capability to remove the human relationship aspect of doing business. Now more than ever one needs to focus on how labels are applied within business.

Collaboration

Collaboration remains an undeveloped area of business opportunity, with few organisations able to say they collaborate with their entire supply base. Collaboration can take many forms but they all require a human desire to want to engage. The level of support buying organisations can generate from their supply chain may be directly influenced by how the supply chain has been labelled.

The future

The next time you discuss “the supplier” you may want to reflect if it is being used to truly reflect the larger community or to cover up other underlying issues. It is human nature to blame a faceless entity when convenient such as “The Business believes XXXX,” however to get the most out of others you need to respect who they are and what they bring to the relationship.

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Spend Analysis 101

Spend Analysis 101

As a procurement professional, I am frequently tasked with conducting a spend analysis on behalf of current and potential clients, but for those outside of the industry, this may be an unfamiliar exercise. In this post, I will attempt to provide a crash course on spend analysis, answering some of the most commonly asked questions about the topic: What is a spend analysis? Why should I do one? And finally, how do I do it?

A spend analysis is a very broad term that refers to… you guessed it! Analyzing the spend of an organization with the objective of understanding where money is being spent and where there may be opportunity for cost savings or process efficiencies. Spend analyses are conducted by procurement professionals in an attempt to get a comprehensive view of all of an organization’s expenditures and they are frequently the starting point for beginning the strategic sourcing process. There are a number of benefits to conducting a spend analysis, but the most important is transparency. A spend analysis provides a holistic view of all spend (indirect and/or direct) in a given time period, typically during a fiscal or calendar year. By doing this, you are able to gain visibility into where spend is being allocated, who the top suppliers are, how many suppliers you use for certain services, and areas of opportunity. For decentralized organizations, a spend analysis may reveal potential service redundancies across departments/brands and provide insights into areas of consolidation across supply bases. Along the same lines, a spend analysis provides organizations with the information needed to increase spend control by showing where and how spend/budgets are being allocated. Although there are many reasons why an organization would conduct a spend analysis, the benefits are consistent.

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Should procurement be paid commission?

Should procurement be paid commission?

It is not uncommon for procurement to receive a bonus payment based on the savings the department has achieved. In this post we discuss if procurement would benefit more from being on a salary plus commission payment structure.

AFTER READING, TAKE OUR TWITTER POLL: Should procurement be paid commission?

The traditional approach for calculating pre-contract savings is to obtain a minimum of three supplier quotes, select the mean as the base point then count the additional savings achieved above the base point. The challenge for the CFO is because the savings are subjective, they are unable to truly identify tangible and quantifiable savings from procurement’s impact, therefore the level of bonus they might apportion directly to procurement is limited.


 

Assessing bid submissions based not just on initial costs but total forecasted end to end costs is becoming more prevalent as businesses take a wider view of the true cost of ownership. However, since the model for encouraging procurement to strive for savings remains focused on the bid submission, applying this approach to determine bonus compensation has a high likelihood of conflict. The bonus payment approach could arguably be stated as outdated, thereby creating an opportunity for procurement. An alternative approach might be to replace the bonus model with a commission structure, based on the end to end total contract savings.

 

Procurement benefits would include:

  • Ability to be recognised for the full business value a team/individual delivers.
  • Encourages and rewards end to end contract ownership and relationship management.
  • Encourages post-contract collaboration, ultimately leading to the possibility of generating post-contract savings within the same contract term.

 

The potential benefits for the business include:

  1. Maximises pre and post-contract savings.  Post-contract savings is an area currently underdeveloped as the main focus remains on pre-contract savings, which is understandable given it is the main area for bonus achievement.
  2. Creates a catalyst for procurement cultural change, focused on supplier collaboration and successful implementation. This unlocks the supply chain and drives innovation and collaboration across the business to increase bottom line profits.
  3. Ensures operational costs are kept to a minimum.
  4. Encourages and rewards end to end contract, maximising contract savings

 

There are many people within procurement who have “fallen” into the role rather than pro-actively sought to become procurement professionals. Even those who have deliberately sought after the role, few may still believe it was a good career choice. The change to commission based compensation has the potential to raise procurement salaries to new levels, provide a catalyst for change, and enable procurement to reflect their full business value, which could in turn could attract new talent and retain experience that is sorely needed.

