Thoughts on Crowd Sourcing

Image of Crowdsourcing Innovation

SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Noah Wilson discusses how crowdsourcing could be the innovation that businesses need to succeed in a rapidly changing environnment.

Crowdsourcing will play a much more significant role in business due to a lack of highly specialized labor (in the STEM fields specifically) and corporate desire to reduce costs in procurement. A decade ago, outsourcing procurement and engineering functions to a crowdsourcing organization would have seemed radically innovative, especially in regulated utilities. But the workforce has changed. 
The COVID pandemic made working from home the mainstream. Our plants are in remote locations that generally require long commutes for the onsite labor. And there is no future in which this will not be the case. Operating the plant is a hands-on endeavor; even the buyers must be in person to support the internal stakeholders (planners and engineers).
Historically, power plants employed all the necessary workers to maintain and operate the facility in-house. Also, the facilities were almost exclusively coal plants, and many engineers and suppliers were in circulation to help support them. Back then, we held more of the leverage for purchasing and labor.
Today, coal power is on the downside of its life cycle as more and more plants are retired, along with the workers who possess the specialized skills to operate and repair them. As the supply base gets smaller, so does our leverage in purchasing the necessary materials for the plant. Worse yet, finding and keeping employees with the industry knowledge required to keep the plant running has become more complex. Therefore, these individuals are company employees who manage contractors brought onsite for specific functions. 
A crowdsourcing organization could be the solution to this highly competitive labor market. A crowdsourcing organization of engineers and operators could be used to facilitate plant outage and capital expenditure projects. If the significant goal of regulated utilities is to provide a public service, bringing all these people together will create a more solid foundation for plant operations. 
Furthermore, outsourcing smaller consumables purchasing to the crowd would open onsite buyers to more specialized purchases. Instead of wasting 30 minutes chasing down an RMA for a 20-dollar pair of gloves, I could collaborate with my internal customers on the essential components we need to purchase for the plant. 
Anyone can write a simple PO for inventory consumables without even being on-site to see the products they are purchasing. But to buy a valve that may have been in inventory for ten years and needs to be replaced, I need to be onsite and possess the knowledge to find the right engineer or supplier to source the part. The value of an onsite buyer is their familiarity with the niche inventory products and ability to operate with a small selection of suppliers.
In an industry that is constantly shrinking, we need to use innovations to create economies of scale and cut costs where possible. That innovation could very well be crowdsourcing.

The Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) Program is a 10-week course that focuses on the hard and soft skills of sourcing, including strategic sourcing and outsourcing methodologies, as well as best practices in negotiations.


Noah Wilson, Buyer, Louisville Gas and Electric

I am Noah Wilson from Simpsonville Kentucky. I graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky’s Gatton School of Business in 2022 and received a degree in management and finance. My current position is Buyer with Pennsylvania Power and Light at the Trimble County Generating Station.