Christine Galer is a supply chain professional and owner of Total Procurement Solutions, a procurement consultancy firm. We sat down with Christine for an interview to get insights on supply chain trends facing today’s procurement professionals.
We’d like to start off with a question that spans your career. In your experience what are the fundamental ways the supply chain discipline has changed since you began your career?
When I began my career in Purchasing the majority of the people that were performing the purchasing function had “fallen into” their role from a different function in their company. Such as an Administrator who was initially buying office supplies, or a Maintenance Man that needed to buy parts for machinery repairs. I started my purchasing education at the point in time that everything changed.
The Purchasing Management Association of Canada (Now Supply Chain Management Association) was really getting known as the place to get your training and education to become a Professional Purchaser. You would take your training on the job and your education through correspondence or courses that were self driven and you attended 2 3-Day weekends of classes to complete your exams.
This has now evolved into a far different approach to the education component. Now, you start with your BA, and add the SCMP after. Some still get their education while working in the field, but most are coming through University, then completing the SCMP designation before they go to work.
Looking forward, what supply chain trends or changes are you a fan of?
As times have progressed, specialization has emerged. Now there are categories of specialization; Purchasing and Inventory Clerk, Inventory Manager, Materials Manager, Logistics Manager, Purchasing Manager, Warehouse Operations Manager, Transport Manager etc.
Much different than the times of performing all of the functions as a normal part of your day.
Conversely, what trends have you worried?
The Specialization. The other side of the Specialization coin is that it is easy to either lose sight of or completely not understand how your actions significantly affect all of the other roles because you haven’t been in their shoes.
Here’s a two-part question:
In your experience, how do companies make best use of technology in these realms?
In my experience, I have yet to meet a company that is using their technology to even half of its capacity.
The best use of the technology is when you have good data in the system and allow it to automate the mundane tasks thus freeing up the humans to be more strategic in using the data before them.
Having the ability to instantly know your total spend in a given category, with a given supplier, or in a different currency. To be nimble and make changes as quickly as the world is changing.
What should a firm have established prior to implementing procurement technology, or software solution?
Gather your data, clean your data. All too often companies are busy doing what they do. Building airplanes, selling retail, or curing their patients to spend a lot of time keeping their data clean. They do what is in front of them and don’t ever get a chance to go back and clean up after they add new materials or change suppliers. Take the time and use the excuse of getting a new system if you have to! But clean up after yourself.
We’d like to finish with a bit about vendor management. A lot is written / said about vendor management (supplier management), so, with your experience in mind, can you discuss how important vendor management is in today’s supply chain world?
Long gone are the days of bleeding your suppliers to death.
Now we partner with our suppliers and have mutual respect and admiration for what each other does. We share our critical needs and expectations with each other. We truly work to help each other succeed.
Bring them into the process early when a big project is coming up. Let them help you identify the details of your needs using their expertise. Get them in the room with your key people and let them ask questions regarding their specifications while you document and ask the financial and commitment questions. Then you hold each other to those commitments for the term of the relationship.
Much like having a prenup before getting married.
In many cases Pre qualifying your suppliers is key to finding the right match.
Vendor management cannot be solved by a silver bullet. Do you have any tips for organizations on how to get vendor management right?
Know what you need and expect from them. Set out the criteria that is critical for them to bring to the table. Show them the weighted scale of what is the most important to your relationship and how you will be measuring them on their performance. Ask them how they need you to work with them.
What are the reasons firms get it wrong?
The biggest reason firms get vendor management wrong is by not being upfront about their needs or not advising the vendors when their needs change. Choosing who you work with is not as simple as looking them up online. You need to interview them to make sure they can do what you need, so that they will be there for you when you need them most.