Not long ago, rising labor costs sparked a trend among U.S manufacturers to seeking alternative sources in the Far East. But as many who moved production overseas have found, transportation costs abroad can quickly add up and be three to four times the amount of sourcing from domestic suppliers. Couple this with the time-to-market challenges related to suppliers being so far away, and unless there is a huge labor arbitrage, outsourcing does not make a lot of economic sense. Despite huge cost savings, companies have to worry about other problems like worker safety, child labor, and pollution, which can very quickly create significant risk and ultimately affect brand image. And that can have a potentially catastrophic impact on performance and profits. So a lot of companies are starting to bring production back and focusing where they should have in the first place, which is on managing risk. Whether companies are using domestic suppliers or overseas suppliers as part of their supply chain, a robust and programmatic approach to managing them is needed to reduce both supply and overall business risk. In today's global economy where time-to-market requirements are faster than ever, you need total visibility into supplier information alongside sophisticated analysis and data sharing that goes beyond traditional sourcing and supplier management. Having 360-degree visibility into supplier information and performance, for instance you can anticipate disruptions to supply and prevent them before they occur. Many companies are using innovative technologies to gain this view, tapping into business networks to syndicate supplier information and using predictive intelligence to uncover supply chain risks. When combined with the insights and intelligence that live in these networks and tools such as community ratings, and risk scores from firms such as Dun & Bradstreet and third-party sources, these technologies simplify the arduous task of managing suppliers.
Sundar Kamakshisundaram, Senior Director, Global Solutions Marketing, Ariba, an SAP company
The weeks following a Summit are always kind of sad. The euphoria of the event is over...the anticipation of seeing colleagues and friends behind us. But the things we take away from the event--the new peer relationships, the insightful things we learn--carry on for years to come. I attended some incredible sessions on topics I knew little about previously. One such session was with Ernst & Young (EY) and Caterpillar on Conflict Minerals. In the sourcing world, the term has become fairly well known, but for those unfamiliar, conflict minerals are minerals--namely tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold (aka columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, wolframite and gold)--that, much like "blood diamonds," are mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, most namely in the Congo and adjoining countries. To me this was still a little ethereal until I dug a little deeper and learned that the "miners" are often hired by gunpoint or physically forced to do this work to protect themselves or their families. The work conditions are horrific and in themselves may result in death to the miners. In fact, more people have died in Congo Civil Conflict than in the U.S. Revolution, Vietnam War and Korean War COMBINED. Without more transparency in the supply chain, consumers don't have any way of knowing if their purchases, primarily in industries like electronics, aerospace, industrial products, automotive and jewelry, are funding armed groups that are widely known to commit human violations and mass atrocities unfathomable to most people. To address this, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was written that requires companies to identify where the minerals used in their products originated from. The Dodd-Frank Act has successfully reduced the amount of revenue militias are receiving by around 65% by dissuading companies from engaging in trade that supports regional conflicts.
It's that time again...the final leg of the race...the last hurrah...the end of an era...the week before a Summit. Dawn summarized it nicely last spring when she talked about the elves busy at work preparing for "the big event." It is a lot of work...but by the time we get to this point, we know that right around the corner, we get to just enjoy the fruit of our labors. Unlike the holidays, the SIG Summits roll around twice a year, so we don't get twelve months to work off the extra weight gained from the ice cream sundae breaks. In fact, between this Summit and the one last spring in Amelia Island, we've had a mere FIVE months to prepare. But all the nagging we’ve done for presenters to turn in their abstracts and decks...all the emails we've sent reminding you to register...all the phone calls we've made asking for you to use your seats have paid off! We have an INCREDIBLE line-up of companies and speakers coming to our Summit next week. Once the Summit begins, we can sit in sessions and hear the amazing presentations we've read about for several months. We can meet the members we've communicated with by email. And we can enjoy learning about new issues our members are facing and hear the latest concepts to address them. The agenda is so rich, it will be difficult to do it any justice. The list of companies presenting is, in itself, a reason to attend...
