Sourcing and Saving in Tough Times

April 8th, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt businesses, most look for immediate cost reductions

 

Today’s post is from Dave Wenig is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Services at SafeSourcing Inc

In our personal lives, it’s difficult to focus on much more than COVID-19. The effects have sunk in for most of us here in North America and those effects have been severe. Students have been displaced to home-based learning, local governments are issuing varying orders to keep their citizens at home to enforce social distancing, so many have become unemployed, and businesses are reeling.

At SafeSourcing, we’re no different. We made the hard decision to temporarily switch from our offices to working virtual for all of our employees proactively before we were required to do so by government order. We did so out of an abundance of caution and in consideration of our safety and the safety of the community at large. At SafeSourcing, we fall into the non-essential category, but that does not mean that we must cease our operations. It simply means that we needed to adjust. For many of our customers, they are facing the dual challenge of adjusting to allow for the safety of their employees and keeping their doors open to the public. Our retail customers are mostly still open, and they are on the front lines by making sure our communities have access to the essential supplies that we all need to survive.

All businesses, whether they are officially deemed essential, are struggling. Many are facing challenges managing the operational expenses against challenges like changes in demand, temporary closures, and more. This can be seen in a variety of news sources. This can even be overheard on the street. Fortunately, COVID-19 hasn’t taken away the fact that it is spring. On one beautiful evening, I sat enjoying the weather at home and accidentally eavesdropped on one side of an interesting conversation. Well, it was interesting to me.

A father with his son was walking by my house while on the phone. His conversation was clearly related to COVID-19 and the challenges he is facing. He recounted the story of a large account that had recently asked all their vendors to reduce their costs by 10% and set that as the new price moving forward. He noted that this effort had found that account about five million in savings. On the surface, that might seem impressive, but it’s not. It’s just a small start.

If SafeSourcing saves customers almost 25% on average on the categories they source with us, then that means that particular account has left around 15% in savings on the table. Worse, many markets are down at the moment, so the savings they have captured might have been available had they asked for the corresponding price decrease anyway. Meanwhile, it’s probably safe to assume that based on this unknown account’s actions, they are in desperate need of as much cost reduction as they can achieve. It’s a safe assumption because most accounts are.

Yet, it’s all too easy to still look out and feel as though you are too busy dealing with the challenges caused by COVID-19 to take the time to work with SafeSourcing and do something to affect a positive change. It’s really not; working with SafeSourcing might just address a very critical cash challenge and would do so much more effectively than just asking for a discount.

Please stay safe and don’t be shy if you need assistance. We’re all in this together.

For more information, please contact SafeSourcing.

 

 

 

Knowing Who Your Suppliers Are – Onsite Visits – Part II of II

April 3rd, 2020

How much do you know about your suppliers and have you ever visited them?

 

Yesterday we posted  about the importance of onsite visits with your suppliers, how to prepare, what to look for, and the value of performing these visits.  This week we will be taking a look at some of the additional things that you need to think about when visiting a supplier in another country.

Visits to international sites will need to encompass the same types of information gathering as a domestic one such as reviewing the cleanliness of the facilities, observing production, logistic and storage processes, but there 3 important areas that must be considered in addition to these that may determine the success or failure of the visit.

Language – Assuming you are visiting a supplier that is not located in a predominantly English-speaking country, the capability to communicate onsite is an important one that should be addressed well in advance of the visit.  Many times the supplier will have staff that is fluent in more than language and can act as an interpreter, however procuring your own interpreter is also a suggestion and possibility. Also, some basic considerations of your own communication style would be to speak more slowly than usual and pause in between sentences to be understood more easily.

Culture – This is an important area to prepare for because in some countries seemingly minor things can create a tense atmosphere.  Determining whether to bow and the details surrounding when and how, if the country shakes hands when they greet and which hand they shake with are all important items in some countries and should be learned prior to your visit.  On the other hand, it is equally important to note the things that are normally unaccepted behaviors in the U.S. which many times are not viewed the same way in other countries.  Americans would generally never answer a phone call in a meeting or show up to an appointment late, but in other countries these behaviors are far less important and frequently occur during the course of doing business.