Like all new ideas, there is an upside but also a downside. Moving onto a commission structure based on the overall savings from successfully managing the contract could quickly lead to some personnel being identified as under delivering. The key to gaining business support in this initiative is by demonstrating greater profitability for the CFO in undertaking this route. The central question is: does procurement want to undertake this direction?

 

 

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Would You Buy From You?

Would You Buy From You?

If you were to review your own procurement team’s achievements and capabilities from the perspective of a customer, would you buy from you?

The principle of using an internal business function which is currently a cost centre, and turning it into an revenue generating business proposition, is not new. Examples can be found in most areas ranging from IT through to Finance. The principle is based on creating such a leading business function others will pay to use.

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The Legacy Telecom Disadvantage

The Legacy Telecom Disadvantage

How often can you find 80% savings in your telecom bills? When it comes to legacy services, more often than you’d think!

In all industries there are mergers and acquisitions: Telecommunications and Technology being one where M&As occur more frequently than most. These changes can have significant impacts on the products and services customers are purchasing in terms of the actual technology being offered and the prices they are paying for it.

 

I recently completed an audit for a customer in the healthcare industry where I was asked to review their telecommunications invoices and look for more cost effective solutions than their current voice services. The first thing I noticed was how high their bills were for basic voice services - almost 480% higher than normal industry standards! The customer had not really looked at their bills for years and simply continued to pay the same monthly charges thinking all was right as rain. Understandably, patients are the priority for them - not the cost of their phone service. For this specific customer, the technology they had in place was a legacy service where the underlying carrier had recently been bought by a global industry leader, who had subsequently developed more cost effective products offering the same functionality at a much lower price. Unfortunately, carriers do not always offer up the insight into technology changes and lower cost options when it is in their best interest to keep the higher price bills in effect.

Presented below are some quick tips for reviewing your telecom bills to determine if a change in service is viable, beneficial, or more cost effective:   

  • Recurring Charges: How long have you been paying the same price? Pricing changes are common with technology-driven services. If you have had the same price for 3-5 years and under multiple contract terms, it is time to take a look at the market with fresh eyes. There are always compelling reasons or special circumstances for contracting a fixed price for longer terms such as newly implemented networks and systems; but for basic voice services…I don’t think so.
  • Time Passed Since Last Going-to-Market: As mentioned, most telecom companies are continuing to develop new innovative ideas and upgrades to their technology; most likely within 3 years of their current technology. If you have the same service in place for more than 5 years, it is probably time to take a look. I know “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; but why not just get a feel for what is available and for a potentially lower cost? After all, it may be up to procurement to determine when something is ‘broke.’ 
  • Contract terms: When was the last time you looked at your contract? Do you (really) know what your current terms are? If you cannot answer these questions, chances are the answer is probably too long and you are month-to-month or under some ridiculous auto renewal clause. It is important to read the small print in your contract as you could be committing to an unrealistic term length with no out...unless of course you are planning to spend more money with the same supplier for an even longer term.

When we presented the opportunity assessment to our healthcare client, they were understandably shocked. We moved forward by leveraging the market-competitive offers to contract a new technology at almost one fifth of the current cost. The soft dollar costs of implementing the new service were eclipsed by the overall savings, making this a huge financial and technological success.

As I encourage you to review your bills more closely, let me add that the idea of tracking down wasted spend and going to market for legacy products and services is not limited to the telecom industry. It can be applied to any business commodity and begins with simply questioning the products and services you’re paying for. 

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Five Signs of a Logistics Leader

Five Signs of a Logistics Leader

Leadership is a rare and valuable attribute that will separate a good professional from a great one. A leader will possess a unique vision and the ability to transform this into a tangible reality. Most importantly, a leader should inspire others to do the same.

A united, forward-looking outlook is the best way to continue to propel the logistics industry forward. As a fast-growing sector affected by globalisation and advancements in technology, innovators must be a driving force. Having access to new ideas will play a fundamental role in building each leader’s influence and unique impact on the organization.

