Buyers Meeting Point procurement by Kelly Barner

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Let's End the Buyer-Supplier Negotiation Countertactics Spiral

Let's End the Buyer-Supplier Negotiation Countertactics Spiral

This post was originally featured on Design News.

Every interaction a company has with its suppliers can set off an endless series of tactics and countertactics. It's like a wrestling match. Both sides invest so much time and effort in trying to anticipate the next steps by the other that the focus is turned away from the best interests of their organizations. This comes especially true during the negotiation phase of the procurement process.

Negotiations between buyers and suppliers have traditionally assumed a zero-sum outcome: Each party does not benefit except at the expense of the other. The end result of this tactic/countertactics spiral is a combination of inefficient decision-making, obscured visibility, and contentious working relationships. 

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Standing Tall Beside Amazon in Electronic Component Distribution

Standing Tall Beside Amazon in Electronic Component Distribution

Note: This post originally ran on Design News.

There’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room. It’s called Amazon. Yet not everyone sees it as inevitable that the e-commerce and distribution giant will dominate electronic component distribution.

In a recent interview with Tom Galligani, global vice president of supply chain for distributor Future Electronics, I asked for his views on Amazon’s invasion of the B2B space. Given the size and power of Amazon, you might expect distributors like Future Electronics to be prepared to be put out of business, but that is not the case. In fact, Amazon’s entry into the B2B marketplace creates a unique set of opportunities for buyers as well as suppliers or distributors.

Nevertheless, like others in the electronic components distribution industry and beyond, Galligani and his team are keeping a close eye on Jeff Bezos’ $90 billion e-commerce behemoth. Amazon may have gotten its start with an unbeatable B2C experience, but it has made inroads -- both organically and through acquisition -- into the B2B market.

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The Power Triangle in Electronic Component Specifying and Purchasing

The Power Triangle in Electronic Component Specifying and Purchasing

This post was originally run on Design News.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mark Larson, the vice chairman of electronic component distributor Digi-Key Electronics. The company was founded in 1972, and Larson joined only four years later to what is now one of the largest such companies not only in North America but the world. He led the company as president for an astounding 39 years, just recently stepping down in July.

In the four decades during which Larson ran Digi-Key, there was considerable change -- in the electronics being sold, in whom the products were sold to, and in the supply chains the products traveled through. The other thing that has changed is the way Digi-Key interacts with different points of contact at each customer. Although it has always aimed its marketing efforts at design engineers -- and continues to do so -- it has had to adapt to the growing role of centralized procurement in managing purchases.

Since the interactions between engineering and procurement have not always been naturally easy, the insertion of a third party into the electronic component purchasing process has brought some benefits. When looked at from an outsider’s point of view, the two teams may have more in common than they realize.

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Guest Post on Design News: Should Approved Vendor Lists Be More in Line with Design Cycles?

Guest Post on Design News: Should Approved Vendor Lists Be More in Line with Design Cycles?

According to joint research done by Design News and Exploration and Insights in 2014, 67% of companies have design cycles of 3-12 months. The remaining 33% of survey participants are almost evenly divided between design cycles requiring longer than a year and those taking less than three months. Regardless of their length, we can be sure all of those teams are looking for ways to shorten them, without sacrificing quality or functionality, so that they can be first to market and get the greater share of customers.

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While the need to speed up design cycles is top of mind today, it is not a new initiative. In fact, 20 years ago, Design News published what you might call a “multi-generational design engineering retrospective.” As stated in “Engineering Megatrends,” published on Aug. 28, 1995, “Since the first caveman decided to capitalize on his best idea for a new club, businesses have operated on the principle that the first to get to market owns the market — at least for awhile.” With increased competition from all corners of the globe, and the nearly universal consumer fascination with having the latest, most innovative products, cutting time to market is now a critical element of competitive advantage.”

Despite this pervasive emphasis on “faster, sooner, better,” the same organizations that have multiple design cycles a year only update their approved vendor lists (AVLs) on an annual basis.

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Guest Post on Design News: Your Supplier is Not Your Friend

Guest Post on Design News: Your Supplier is Not Your Friend

Companies should never confuse a supply relationship with friendship. In fact, part of the role of any good provider is to challenge its clients in a productive way. Many times, companies outsource in order to transfer the majority of risk to suppliers.

In June, Design News hosted a webcast on product lifecycle management presented by team members at Sparton, a firm that handles the both design and manufacturing efforts for low/medium-volume, high-complexity components. Their presentation, “Why Product Lifecycle Management Is an Emerging Trend,” included all of the cost, timing, and supply chain implications of PLM.  

During the webcast, Sparton presenters spoke about the importance of building relationships with key suppliers. That emphasis makes sense because, in Sparton’s role as an outsourcing provider to manufacturing companies, the company sees advantages realized with those that they are able to partner with versus those that hold them at arm’s length or push back on project recommendations.

Good suppliers will bring their interests into alignment with those of their clients and make sure that the risks they are being asked to bear do not come back to bite their clients in the end. They understand that there are costs associated with each risk and, in order to service their customers efficiently, suppliers need to help them root out the causes of those risks.

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Guest Post on Design News: Understanding the Differences between Strategic Sourcing Goals, Objectives, and Requirements

Guest Post on Design News: Understanding the Differences between Strategic Sourcing Goals, Objectives, and Requirements

Early in the course of a product design and manufacturing organization’s strategic sourcing project it is common to have a kickoff meeting that includes the engineering team. It is the opportunity for the sourcing project team to lay the groundwork for the rest of the effort. One of the most critical discussions that should be a part of the kickoff is around the goals, objectives, and requirements for the project.

This is an effort to be taken seriously by both procurement, which should facilitate the discussion, and engineering, which provides critical inputs. Unlike a mission statement, which is often dismissed as being an overly soft (and largely meaningless) feel-good expression of early-stage enthusiasm, goals, objectives, and requirements are tools that will be used actively in the sourcing project once it reaches the decision-making stage.

When I worked as a consultant at a procurement solutions provider, I held workshops on kickoffs for the procurement teams I coached, as part of their project management skills development. There are two tricky lessons to be learned about goals, objectives, and requirements: how to formulate them and how to tell in which category an idea belongs.

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Guest Post on Design News: Strategic Sourcing Processes are Designed to Ensure Good Decision Making

Guest Post on Design News: Strategic Sourcing Processes are Designed to Ensure Good Decision Making

While people may talk about the procurement process, the procurement discipline actually encompasses a number of different processes. They include spend analysis, supplier relationship management, and contract management, just to name a few. If you have ever worked with procurement, there is a good chance that it was during the strategic sourcing process. Strategic sourcing touches many other stakeholder groups in an organization, such as engineering, as well as supply partners -- both current and prospective.

For engineers, if you are asked to be part of a strategic sourcing project team, you will probably learn early on that there is a standard, defined project management approach just like any other discipline would have, including product design and development. The process that guides this approach may include six steps or more, but it clearly divides the project effort into phases such as the identification of a need through the contract award as well as supplier performance management. Starting at a very high level, the process gradually narrows down the potential outcomes as more is learned and the company better understands the requirements that will ultimately guide its final supplier and sourcing decision.

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