Archive for August, 2013

SafeSourcing Inc. announces three new additions to the SafeSourceIt™ family of Cloud based Procure to Pay applications.

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Today’s post is from the SafeSourcing  marketing department!

SafeSourcing is  very pleased to announce  the following three new tools to its comprehensive suite of procure to pay tools under the SafeSourceIt™ umbrella.

  1.  SafeSpendAnalsyis™  –  Takes company purchasing patterns and trends to new levels as it integrates external data feeds  for a wide variety of data sources.

  2.  SafeReportDesigner™   –  Allows users the capability to drag and drop key data points in a way that allows them to build custom reports

  3.  SafeScorecards™ –  Consolidates details from all of the SafeSourceIt™ modules to track and score procurement performance by Supplier, Internal Department, Product Category or Procurement professional.

These tools join  SafeeRFX™, SafeSurvey™, SafeDashboard™, SafeDocuments™, SafeContract™, SafePO™, SafeCatalog™ and the  SafeSourceIt™ Supplier Database that are already in use by our customers today.

If you are interested in ROI’s much greater than 10X and rapid deployment of solutions that will preserve those savings, please contact a SafeSourcing customer services representative.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Zombies, Israel, and the Tenth Man!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Today’s post is by Mike Figueroa, Account Manager at SafeSourcing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished someone would have been around to prove me wrong just before I made one of many colossal mistakes I have to my credit… Some mistakes aren’t just about getting it wrong, but are paid for by what we COULD have gained and instead missed out on.

My wife asked me to go see Brad Pitt stave off a zombocolypse in “World War Z”, and while I didn’t have great things to say about the movie, one concept it played off of piqued my interest. In the Film, the Israeli leaders subscribed to a formalized mechanism for being prepared for what they might overlook. The notion of “The Tenth Man” is that in a 10 man quorum, there should never be more than a consensus of 9 because 1 man should always be considering the alternative, no matter how improbable, because the Israelis knew that humans are biased toward predicting what’s most ”normal”.

We human beings are fantastic organizers. We can recognize patterns better than any other organism on the planet. The only problem with this is that we have a natural bias toward looking for a CONTINUATION of patterns. This can cause us to miss out on opportunities that don’t fall in line with what we expect to see, or continue practices that are no longer optimal because of the history we have using them. This is why we need mechanism in place within our organizations to play devil’s advocate, to prove ourselves wrong when we’re making assumptions that are bottlenecking our opportunities.

When we first talk to businesses, they are often under the assumption that the suppliers they are working with are their only option, or that they have no leverage to work with to avoid rate increases or to increase intangible value. We work to challenge those assumptions by exploring a wide variety of options, and searching through our extensive database of suppliers. Ask one of our representatives about how we do the legwork to identify the assumptions that are preventing you from taking advantage of your opportunities. Let SafeSourcing be your Tenth Man.

We look forward to your comments.

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PLEASE! End your meetings on time.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Today’s post is by Dennis Nicoletti; Manager at SafeSourcing. 

I realize that there are times when emergencies arise; decisions need to be made, urgent action need to be taken, etc., so a group facilitator must keep a meeting running after the scheduled ending time.  But I have been in a number of situations over the years with meetings, conferences, and dozens of other situations where the meeting stretches on well-past the appointed ending time with no evident value or constructive result verses if it had ended on time.

Keeping people later than scheduled is to me, rude and displays poor time management skills because it means we are often late to our next piece of business, late for after work activities (I recall many late arrivals to family/kids events, missed flights, etc.) and it infringes on our individual productivity. Below are some reasons that this seems to happen, none of which are very flattering to meeting facilitators.

The meeting facilitator is uninformed or without an agenda.  This is when the facilitator doesn’t realize that it is well past ending time or doesn’t know when the meeting actually ends. Those of us who lead routine meetings have an obligation to provide an agenda (sticking to it) and to end the meeting when they are supposed to end.  How about 5 minutes early? If you’re one of these types…appoint someone a “time keeper”.  An agenda quickens the meeting flow and attendees are prepared.

The meeting facilitator lacks the courage to stop overbearing personalities. A facilitator with good intentions realizes that it is past the appointed ending time, but can’t quite bring him or her to stop one or more from going on and on. This happens far more often than one would think.

