Archive for February, 2016

Bags and Boxes and Bailers Oh My!

Friday, February 26th, 2016

 

How best to manage a plastic bag and cardboard box baling program with only one baler at a store.

Today’s post has been written by Ryan Melowic Vice President of Customer Services at SafeSourcing.

The first approach is the program that numerous large retail chains have adopted, which is known as creating “sandwich bales”. These bales are compiled of both cardboard and plastic.  Workers place 10 to 20 inches of cardboard into the baler first, then shrink wrap and plastic bags are loaded in, and another section of cardboard is placed on top.  The baler then presses the bale into a “sandwich” with 9 to 18 inches of recyclables plastic in the middle.  However, in the recycling world, when fiber and plastic are together as one, this is considered contamination.  Therefore, the bales must be picked up, taken to a local recycling center and broken apart and separated.  Then, the plastic is baled together and the cardboard is baled together.  At this point, these items can be effectively sold.

The second approach is where the store has enough space to stage the plastic bags until there is enough to complete a full bale. This requires the backroom of the retailer to be large enough to store 400-600 lbs. plastic.

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.

 

Super-chickens are bad leaders

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

 

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

In 2013, William Muir published a study on the social behavior of chickens[1] and measuring their productivity based on how the groups were configured. They thought that if they bred selecting for all the most productive chickens, putting those chickens into one group should only scale up that productivity into one “super-chicken” flock. To their surprise, they found that the “average” chicken flocks repeatedly out-produced the super-chicken flocks, because the latter group had pecked many of the other birds to death. The parallels in experiences between human and chicken team-building became immediately obvious, and so MIT started experimenting to try to understand how collective intelligence works, and can be optimized in humans[2].

Experiments were performed where individuals of varying intelligence profiles were put together in groups, and given an assortment of problems to solve as a group. What the researchers found was that individual intelligence or productivity was not the leading indicator of team success. The three traits associated with the best group performance were:

  • High ability to read other people’s emotions
  • Giving everyone a chance to talk, and
  • High number of women in the group

What they found with the groups of “super-stars” was that while intelligent/productive individuals may do well solving problems on their own, if they don’t have the social intelligence to interact with others well they will only bring the group performance down. This should be obvious for anyone who has had to work with team members that may look good on paper or to external management, but then internal to the group, is a terrible leader. Intelligence and raw talent are great attributes, but putting together the high-producers that don’t play nice with others can end up creating a team that pecks itself to death. There are online tests that measure your ability to read people’s facial expressions[3], and some experimental tests for measuring a team’s collective intelligence. But at the moment, the most effective and inexpensive test is seeing how teams perform together, and of course simply asking the team who they would follow, and who they feel “pecked” by. For all the experimental procedures with chickens confirming what we already intuitively know about human nature, it’s usually pretty easy to spot who inspires cooperation, and who inspires in-fighting just by asking around.

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] Grandin, Temple, and Mark J Deesing. Genetics and the behavior of domestic animals. Temple Grandin & Mark J Deesing. Academic press, 2013.

[2] “Measuring Collective Intelligence – MIT Center for Collective …” 2014. 15 Feb. 2016 <http://cci.mit.edu/mciresearchpage.html>

[3] “Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test – Question Writer Tracker.” 2013. 15 Feb. 2016 <https://www.questionwritertracker.com/quiz/61/Z4MK3TKB.html>

What My Dogs Teach Me about Customer Service

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

 

Today’s post is by Christine McConnell Account Manager at SafeSourcing

I have spent the bulk of my career in Client Services, Account Management, and Sales. As a result, many of my working hours are devoted to communicating directly with customers. Many of my non-working hours, on the other hand, are spent interfacing with my three dogs: Zeus, Mabel, and Blaze. These relationships have more in common than you might think.

  • For starters, my dogs have clearly defined roles. Zeus (a one hundred and twenty pound adult male Bernese Mountain Dog) patrols the grounds. Blaze (a six-month old puppy-boy with a checkered pedigree) is our resident court jester. And Mabel (an eleven-year old Golden Retriever) is the put upon elder stateswoman. My customers also appreciate clearly defined roles that ensure that they are dealing with the most appropriate representative of our company at all times.
  • My dogs have vastly different styles of communication. Mabel has a repertoire of snorts, groans and heavy sighs. Zeus prefers nose nudges and soulful stares. And Blaze, literally whines and sings like fan belt that is about to snap. My customers use different methods to communicate with me as well. Some call, while others send email. Some complain, while others cajole. All welcome as clear communication as possible and have an uncanny ability to sniff out immediately when something is “off” and I am not being genuine.
  • My dogs are unendingly patient with me. They are ready and willing to spend as much time as is needed to master a task, whether I am training them to fetch a tennis ball or they are training me to fetch them Milkbones out of the treat cupboard. With their limited understanding of linear time, my dogs enter every new interaction with a clean slate. My customers also deserve my patience and ability to address every new situation without assumptions or expectations based on what might have occurred in the past.
  • My dogs, and customers alike, hope to be treated with consistency and fairness. They expect that I’ll do what I say; whether that is honoring a refund policy or to taking them to the park after work. They hope to be treated fairly and equitably across the board and will complain to their peers if they feel that’s not the case. Just try to sneak one of my dogs a Fig Newton without the other two rushing into the kitchen to collect their fair share!
  • Finally, my dogs are motivated by satisfaction and loyalty. When I am happy, they are happy and vice versa. My customers deserve the same from me. My dogs are 100% loyal from the tip of their noses to the end of their tails and I strive to deliver the same to my customers.