Capturing the details – Visits to international suppliers generally come with a price tag that is not insignificant to your company, so capturing as much data as possible is important on these visits.  Wherever you go during your visit take a notepad and camera with you to record what you see and hear while on the visit.  Many manufacturers will allow you to take occasional pictures as long as you ask in advance and have it cleared.  Some may not allow it and others may allow it as long as no employees are included in the pictures.  Capturing these details will be very useful to you and your team in the future and can potentially save trips for other employees in the future.

Onsite visits to your suppliers are incredibly valuable and important to your organization and are a terrific tool for knowing who your suppliers are and how they do business.  They are also important forums to gather details necessary for later contract negotiations.

If you are interested in locating potential new sources of supply, please contact SafeSourcing.  The SafeSourceIt™ Supplier Database contains 457,000 globally.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Knowing Who Your Suppliers Are – Onsite Visits – Part I of II

April 2nd, 2020

How much do you know about your suppliers and have you ever visited them?

 

Todays post is from our SafeSourcing Archives

One of the important practices recognized by many successful procurement professionals is that of performing onsite visits to both their new and incumbent suppliers.  So much can be learned about how your suppliers do business that may affect your future decisions and contracts.

Today’s blog will be focusing on visits to domestic suppliers and Part II will have more details on visiting your international suppliers.

If you are dealing with a new supplier and scheduling an onsite visit, this is the opportunity for you to validate all of the details they have presented in their RFP/RFI response or presentation; validating that they have the staff, resources and facilities to handle the demand you are requiring of them.

This will be an opportunity to meet the sales and support team that will be assisting you and your company when the inevitable problem does occur, so take advantage of this time to get acquainted with the supplier’s staff.

If you are dealing with an incumbent supplier, make sure you have thoroughly reviewed your existing contract so that details about the level of service and quality promised can be focused on as part of the visit.  Make sure that you request, in advance, any additional reporting from your IT department or from the supplier on the history of the relationship so far.  This would include quality issues, shipping issues, product delays, inventory availability or any other special circumstance that may have occurred.  This visit will be the right time for you discuss these with the supplier face-to-face.

A final very important area to spend time in your visit, whether new or existing supplier, is the shipping area.  Here you will have a very clear idea of how the supplier is organized and you may even get a glimpse at the companies they get their raw materials from as well as other customers they are shipping too for future reference and follow-up.  Information found in this area will also go a long way when having contract negotiations with your incumbent suppliers for concessions on how your products and deliveries are handled.

Onsite visits are critical to understanding who you suppliers are and can be extremely valuable negotiation checkpoints.  My next blog will focus on the differences and things to consider when visiting international suppliers.

If you are interested in locating potential new sources of supply, please contact SafeSourcing.  The SafeSourceIt™ Supplier Database contains 457,000 globally.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Gas Station or Convenience Store and Truck Stop or Travel Center? Part 2 of 2

April 1st, 2020

Go visit these wonderful businesses and their brave employees for your supplies , they are an oasis during this COVID-19 crisis

 

Today’s post is from our archives at SafeSourcing Inc.

In the blog, Salad from a Gas Station? Sushi from a Truck Stop? This author raised a couple of questions, in addition to the actual questions, both of the questions may seem odd to us in 2018. There are two parts to inquire about within these questions. The first was getting food typically not found within these establishments and second is the common name of the establishments. For today’s blog, I will focus on the common naming of these establishments.

In some rural areas of America today, there are places of business that just serve gasoline and maybe vehicle lubricants and these were the true gas stations found in every town; however, today the gas station you may visit will carry grocery items, health and beauty items, health and junk foods, even bakery items, some fresh baked on site and some brought in by local bakeries. These establishments are called convenience stores or C-stores. They offer the consumer a small variety of items that a grocery store, bakery, or even a retail store may offer at a convenience from going to multiple places to get items needed.