The meeting facilitator has a sense of self-importance.  Unfortunately, this does happen.  Although the meeting or conference is about a routine or trivial matter, the facilitator believes that he or she is such an important person that nothing else in the other participants’ lives — their next meeting, their individual work, their families — could possibly be as important.

If you are a meeting facilitator, I would ask you to start thinking about if you have a habit of keeping people late and why?   If you really want to please people at a meeting, have max attendance, finish early and move for adjournment.

We, at SafeSourcing, are very respectful of our client’s valuable time ensuring our meetings are productive and end “as scheduled” or early whenever possible.   For more information on how we can help you with your procurement needs 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.

We look forward to your comments.

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Are you really comfortable with all of your current sources of supply?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

If your answer is yes, there is a good chance that you are paying more for products, services and related solution bundles than you should be!

Being comfortable is great. Sometimes however being to comfortable can also creates complacency. We all know we have co-workers that come to work every day and do only what they perceive their job to be. They arrive on time and leave on time. They really never do anything extra. Also, very few ideas come from these folks that are just comfortable with what they are doing and how they are doing it. They do a reasonable job, but that’s really about it.

So what happens when we apply this type of complacency to our knowledge workers in the supply chain and you know we have them? If we are being honest with ourselves; we see this situation all the time.

 Here’s an example: A buyer you know has a list of products or a category manager has a category that they are responsible for. There are only so many hours in the day and they have a job to do in order to get product to a distribution center, warehouse, store or some other location on time. They have done business with the same single supplier or couple of suppliers for a number of years. In fact the person in the job before them did business with these same suppliers and the person before that did as well. It’s just easier to not rock the boat. It takes to much time to look for new sources of supply (think Google) and after all one can only manage so many relationships in the first place (Excuse). Finally the buyer is comfortable with product quality and the pricing has not gone up to much over time.

With the help of a good eProcurement provider, this situation is easily rectified, but you need to be open to change. This is normally led from the top of the organization, not the worker we mentioned above. The following is a partial list of what you can do to eliminate complacency and support the fact that you knowledge workers don’t have a lot of free time.

1.   Provide your e-procurement company with a list of your suppliers by category.
2.   Provide your e-procurement provider with a complete list of products carried by each supplier.
3.   Ask your e-procurement provider to produce a list of new sources of national and regional supply  with a facility within a reasonable radius of each distribution center or warehouse
4.   Ask your e-procurement provider to provide data on each supplier’s including incumbent’s safety and environmental certifications.
5.   Ask your e-procurement provider to provide supplier background information such as years in business and user references.
6.   Run an eRFI on each of these suppliers.
7.   Visit the best few as well as your current suppliers.

If you’re interested, additional steps to this process can be provided by SafeSourcing as a part of our best practices deliverables which are included in our event pricing. The SafeSourceIt™ Supplier database includes over 457,000 global sources of supply that can be sorted with a variety of filters such as country, county, postal code or mileage from a particular location, plus many more.

If you’d like to learn more about new sources of supply for your cost of goods, expense or capital expenditures, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer’s Services representative.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments

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It’s just a pallet; or is it? Part II of II

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Today’s post is Part II by Dennis Nicoletti, Manager Customer Service at SafeSourcing, Inc.  
 
Use of Pallets: While pallets and palletization were once considered to be powerful components of material handling strategy, today, industry takes the practice largely for granted.  When the palletization concept was first introduced, however, it had a dramatic impact on the improvement of material handling efficiency. Rail cars, for example, that had taken two days to unload could subsequently be unloaded in just one or two hours.  Palletized products can be moved more quickly than by the manual handling of individual palletized cartons.

Benefits of this quicker handling include:

  •   Faster turnaround of delivery vehicle and increasing operational efficiency of transport equipment
  •   Dramatically reduced labor requirement versus manual handling
  •   Reduced risk of temperature abuse for perishable products on unrefrigerated docks
  •   With less manual handling there is less risk of product damage and reduced risk of worker injury. Palletized products can be moved more efficiently and stored more efficiently in warehouses and customers often prefer the receipt of palletized goods.
  •   Pallets provide drainage and circulation for commodities requiring this, including fresh produce.

