The ‘app boom’ is widely recognized to be slowing as we approach the half way mark of 2017. Success stories such as Snapchat and Uber remain (in terms of continued, steep growth), but the aggregate growth in the app market has started to decline for the first time Apple introduced the App Store in 2008. The truth is, most people have already downloaded all the apps they need. The market is already saturated with apps that satisfy our basic needs: travel/directions, calendars, messaging, social media, gaming, news, weather, etc. This fact is well known by tech giants such as Facebook and their eyes are already on the next opportunity: bot technology.
“We take a buck, we shoot it full of steroids and we call it leverage.” -Gordon Gecko (Wall Street 2)
Leverage - a word that has such meaning it could be used to define itself. When it comes to negotiating, leverage is king. Whether you’re trying to negotiate a multimillion dollar contract or figuring out how to get an extra quart of strawberries included with your purchase at the local farmer’s market, people are always searching for it, and without it you have nothing. Having no ground to stand on when attempting to ask for a compromise from another party is not an ideal position.
Each purchasing category, whether indirect or direct, has a unique set of parameters that can be optimized to take full advantage the savings opportunities in the market. The packaging category is no exception, offering major opportunities for cost savings beyond the basic volume leverage approach.
Packaging, which may be considered either a direct or indirect product depending on the use and company, can be particularly complex to take to market. Many organizations strive to find a supply base that can support the company’s needs while generating value. Taking into consideration the upfront investment of time and resources (without a guaranteed ROI), running a competitive bid process can be an intimidating endeavor for many companies. However, with the proper expertise, packaging is an area of spend with major cost reduction and value added opportunities.
As I mentioned in Achieving World-Class Procurement Part 1, today’s increasingly competitive market landscape is driving organizations to reinvest in their procurement and strategic sourcing departments like never before. Beyond establishing centralized purchasing operations, best-in-class companies are elevating their procurement organizations by taking a deeper look at people, processes, technology, and metrics and optimizing them in ways that support enterprise-wide goals – through procurement transformation. Transformation initiatives allow companies to gain more value from their procurement operations, moving from a reactionary model focused on reducing costs to a more proactive approach to managing spend that streamlines purchasing practices and enhances supplier relationships.
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.).
Although we’re a few weeks past the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy now, the shake up left experts, businessmen, companies, and customers alike wondering what other events could potentially jeopardize their operation or interfere with getting the product they ordered on time. There are countless risks in a globalized economy, making it a subject of relentless discussion among academics. That being said, some of the biggest companies in the world still do not have a team dedicated to risk management for their supply chain and procurement operations. A recent report by ATKearney and RapidRatings on managing supply risk in uncertain times found that “leaders have struggled to manage the latent risk in their extended supply chains. Most cite lack of bandwidth and budget as the biggest roadblocks. Dedicating scarce resources to prevent or minimize the impact of an issue that might never occur is often not a priority.”
With globalized supply chain operations, risk is growing and managing it is more critical than ever. Some risk factors have been greatly discussed in the industry, and others not so much. Below are a few of the risks threatening global supply chains as well as solutions and action items.
When you just look at a purchase from a pricing perspective, it would be reasonable to think that purchasing products directly from the manufacturer be an effective way to reduce unnecessary overhead and markup costs. While I generally find this to be true in practice, if it were that black and white the large number of distributors thriving in today’s markets would cease to exist. Manufacturers and distributors each have strengths and weaknesses, but in a strategic purchasing landscape you do not always need to choose between the two. In fact, developing a balanced relationship with manufacturers AND distributors often proves to yield the most value, particularly with high volume purchases.
The following is the transcript from a recent BMP Radio interview with Brian Seipel and James Patounas, both from Source One. If you would like to listen to the podcast, please click here.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the past few years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been cracking down on unethical billing practices at major telecom carriers like Verizon and AT&T. This past October, Verizon paid as much as $64.2M in cash and phone credits to settle a class-action lawsuit for over-charging subscribers of their Family Plan[i].
The case against Verizon accused the telecommunications giant of charging Family Plan subscribers for “in-network” minutes that were supposed to be free, or charging customers with additional phones on the plan $0.45 per minute going over the allotted minute allowance (instead of the $0.25 that was charged to the primary phone on the plan).
The FTC also filed suit against AT&T for throttling data for unlimited data plan subscribers when they used over a specific amount of data during a billing cycle. They explained that AT&T failed to adequately inform customers who had signed up for the unlimited data plan that their speeds would be slowed if they used more than a certain amount of data. Even worse, “When customers canceled their contracts after being throttled, AT&T charged those customers early termination fees, which typically amount to hundreds of dollars,” the FTC said in a statement.[ii]
Telecom contracts aren’t designed to be easy to read and understand. As a result, customers frequently end up paying more than they should for their carrier’s services. While the cases of Verizon and AT&T are the result of dishonest billing practices, customers often fall victim to subpar contract terms and conditions, including overpaying or even paying for services they don’t actually need.