Convenience stores usually charge significantly higher prices than conventional grocery stores or supermarkets, as convenience stores order smaller quantities of inventory at higher per-unit prices from wholesalers. However, convenience stores make up for this loss by having longer open hours, serving more locations, and having shorter cashier lines.1

Truck stops are similar in naming conventions. The traditional truck stop was a little more than a few diesel gas pumps and a large parking lot for truck drivers to stop and rest. Many years ago, the traditional truck stop might have had a locally owned diner attached or associated with it. Today, the word truck stop brings up a stereotype of large stations that are dirty and filled with truckers and a regular vehicle and its driver feel out of place. This is why the term Travel Center has replaced the term truck stop. Travel Centers are worded to make a place a business seem open, inviting, and clean for all drivers not matter what vehicle they come in with.  Travel Centers are often right off the highways and interstates and have lower fuel prices than conveniences stores that are usually miles off the freeway and in town.

  • Author Mark Sedenqist said it best,” I like the gas prices, but what I really like about truck stops is the retail stores. I love to walk the aisles and marvel at the array of merchandise on the shelves. Some of the automotive tools may look familiar, but few stores offer the following items all within 20 feet of each other: an audio tape on New Age mediation, a Browning knife, a Garmin fish finder, an aromatherapy reed diffuser, a genuine wood-grain noise-canceling CB mike, a Joan of Arc VHS tape, a 250-channel preprogrammed police scanner, a die-cast collectible fuel tanker, a metal detector, the complete “Seinfeld” series on DVD, a rocking chair, a deep-fat fryer, an excellent selection of women’s watches, cameras, the world’s largest assortment of beef jerky and other salty snacks, a DISH satellite “finder meter,” a cordless drill, a 12-volt ionizer and air purifier, several styles of small refrigerators, coffee makers, mugs, T-shirts, flashlights, electric blankets and the little gizmos that truckers use to lock their trailer doors.”2

As a consumer and a driver, you have a variety of choices available to you today when your parents, grandparents and even older generations of drivers did not have luxuries of buying anything other than fuel for their vehicles and had to go to another store to buy a meal before getting back on the road.  You now have a clearer understanding of the new names for establishments that have been around for decades.

Are you interested in more information on how SafeSourcing can assist you in exploring your procurement solutions for your business or on our “Risk Free” trial program for RFPs and RFQs, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convenience_store
  2. https://www.roadtripamerica.com/tips/Truck-Stops-Not-Just-For-Truckers.htm

 

Salad from a Gas Station? Sushi from a Truck Stop? Part 1 of 2

March 31st, 2020

These places of business are critical to our daily life more so today than ever before!

 

Today’s post is from our archives at SafeSourcing Inc.

Salad from a Gas Station? Sushi from a Truck Stop? Both of these questions may seem odd to us still even in 2020 and there are two parts to inquire about within these questions. First is getting food typically not found within these establishments and second is the common name of the establishments. For today’s blog, I will focus on the food selections found in today’s market.

Many consumers used to think that the only food you could purchase at a gas station or convenience store was a hot dog, nachos, chips, and candy. While many truck stops or travel centers offered the same as convenience store, they would typically have a diner attached or associated within them.

Today, pay at the pump options make it easier for drivers to fill up and go, but do not entice them to enter the store given the past food options available. The convenience stores have had to re-think how to get drivers in their doors and various things have changed over the years to do just that, from larger and cleaner restrooms to multiple food options.

Food especially has changed and is ever evolving within the convenience store business. Consumers and drivers want something fresh, quick, and yes, even healthy.

  • Consumers care what’s in their food today – they want to know when it was made, how it was prepared and what ingredients they’re about to eat. Enter the fresh trend, fresh made, fresh ingredients, and fresh foods.
  • It’s no secret that health has been a growing concern of consumers for the last decade. With folks becoming more aware of the effects certain foods have on their health, it’s becoming increasingly important to include healthy options in your food lineup.  Whether it’s a customer stopping in to grab a water before a gym session or someone just looking to lose a pound or two. Stores are looking at healthy side of things; don’t just think about obvious choices like salad and fruit. They are thinking about clean foods, snacks with fewer than four ingredients, and healthy alternatives as fan favorites. They can easily make a chicken sandwich healthier when switching from fried to baked, mayonnaise to avocado, and a white roll to a wrap.1
  • Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, consumers want things faster than ever. People don’t have time to wait for their pizza to cook, they want it ready NOW. With that in mind we have to put a focus on quickness. Convenience stores are taking advantage of this trend; think about the ways to reduce customer’s time spent getting food. From high speed ovens, fast cooking fryers, grab and go solutions, and easy check out kiosks, there are a multitude of ways to be perceived as a quick option for consumers.