Grades of pallets: The GMA (Grocery Manufacturer Association) has determined the standard in which pallets are graded and thus is broken into four (4) different categories. Each category is a guideline to use when buying or selling pallets. The problem is that each category is open for interpretation and it’s important to verify exactly what you’re getting. Each category will have a price range and the price range will vary from region to region. The price will also vary based on the amount of available reconditioned pallets. Below are the four (4) different grading categories and their corresponding condition.

  •   Premium – A very clean pallet that has probably been used only a few times. There is little if any repairs to the pallet. The pallet will have no plates and no companion stringers.
  •   Grade #1 or A Grade – Typically this pallet has been repaired to close to its original condition. Broken stringers may have been replaced or repaired with metal plates. All damaged deck boards are replaced. This is a fairly clean pallet that is structurally sound.
  •   Grade #2 or B Grade – Typically this pallet has had stringer damage that has been repaired by attaching an additional stringer alongside the damaged one. This is commonly referred to as a companion stringer, block stringer and double stringer. The “B” grade pallets usually have two (2) or less repaired stringers. The deck configuration on the “B” grade pallet is not always consistent because these pallets have been repaired many times.
  •   Grade #3 or C Grade – Typically this pallet has been repaired numerous times. Most of the stringers on a “C” grade pallet will have companion stringers. The deck boards will be inconsistent in size, spacing and thickness. These pallets are usually in very poor condition and are accepted by few companies.

Owned vs Pool pallets: Many companies choose to buy their own fleet of pallets, but this is not always the best or most efficient thing to do.  What you need to consider…

Owning:

  •   Cost: Depending on the amount of goods a company needs to transport, it can be very expensive to buy and upgrade a pallet fleet.
  •   Management and tracking: Managing and tracking a rental fleet can be very hard work, if mismanaged, it can create huge problems if goods cannot be transported when needed.
  •   Maintenance and cleaning: Once purchased, pallets will need to be continually repaired and cleaned in between usage, requiring the manpower, space and equipment to do this.
  •   Storage: When not in use, pallets can take up a lot of space, which is inefficient and costly.
  •   Fleet fluctuations: If a company suddenly has an increased order, or an order that requires a special type of pallet, then buying them just for these rare occasions is wasteful, as the rest of the time the overflow will just be gathering dust in storage

Pooling:

  •   Flexible: You can rent as many or as few pallets as you need for each specific shipment, meaning you’re never over or under stretch with your pallet fleet.
  •   Management and tracking: The pooling company can use their own specialist up-to-date management and tracking systems meaning you doesn’t have to worry about it.
  •   Cleaning and maintenance: After each hire, the pallets will be inspected, repaired and cleaned by the pallet pooling company, before they are sent out again.  This means that you don’t need to worry at all about the expense of doing this yourself, and you know all the pallets will be up to standard before each use.
  •   Storage: Once you’ve finished with the pallets you just need to hand them back to the pooling company with no need to set aside valuable space to store them.

As you see there are many things to consider before buying or pooling pallets in your business. Should you own pallets or use a service to manage them? What type of pallet do you really need? We at SafeSourcing are ready to help you through all the questions and help you lower your procurement costs.  For more information on how we can help you with your procurement needs 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.

We look forward to your comments

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It’s just a pallet; or is it? Part I of II

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Today’s post is by Dennis Nicoletti, Manager Customer Service at SafeSourcing, Inc

If you’re in a business today that provides goods, supplies, equipment  and alike somewhere along the line these products most likely traveled on a pallet, either in the loading, shipping, delivery or receiving process.  Pallets are the most common method for this as well as being used for storage purposes.  In this article I wanted to share some key factors to consider when purchasing, using or accepting pallets, no matter the originating source.   In this blog my intention is to educate you a little more than you probably wanted to know about pallets.

First the definition,  pallet:  sometimes inaccurately called a skid (a skid has no bottom deckboards), a pallet is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader, work saver or other jacking device. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies. Goods or shipping containers are often placed on a pallet secured with strapping, stretch wrap or shrink wrap and shipped. While most pallets are wooden, pallets also are made of plastic, metal, and paper.

Types of pallets: although pallets come in all manner of sizes and configurations, all pallets fall into two very broad categories: “stringer” pallets and “block” pallets. Various software packages exist to assist the pallet maker in designing an appropriate pallet for a specific load, and to evaluate wood options to reduce costs.