Check out these five key signs of a logistics leaders to enhance your own professional standing.

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Robots, Warehouses, and Fulfillment

Robots, Warehouses, and Fulfillment

According to TechInsider, there are warehouse robots currently in place that could potentially boost productivity up to 800%. Yes, you read that correctly: eight hundred percent. With huge boosts in productivity, it comes as no surprise that companies such as Amazon are taking automation to the next level, but what impact will it have on their employees? If the numbers stack up, the robot takeover could be imminent, but that does not necessarily mean human warehouse employees will become obsolete.

As with most technological advances, employees must adapt.  Remember when basic computers were introduced to the workplace? Let’s take a look at some of the robots being used today, how they’re being utilized, and most importantly, what it means already or is going to mean for their human ‘coworkers.’

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The Contract as Catalyst for Cultural Change in Procurement

The Contract as Catalyst for Cultural Change in Procurement

Scenario 1: The supplier contacts you in writing to state they have submitted the wrong pricing in the bid…what is your first response?

 - Tough luck you submitted it

 - That’s typical of suppliers, always trying to trick you

  - Expect the price is going to increase

 - Interested to see if they are submitting a lower price

Scenario 2: The supplier approaches you and states they think they have a solution to deliver the contract more efficiently...what is your first feeling?

 - They are looking to upsell

  - I don’t believe them

  - They are trying to make me look bad

  - Want to discuss in a supportive and engaging manner

Scenario 3: The business reduces its requirements 2% in the contract and understandably do not want to pay for what is not required. Do you;

 - Tell the supplier to “suck it up” and not re-negotiate the contract

 - Re-negotiate the contract to ensure they are fairly compensated

 

Unfortunately we all know the responses because it is an attitude that is the default towards suppliers; confrontation & mistrust. For many within procurement it is a justified attitude because in the past any leniency has been abused by suppliers.

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How Millennials will Influence a Shift in Procurement Technology

How Millennials will Influence a Shift in Procurement Technology

Millennials are known for many things, and while there is no one ‘Millennial profile”, they are unquestionably natural with technology. Business technology is changing because providers are seeing demand trends from these digital natives. Since Millennials will make up 40% of the workforce by 2020, they are a group that will improve our current solutions because they have high expectations for technology. The challenge is to meet their expectations and bring more experienced users along with them.

 

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Continuous Cost Reduction for Direct Materials

Continuous Cost Reduction for Direct Materials

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.

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Making the Case for a More Diverse Supply Chain Part II – Supplier Evaluation

Making the Case for a More Diverse Supply Chain Part II – Supplier Evaluation

In the first part of this two-part series, I established the reasoning behind establishing a diverse supply chain in the nontraditional sense. Emphasis on maintaining a supply chain that is diverse in geographical location, capabilities, and overall corporate values is vital in maintaining supply chain resiliency, sustainability, and adaptability.  To achieve a supplier mix that fits these goals, the right questions must be asked during an internal supplier rationalization process, overtaking the traditional values of an RFx.

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Making the Case for a More Diverse Supply Chain

Making the Case for a More Diverse Supply Chain

Supplier diversity is a concept with multiple definitions.  Most commonly, a supplier diversity program focuses on the utilization of women owned, minority owned, and else certified diverse businesses within your supply base.  There is, however, another interpretation of supplier diversity – a diversity of geographical location, sourcing practices, and overall organizational structure.  Evaluating these factors in a meaningful way when evaluating suppliers can be an important factor in managing supply chain resiliency, sustainability, and adaptability.

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How to Successfully Break-Up With Your Incumbent Supplier

How to Successfully Break-Up With Your Incumbent Supplier

Anyone who has ever completed a Request for Proposal (RFP) has had the unfortunate experience of informing all but one or two suppliers they have not been awarded the business.  It may be difficult and at times uncomfortable, but when the unchosen supplier is the incumbent, there is more to manage than just this conversation.  How this transition process is handled can either help or hinder the success of moving to a new supplier relationship. There are a few steps you can take to smooth the transition and ensure all parties are as satisfied as possible.