Today a driver can choose from a salad and fresh made grilled chicken sandwich from a gas station/convenience store or sushi or fresh custom pizza from a truck stop/travel center. The options are starting to become endless giving drivers and consumers more options than just driving on down the road to find a suitable place to eat.

Are you interested in more information on how SafeSourcing can assist you in exploring your procurement solutions for your business or on our “Risk Free” trial program for RFPs and RFQs, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

References:

  1. https://blog.mtiproducts.com/convenience-store-foodservice-trends-2017

 

A timely repost! Contrarian, or just hipster?

March 30th, 2020

How to Identify Good Ideas - Episode 2

 

Today’s post is from our  SafeSourcing Archives

It’s popular these days to be contrarian, thanks largely in part to the disruptive entrepreneurs of silicon valley that have become just as well known for the products they create as any A-list celebrity. Reading business articles on the topic makes it sound like being contrarian is never a bad thing. However, while “contrarian” can mean just someone who goes against popular opinion, doing so just for the sake of being contrarian can be very dangerous. While there is some merit to the notion that doing something which everyone else thinks is crazy might just seem that way because it’s a hugely innovative idea, there are far more people who do crazy things that simply are monumentally bad ideas[1]. The way tech and investment entrepreneur Peter Thiel puts it, what matters is being “contrarian and right[2]. Being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian makes you a hipster[3], being contrarian and right makes you innovative.

The common thread that runs through these instances of unpopular opinion is the need to have the skills to identify a good idea. For some reason, business journalists repeatedly fail to see the obvious when they praise a business leader’s being different as the means to the success, without realizing that it was the business leader’s ability to find truths that lead them in a non-conventional direction that led to their success. The obvious danger here is that you can just as easily think differently from popular thinking, and be wrong. So how do we avoid falling into the trap of believing that thinking different is always a good thing, without missing the possible opportunities of truly innovative thinking?

    •  Slow the conversation: Contrarians thrive on rapid fire dialog, with the intention of getting your buy-in of their first point, by moving on to several other points before you’ve had a chance to think of reasons why their first idea might be a bad idea. Don’t allow anyone to gain your tacit approval by not giving you time to object.
    • Don’t fall for “mood bullying”: At times, a contrarian thinker will push to get their idea accepted not based on its merit, but by making it uncomfortable for anyone else to reject it. Don’t fall for bad ideas just because you don’t want to deal with the drama that will ensue for questioning someone’s ideas.
    • Contrarian and argumentative: A telltale sign that someone is being contrarian just to be hip rather than for the merit of an idea, is to observe how argumentative they are. If someone will argue against every idea that isn’t theirs, and perhaps even argue against their own previously mentioned ideas, there’s a good chance they aren’t trying to bring value to your organization, but to their own ego.
    • Fail quickly: If you come across an idea that goes against conventional wisdom, but the reasoning behind it is solid, iterate its implementation. Today it’s easier than ever to create prototypes quickly. Commit a small project to an innovative idea, and let it prove itself by succeeding or failing quickly and in a low risk environment.
    • Evaluate the foundation/first principles: When Pokemon Go™ exploded onto the scene; investors saw the trend and invested heavily into Nintendo™. However, in this case the contrarians were right to go against the flow: Nintendo™ didn’t actually create the Pokemon Go™ game, and once it became obvious, Nintendo™ stocks plummeted[4]. However, having the skill to identify underlying principles that lead to a market bubble for instance is a contrarian skill based on an understanding of economics that can be objectively evaluated.