•  Stringer pallets use a frame of three or more parallel pieces of timber (called stringers). The top deckboards are then affixed to the stringers to create the pallet structure.  A stringer pallet is also known as a “two-way” pallet, since a pallet-jack can be used from only two sides to move it. Two-way pallets are designed to be lifted by the deckboards. In a warehouse the deckboard side faces the corridor. 
•   Block pallets are typically stronger than stringer pallets. Block pallets utilize both parallel and perpendicular stringers to better facilitate efficient handling. A block pallet is also known as a “four-way” pallet, since a pallet-jack may be used from any side to move it. Four-way pallets or pallets for heavy loads are best lifted by their more rigid stringers. A warehouse has the stringer side facing the corridor.

Efficiencies: organizations using standard pallets for loading and unloading can have much lower costs for handling and storage, with faster material movement than businesses that do not. The exceptions are establishments that move small items such as jewelry or large items such as cars.  But even they can be improved. For instance, the distributors of costume jewelry normally use pallets in their warehouses and car manufacturers use pallets to move components and spare parts.

Pallet pooling:  due to cost and a need to focus on core business, pallet pooling becomes more and more common. A pallet management company can help supply, clean, repair, and reuse pallets. Pallets should be seen as reusable packaging items. Every pallet that is built could potentially be used and used again until such a time when it will need to be replaced.

Stay tuned for Part II of: It’s just a pallet; or is it? 

There are many things to considered before purchasing pallets, such as; should I buy new or used pallets, what grade of pallet is right for my business, do I want a service to manage the pallet inventory for me?  We at SafeSourcing are ready to help you through all the questions and help you lower your procurement costs.  For more information on how we can help you with your procurement needs 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.

We look forward to your comments.

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The Rising Interest in Supply Chain Degrees

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Sr. Vice President and COO at SafeSourcing.

Over the past few years there has been an increase in the interest of college students and business professionals to pursue degrees and certifications in Supply Chain Management.   As the current workforce makeup changes and the landscape of business adjusts to new variables it is no wonder that some majors like Supply Chain Management are getting more attention to the point where some students are being turned away due to high demand for degrees in this area.  Today we will look at a few of the reasons this rise in interest is happening across the U.S.

Increase in demand – In recent studies by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Supply Chain majors are getting job offers out of college 15% to 20% more frequently than their Business Management and Accounting peers.  This increase in demand for college graduates has likewise created an increase in salaries for Supply Chain degree holders.  With the increase in pay and high placement levels, the interest in Supply Chain degrees has caused some universities to turn students away from their programs as they plan to increase capacity with more classes and more business school teachers.

Changes in Supply Chain Process – It is no surprise that the increase in interest in Supply Chain degrees and in job openings has paralleled the changes in Supply Chain Management in general as new eProcurement tools, new processes and new emphasis on cutting expenses in this area have begun to evolve and grow.  Where companies at one time had only a few associates employed on their procurement teams, if they had designated teams at all, these same companies are beginning to expand the methods by which they source their raw material, products and services.  This change in process has created a focus and a need for qualified professionals to enter organizations and help lead the company to more control over direct and indirect spend.

New Availability of Programs – Over the last 20 years universities and accredited organizations have increased the number of classes and degrees they offer in the Supply Chain Management adding both frequency and the variety of majors to focus on specific areas of concentration.  International sourcing, sourcing services, IT spend management, direct spend management, indirect spend management, contract management and vendor management are all new areas students can choose to focus on in pursuing their degrees.  The number of certification programs within Procurement and the Supply Chain spaces has also increased as organizations and schools continue to offer new opportunities for professionals to increase their education in new sourcing processes and techniques.  This increase in choices has created renewed interest in the Supply Chain as a focus of continued education for thousands of new students and existing professionals.

For more information about SafeSourcing 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.

We look forward to your comments.

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“The Negotiation Began Long Before the Quote. Or, Make a Plan and Stick with It”

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The answer may be surprising. One may assume that the negotiation begins when the vendors begin quoting. This is a reasonable assumption, but I know that negotiation begins long before this point.

Often, in procurement, a negotiation can begin with the writing of the specification. I find that when the host organization is writing their specifications, they are forced to rely on their incumbent vendors for details about the products or services that they are providing. During this process a vendor may have the upper hand and, as a result, may influence the specification in a way that will benefit them throughout the process. Not so long ago, a specification was written for a fairly simple manufactured product. The specification for this product dictated the use of stainless steel. This would not have been an issue, except that only one of the vendors was able to meet the specifications. It turns out the use of stainless steel was patented in this case.