Two weeks ago my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It rocked my world. We've been blessed with four healthy and happy children and frankly haven't had many concerns when it came to their well-being. But there we were at a regular doctor's appointment, being told that our daughter, Hayden had blood glucose levels that were so high that we needed to go directly to the hospital. It doesn't run in my family, so it wasn't a condition I would have ever thought would "happen" to us. But it did. And now for the rest of her life, my little girl will be dependent on insulin to do what her pancreas cannot. For several days, I wondered what I could have done to prevent this diagnosis. But in the case of Type 1 diabetes, the answer is...nothing. It is non-preventable and currently non-curable. But it did make me realize that I could become more aware of the risks associated with it. I could tap into every person I know with first-hand experience, including one of the best resources I could find, my own CEO Dawn Evans whose daughter has been diagnosed for 10+ years. Through Dawn and every contact, website, blog and organization I could find, I could educate myself on the possibilities associated with a Type 1 diagnosis, and prepare myself for what MIGHT happen down the road. In much the same way, companies that engage in global sourcing strategies must also be aware of the risks and understand how to mitigate them. At our upcoming Global Leadership Summit in Fort Worth, we have many sessions focusing on this topic. Companies engage in global sourcing because the benefits are thought to be greater than the risks. But understanding the risk categories, weighing the possible outcomes and coming up with a risk mitigation plan can help companies find the balance between lower cost and higher risk.
The issue of Supplier Risk Management has been in the news recently. In January, Wal-Mart released its 'Ethical Sourcing Update,' wherein it announced, amongst other changes, a new zero tolerance policy for suppliers that used unauthorized subcontractors. The new policy was in response to the fierce criticism that Wal-Mart received in November 2012 after a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory claimed the lives of 112 workers. In that case, Wal-Mart claims that the factory in question was used without its knowledge and that it had stopped authorizing production there. The rise of highly fragmented and global supplier networks has necessarily lessened the amount of control that any company has over its supplier network. Accordingly, Supplier Risk Management is a growing discipline that is receiving increased attention. Current globalization trends only serve to reinforce the need for a dynamic, fluid and strategic Risk Management program. A recent but already classic example of poor Supplier Risk Management involved the hard disk drive industry. The industry was highly concentrated in Thailand, with over 1,000 factories operating in the sector. In late 2011, the country experienced a particularly strong monsoon season that caused widespread flooding. The flooding set back hard disk drive manufacturing for months and caused global prices to increase approximately 10%, affecting PC sales worldwide. It was almost a full year before production returned to pre-flood levels. The classic methodology utilized in approaching Risk Management hinges on three core work streams: Risk Analysis, Risk Assessment and Risk Mitigation. At the highest level, the goal is to determine the probability of a negative outcome, determine the impact of such an event and introduce measures which will lessen the impact.
Patrick Reymann, Director, Strategic Sourcing Operations, Corbus
Who's watching you? What do they know about you? Are you worried your record in the Big Data database is wrong? Would you correct it if you could? What if you had a tool to manage your big data like you manage your spend? Around SIG, we've been talking a lot about Big Data, as you can tell from Sarah's two posts (which you can access here and here) and my earlier post on the topic. This morning I started a firestorm of emails when I blasted the team with a note about a new tool I just discovered. Although in beta, Acxiom, a company that supplies marketing data to organizations, has published an online tool that allows you to access your personal "Big Data" record. I decided to try it. For a few moments, I stared at the screen, convincing myself to input the necessary information required to produce my report. Naturally suspicious when prompted to enter any kind of sensitive information (from weight to address to social security number), I hesitated to experiment with the tool. I decided I wasn't giving up any personal information that wasn't already public, and for the sake of this blog, I'd try it. After a very quick login, the tool presented me with several categories of information, including data on my characteristics, home, vehicle, economic, shopping, and household interests. Once I click on these categories, I can view the data that this company has about me, and I can actually edit it. For example, I can change my gender, and then configure my data record so that my gender characteristic will be excluded.