Contrarianism should be a byproduct, not a goal. Innovation entails thinking differently about something because there is an assumed truth being bought into that is wrong, or an underlying truth that by and large everyone else has missed. There were contrarians in the 90’s after all, who thought the internet was a fad, and whose businesses were destroyed by other contrarians that understood the fundamentally exponential potential of network externalities and brought us internet connected devices of every shape and size. The act of understanding more deeply, having a wider breadth of knowledge, and learning a wider toolset of logical and critical thinking skills will result in having views that differ from others in ways that add value without even trying.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

————————————————————————————–

[1] “A Painful Year for Contrarian Trades – A Wealth of Common Sense.” 2016. 15 Aug. 2016 <http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2015/12/contrarian/>

[2] “E525: Peter Thiel (Founders Fund, PayPal, Palantir, Facebook) on …” 2015. 14 Aug. 2016 <http://thisweekinstartups.com/peter-thiel-launch-festival/>

[3] “http://www.bullbearings.co.uk/ 2014-12-18 monthly 0.5 http://www …” 2011. 14 Aug. 2016 <http://www.bullbearings.co.uk/sitemap.xml>

[4] “Nintendo shares plummet after investors realize it doesn’t … – The Verge.” 2016. 15 Aug. 2016 <http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/25/12269466/nintendo-stock-plunge-pokemon-go>

What Tools Do You Use?

March 27th, 2020

What makes a tool most useful?

 

Today’s blog is by Margaret Stewart, Director of HR and Administration at SafeSourcing

We all use tools in our day to day lives, but how many tools we really use might surprise you. Smartphones may be one of the most used tools in many of our lives, giving us access to directions, weather, news, a camera, or just the ability to connect with others. So, what makes a tool useful and practical or not? Whether it is your vehicle, Google home or Alexa, or even your gym, we use tools to accomplish more in less time and to make things easier.

No matter what business you are in, tools likely play an essential role in your success. Construction crews may need bulldozers, hammers, nail guns, safety equipment and more while office workers may need computers, charts, projectors, telephones and more. There are tools that can help both these industries as well as many others – e-Procurement tools. So, what are some e-Procurement tools?

First, having an e-Procurement partner, like SafeSourcing, can function as a tool your organization can use. With ready and knowledgeable staff, they can take a spark of an idea from you and turn it into something real with savings the whole organization could benefit from.

In addition to people, another tool SafeSourcing offers is our library. SafeSourcing has a vast library that can be used to educate, research, and streamline your process. Our Wiki library is available to everyone and can help you understand many industry specific terms. Our electronic newsletter provides useful news and information that can provide a better understanding of what is happening in your industry as well as around the world. To streamline your processes, SafeSourcing also has a template library that can help you with specifications, terms and conditions, and any RFx goals you might have.

Even more than already mentioned, there are more tools available from SafeSourcing. SafeSourceIt can help you get the supplies or services you need at the best price and easily compare vendors all in one location. SafeSpendAnalysis can help you understand where your organization is spending its money and where it can potentially save the most. SafeDocument is a safe and reliable location to store all your organizations documents, and with version retention and access from anywhere it can provide what you need when you need it. SafeContract is another tool that allows you to safely store your contracts and provides alerts when a contract is nearing its expiration, allowing you to be more prepared.

All of these tools can be highly useful for any organization. All of them being easy to use and in one location make them that much more useful and practical, which is exactly what we seek from a tool.

For more information on SafeSourcing tools or helping in your procurement efforts, or on our Risk Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

 

A simple supplier scoring system may provide key performance indicators for the future.

March 25th, 2020

Just picking suppliers of the internet does not work. Quality supplier selection is one of the most important areas of focus in order to insure quality and sustainability in e-procurement events.

 

Todays post is by Ron Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.

Having a large international supplier database to drive sustainable results in e-procurement events such as ant e-RFX function is critical to that events success. Maybe even more critical is making sure that the suppliers once selected for participation in an event are of the highest quality, professional, responsive and have your best interests at heart. There are several areas in the early strategy stages of a  an e-RFX process which if properly monitored can be leading key performance indicators as to future performance. These KPI’s are; the initial supplier response and supplier training schedule adherence. If suppliers are not interested enough during these early stages, this may be an indicator of future performance in other more critical areas such as on time delivery, back order management, documentation and audit compliance.