Even more often, this type of influence can be felt in the days leading up to an RFQ. Typical vendor negotiation tactics during this timeframe may include calling on the sourcing partner or host organization directly to try to get time extensions or to attempt to implement last minute specification changes as discussed above. Worse yet, they may also use this time to negotiate for higher prices. If a maximum has been set for price submission, it is not uncommon to hear feedback that these prices are too low. While these complaints may be valid, the timing seems suspect. In these last minute cases, it is important to react carefully and avoid being forced into a decision that you would not have made two weeks ago.

So, how do you sort through the feedback and specification input (solicited or not)?

You have to make a plan and see it through. Your strategic sourcing partner has experience navigating vendor communications. They are actively tracking the feedback and working with the vendor community make the journey from planning an RFQ to awarding business go as smoothly as possible. Place your trust in both your partner and the process and you will find favorable results.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Making the Complicated Less Challenging

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Today’s post is by Sarah Kouse a Project Manager at SafeSourcing.

Having a complicated event, whether it contains a lot of line items or items that require a lot of details, can get challenging.  If you follow some of these steps, it could simplify the process.

Details – Knowing all the details about the event and the items involved is very important because the more the vendors/suppliers know about the items they are bidding the more accurately they can quote.   This can be challenging because sometimes all those details are not always easily available, but once you have most of the details, you can then try to locate more information and details to be able to provide the vendor/suppliers. The more details you provide, the less questions tend to arise during an event and the more you can obtain an “apples to apples” comparison.

Timeline – Setting a realistic timeline for any event is important. You don’t want to set a timeline that is too long because it could cause participants to set things aside and potentially forget about it. You also don’t want to set a timeline too short because it causes everyone to rush things and potentially leave out important details.  Vendors may also not be able to obtain all the information they need to provide their most accurate quotes.

Simplicity – Making a complicated event as simple as possible could help an event go smoother for the creator/administrator and the participants as well. The more complex an event, the more complicated it can be, resulting in a higher risk of issues and the probability of potential participants to decline to participate because they just “don’t want to deal with it.” An example of this is would be to focus on the items making up the top 80% of your spend and then collect market basket discounts for the other items.

In the end, the more realistic the timeline and the more details you can provide the suppliers the greater the likelihood of a smooth event that produces great results. For more information on how we can help you with your procurement needs 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.

We look forward to your comments.

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Finding the Right Payroll Service

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Sr. Vice President of Operations and COO at SafeSourcing. 

One of the questions we are asked by many of the companies we work with is whether or not it makes sense to take Payroll Services through an eProcurement process.  Our answer is “Yes”, however due to the sensitive nature of this service we add that for services of this nature, all of the factors, including price, need to be considered to make the decision for their company.

Today we will be looking into some of those areas that should be considered when looking to source payroll services for your company

The Fees – As stated above, cost is not the only thing that should be considered when it comes to services, however part of the cost that does need to be looked at is the breakdown on various fees associated with the service.  Printing checks and tax forms, online access for employees and garnishment fees are just some of the fees that payroll service companies can charge you and they all need to be examined so that you know which fees apply to your company and which fees you may want to gather competitive pricing on.

The Experience – Experience in your industry is crucial, especially when looking at new vendors you have not dealt with in the past.  Many times this type of information can be collected in an RFI or through basic research by an internal team or through a strategic sourcing partner if you have one.

The Service – Going hand in hand with a payroll company’s experience is their reputation for servicing their existing customers.  In some cases basics about a company’s service can be collected through an RFI but many times in the course of due diligence and checking the references of a “short list” of vendors this information can be obtained.  Asking about how accessible a company is when an issue arises and how quickly they return calls and emails are things that will help make the final decision in the end.

The Tools – With the increasing use of the internet by companies wishing to integrate 3rd party tools into their own portals or intranets, the tools a payroll service company provides are an important part of the value equation that is used to award business.  Providing HR related documents, access to pay stubs and tax forms and other payroll related tools may just be the difference maker in the end especially if two or more companies are close in every other aspect.

Payroll services, like many services are more complex projects to run but with clear goals and defined decision making criteria established in advance, they can be very successful.  For more information about sourcing services like payroll, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  

We look forward to your comments.

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