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG
Don't let anyone tell you differently. To be great in a sourcing role, you need a special combination of skills. Good sourcing professionals have the unique ability to execute flawlessly, and the personality to sell their ideas internally. Back "in the day" people thought of procurement/sourcing professionals as order takers. Never mind the fact that that description was never accurate...but it is most certainly not true now. Today's sourcing person must be passionately interested in learning. They must be full of curiosity and very observant about the world around them. Current events are filled with things that impact the supply chain—crowd sourcing, the cloud, conflict minerals, sustainability in Asia...every one of these things can have an effect on a sourcing person's role. At SIG we see hundreds of sourcing professionals every year in person. It is very obvious why some of them are successful and why some of them are not. If I were writing a job description for a new sourcing person, I would look for someone who is flexible, passionate about learning, interested in mentoring and very intelligent. In the past, people "fell into" sourcing careers. Today, they are highly-sought after and people often enter them from the most unlikely of paths. We have lawyers, accountants, engineers, and many other hard science professionals that have moved into sourcing by choice. This unique hard science background combined with the other talents seems to be the most successful combination for sourcing leaders. While an engineering or law degree is something that anyone who successfully pursues one can get, coupling that degree with interpersonal skills produces a special breed of person that is not that common. You can't underestimate the importance of being "a people person." Although it seems counterintuitive, this is one area that I feel can actually be taught. When I went into sourcing I was a CPA with a Masters in taxation.
About eighteen months ago, at the SIG Global Leadership Summit in Seattle, we concluded the event with an evening at "Lucky Strikes," an upscale bowling alley and billiards hall. For those of us who work for SIG, most of the heavy lifting for that event was behind us. It was Thursday night, which made it time to enjoy the fruit of our labors with our members. I don't know about most of you, but I for one become a better bowler as the night progresses. Liquid courage, perhaps...or maybe it's that I put too much pressure on myself to do well and if I don't, I embarrass quickly. Against my better judgment, I joined a few members and colleagues in a game. Yet, imagine my horror when in the first frame I threw not one gutter ball, but TWO. Mortified beyond belief, I removed my bowling shoes and walked away from the game without looking back, even with my colleagues encouraging me to stay. Having grown up with a pool table, I moved on to the billiards room where I knew I could build my confidence. After playing a few rounds, I went back to check on my friends who had continued bowling without me. One of our members — a fairly athletic guy, I might add — was not doing too much better than how I imagined I would have done if I'd had the courage to continue. And yet he did what I had been unable to do — he stuck with it and had fun despite his low score. Again I found myself being talked into joining a game one lane over. I did so fairly reluctantly, as I was still reeling from my earlier failure...but only agreed to play because the bowlers in that lane had the bumpers up, and I knew it would be nearly impossible to throw a gutter ball! With the confidence I had lacked in the game that I'd abandoned like a coward, I bowled my first ball straight down the lane, knocking down eight pins. Phew. The idea that I would fail again was looming over me, and yet I bowled not just decently, but with gusto, throwing spares, strikes and respectable scores frame upon frame.
Following the 2013 SIG Global Sourcing Summit in Amelia Island this past May, I was reviewing feedback from our breakout session attendees and read a comment that referenced the usefulness of the Duarte workshops with respect to presentation content, delivery and design. Usability and customer experience are both passions of mine and drive me when I am constructing guidelines for our Summit breakout session presenters and their slide decks. As a sourcing professional, I am sometimes hesitant to recommend a particular product, service, or provider. But, I can’t really keep quiet about this organization any longer. I attended the Duarte workshop and it was amazing. If you are someone who has to present things like business cases, market reports, research, spend category strategies, or if you have difficulty conveying your message, then this workshop should be part of your professional development. The two-day workshop took place in the Duarte headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA, where the facilitators immediately threw us off by asking us not to introduce ourselves with our name, company and role¸ but rather our name, company and favorite story. In each 5-10 second introduction, I felt like I already knew the person based on their story and their passion in conveying the story. During the workshop, we each built a presentation that addressed a real problem while in the session...but no PowerPoints were allowed...no computers or tablets at all! The presentations required agile development yet no particular expertise with design. We learned some excellent strategies for how to structure a presentation and watched guru Nancy Duarte map some really famous speeches (Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream, President Ronald Reagan addressing the country after the horrible Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru speech on India's Independence).
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG
This post originally appeared in the Allegis Group Services blog, but is relevant and with a few minor edits, worth posting here as well. Lets face it...not so long ago, being in procurement wasn't seen as a very sexy occupation. Ok...I know some of you are chuckling thinking it's still not that exciting, but I beg to differ. And I'll give you five good reasons why you should give procurement and sourcing professionals more credibility and respect.