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Best Practices to “Futureproof” Telecom Services

Best Practices to “Futureproof” Telecom Services

With the increased pressure to offer viable advantages over their competition, telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon have recently placed greater emphasis on how well equipped their networks are for the rapid increases in data consumption by consumers. While carriers show promising advances in “future proofing” their networks’ ability to accommodate such changes, it ultimately depends on how well their new network is designed to adapt to the rapidly changing technology available to meet increased demands. 

The way we do business is changing rapidly. Workplaces are virtual – with employees working flexibly: at any time, from any location, and using many different devices.  In the face of such continuous change, it is important to ask if your network infrastructure truly “futureproof.”  Whether your organization is national or global in scale, it is imperative to execute any infrastructure related improvements based on both immediate and future goals.

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Techniques for Accurately and Efficiently Forecasting Demand

Techniques for Accurately and Efficiently Forecasting Demand

This post was written by Michael Hinkley, an intern at Source One Management Services. If you are interesting in hearing his perspective on procurement as a career and as a part of the larger business, click here to listen to our conversation on BMP Radio.

Whether you’re preparing for a sourcing engagement or looking to improve supplier relationships, effective forecasting and planning is key to staying ahead of your supply chain and formulating a procurement blueprint. When buyers and sellers aren’t on the same page about expected volumes, usage schedules, and run sizes, both may experience surpluses or shortages. This, in turn, can lead to dire consequences for operational efficiency and the bottom line – yours and your suppliers’. For instance, the over unitization of warehouse space, as a result of a constant excess of inventory, will lead to increased effective unit prices. However, with accurate forecasting and improved supplier communication, you not only optimize your internal processes but allow your suppliers to run a more efficient operation with better turnover rates and proper resource allocation.

 

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A Deep Dive into the Cost Drivers of a Direct Mail Program – Part 2

A Deep Dive into the Cost Drivers of a Direct Mail Program – Part 2

Direct marketing is not a new advertising strategy, but the associated tactics often change with the latest trends and technologies. Direct mail is one tactic under the direct marketing umbrella that has stood the test of time despite the shift to digital in most other areas of the advertising space. This post is the second in a series of two that discusses direct mail as a tactic and the cost drivers that impact the cost of executing one of these programs. You can read part 1 here.

As we described previously, there are four main cost components of a direct mail program: mail lists, creative and design, print and lettershop, and postage. There are different strategies for each of these and managing the costs of some are more complicated than others. Mail lists and postage are the two components that require more than a standard sourcing process in order to identify areas of cost reduction.

Previously, we took an in-depth look at gaining access to mail lists as a cost driver for direct mail campaigns and the strategies that can be executed to manage those costs. This post will take a deep dive into postage as a cost driver and the different postage optimization strategies that can be implemented to reduce costs.

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A Deep Dive into the Cost Drivers of a Direct Mail Program – Part 1

A Deep Dive into the Cost Drivers of a Direct Mail Program – Part 1

While some may believe that direct mail programs have gone out of style similar to print advertising, industry trends indicate quite the opposite. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Statistical Fact Book, the spend associated with direct mail has been increasing over the past few years from approximately $44.3B in 2012 to $44.8B in 2013, and a decent leap to $46.0B in 2014 – and for good reason. The average response rate for a campaign targeting recurring customers was 3.4 percent for direct mail, compared to 0.12 percent with email. In addition, the average cost per lead for a campaign targeting new customers was $51.40 for direct mail; whereas email was $55.24, meaning that the cost to generate a qualified sales lead or order was about $4 less with direct mail than email.

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3 Things that Keep Global Procurement Execs Up at Night

3 Things that Keep Global Procurement Execs Up at Night

If there was any doubt that managing the supply chain is also an exercise in managing risk, just ask someone who works in procurement – particularly the world of direct procurement. These professionals patrol the front lines of the manufacturer-supplier relationship, overseeing their company’s purchasing activity, executing purchase orders, and working with multiple stakeholders to ensure the right materials make it to the right place at an optimal cost.

It would seem procurement leaders thrive on a steady diet of pressure and caffeine. But even the most experienced professionals have their limits. Several experts weighed in on the topic this spring at the University of Tennessee Supply Chain Forum.

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