A reasonable process for measuring these KPI’s would be to measure the number of days between the project start date or initial supplier contact and the event start date, where the supplier has been sent an invitation but has not responded either positively, negatively or given a reason  for their response. Maintaining an active status of response dates could be scored based on the number of days it takes invited suppliers to respond. The longer it takes a invitee to respond the lower KPI score that supplier would receive.  Another possible KPI measurement or filter once the invitation has been accepted would be the number of days between the date accepted and the event start date, where the supplier has accepted an invitation but has not completed their automated training.

These are not intended to be punitive measures. In most cases suppliers will perform beyond your expectations. Sustainability and quality require measurements regardless of how simple.

If you’d like to learn more about The SafeSourceIt™ Supplier Database, please contact a SafeSourcing customer services account manager.

We appreciate and look forward to your comments.

What’s the genesis of your supplier database and how was it built?

March 24th, 2020

WANT NEW SOURCES OF SUPPLY?

 

Todays post is from Ronald D. Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.

All databases have their start as an information gathering exercise that ultimately is enhanced by those characteristics the owner or developer determines to be useful to the community of interest the database is to be offered to. The information then becomes part of a data model where information sets can be accessed or searched based on a variety of queries or questions. Most developers follow a process called Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration or UDDI  as this process.

Universal Description, Discovery and Integration or (UDDI) is a standard established for building online databases of companies and the goods and services they provide, similar to Yellow Pages for the Internet. UDDI is intended to help businesses locate suppliers and products. Sourcing companies supplier databases go well beyond this definition.

Data models can be extremely complex and that is where they become more than a simple on line yellow pages. In fact high quality supplier databases should be able to provide much of the data you might find in the opening pages of a detailed RFI. A simple query like show me all companies within a 500 mile radius of your home office zip code that provide a set of products that meet the following safety certifications.  A next step might be summarizing all company information for these companies by a list of attributes such as company description, sale, years in business, officers etc.

How easy would that make your life?

If you’d like to find more qualified and vetted suppliers to support your sourcing efforts of any product or service, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Services Account Manager

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

15 easy ways that we can all help to prevent illnesses?

March 20th, 2020

With all the news about COVID-19 OR the coronavirus, I...…………………..

 

Today’s post is by Troy Lowe; Vice President of Development at SafeSourcing.

With all the news about the new coronavirus, I started to look at ways to clean surfaces of commonly used items around the home, office and vehicles. I came across something that I did not know existed. They make portable UV Sanitizers that are used to eliminate bacteria, viruses and pathogens. These devices can kill up to 99.9% of surface bacteria with the use of ultraviolet light. The compact design allows for convenient use anywhere you go. Because it uses light, it is able to get into tough surfaces like keyboards and clean them better than using sanitizing wipes. To use the device, just direct the light down toward the surface to be cleaned for the recommended time. Because these devices are small, their best use is to clean smaller or harder to clean items. If you are cleaning large areas or easy to clean surfaces like counters and desks, it is still recommended that you use just a standard disinfectant wipe. This will result in faster and more precise cleaning. If you are looking for ways to help protect against the upcoming illnesses, below are other steps you can take.

  1. Get the Flu shot
  2. Avoid people who are sick
  3. Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds
  4. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available
  5. Keep your hands away from your face
  6. Get plenty of Vitamin D
  7. Stay hydrated
  8. Eat a healthy diet
  9. Work out
  10. Stay at home and reduce risk of infection
  11. Stay at least three feet away from anyone coughing or sneezing
  12. Clean shared surfaces at least once a day
  13. Avoid sharing food
  14. Store you toothbrush
  15. Get adequate sleep

If you are looking to purchase new cleaning devices or materials and would likely help researching available options, feel free to contact SafeSourcing.   We can gather all the necessary information for you and help you decide which one meets your needs. If you

would like more information on how SafeSourcing can help you, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative.  We have an entire team ready to assist you today.