When done correctly, both dog ownership and customer service can be mutually gratifying two-way relationships. My career serving customers has been professionally and personally satisfying. I have gained much more than I have given. And of course, my dogs provide a constant stream of unconditional love, and I have the thumbs required to open the treat box and work the can opener!

For more information on how the team at SafeSourcing can help your company, or on our Risk Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

Source-to-Pay vs. Procure-to-Pay. What’s the difference?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

 

Today’s post is by Dave Wenig; Regional Sales Manager at SafeSourcing.

You may have heard of the terms Procure-to-Pay and Source-to-Pay. While both terms can be used to describe solutions that aim to improve the procurement process, they each have different meanings. The objective here is to provide some clarity around what we mean when we refer to Source-to-Pay.

Most will agree that a Procure-to-Pay solution is one that enables a cross-functional workflow to streamline and improve the process from the act of purchasing to accounts payable. Source-to-Pay takes this a step further, expanding the scope to include the process of actually sourcing the products or services to be purchased.

The objective of a Source-to-Pay strategy is to be inclusive of all activities related to procurement from sourcing using RFx capabilities through financial reconciliation with your organization’s systems of record. Implementing a Source-to-Pay solution that incorporates each step of your organization’s procurement process maximizes the value of your strategy.

The end result of a Source-to-Pay solution is a more tightly controlled procurement process that drives greater reductions in spend than you might achieve using Procure-to-Pay solutions alone. Plus, you will enjoy a more efficient supply chain.

At SafeSourcing, we advocate implementing a Source-to-Pay strategy and applaud organizations that have incorporated these solutions. For more information on how we can help you with your procurement needs or to discuss how you can improve your own strategic sourcing strategy, please contact a SafeSourcing representative. 

We look forward to your comments.

Need help improving your Wi-Fi connection?

Friday, February 19th, 2016

 

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

Installing a wireless router can be a very simple thing to do to allow internet access throughout your home or business. Depending on the location of your router, the signal may be too weak for your devices to connect reliably.  One solution to this problem would be to move the wireless router to a central location to improve the signal.  In some cases, moving the router is not an option.  If this is the case, there are several devices that can be used to improve the signal within the weak areas.  Below are some devices that can be used to extend and improve the Wi-Fi signal.

Wi-Fi Extender

A Wi-Fi extender is a device that can be plugged into a standard power outlet. It receives your current signal, amplifies it and then transmits the amplified signal.  This allows the existing signal to travel further to allow access to other rooms or floors.  There are also weatherproof extenders so that you can extend your current signal to your outdoor property as well.  More than one extender can be used to amplify your current Wi-Fi signal.  The extenders are easy to setup, they just need to be connected to a computer and authenticated on your network.  Once on the network, disconnect from the computer and plug into an outlet where the signal strength is weak.

Powerline Ethernet Adapter

Powerline adapters allow you to use your current electrical circuits as Ethernet cables. Using this method is faster than the extender because the extenders can experience some speed loss due to the communication between it and the router.  Installing the adapters is quick and easy as well.  To install, plug the first adapter into a wall outlet by the router and connect the adapter to the router with an Ethernet cable. Next, plug the second adapter into a wall outlet next to the device to connect and then connect the device to the adapter using an Ethernet cable.  The device is now connected to your internet connection and ready to use.  Multiple adapters can be used by simply plugging them into additional outlets and attaching the other devices.

If you are having connectivity issues and would like some help finding the right solution, we can gather all the necessary information for you and help you decide which option 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.

Two Heads are Better Than One

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

 

Today’s blog is by Margaret Stewart, Executive Assistant at SafeSourcing.

We were all told and retold the importance of teamwork throughout our school and work experiences, but have you ever really questioned why we need teamwork?

In many industries today, employers seek and expect employees to be able to work as a team. Anywhere you look, you can expect to see a multitude of places that list teamwork as a requirement. Some jobs require teamwork when one may not even work as a team. So, why is the ability to work as a team such a desired skill? There are, in fact, a number of different reasons why teamwork is a sought after trait.

First, an ability to work as a team means one is able to communicate well enough with others to get tasks accomplished. Even if someone doesn’t need to work with a team, communication and the ability to relay ideas and updates in a clear way is essential for most industries and positions. Employers need to have workers that can talk not only to management, but also to each other.

Second, working as a team indicates that a person can get along with others. This may not necessarily affect one’s job directly, but can make a massive impact on the work environment. If an employee can work well with others, then the whole organization can function smoothly and without friction. One member that cannot, or chooses not to, work well with others can affect the whole group.

Finally, working together can help spark ideas within the group, help keep each other accountable, and help see things in a new perspective. This skill is especially sought after by employers because these activities help engage the employees and create a sense of satisfaction over their accomplishments. That engagement and fulfillment at work leads to happier and more dedicated employees.

For more information on how the team at SafeSourcing can help your company, or on our Risk Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

 

Purchasing through a Cooperative Part V of V

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

 

Today’s post is from our SafeSourcing Archives.

As we close out this week’s series on Retail Purchasing Cooperatives we want to focus on one last cooperative that can trace its roots back to the early 20th century; Unified Grocers.

Unified Grocers which is now the combination of three successful west coast cooperatives (United Grocers, Certified Grocers and Associated Grocers) is the largest retailer-owned wholesale grocery cooperative in the western United States.  In an industry where major companies compete fiercely for very small margins, this is a savior for small grocers.

Looking at our final cooperative some of things that Unified Grocers is offering today provide tremendous value to its members.

Store Resources – From schematics & merchandising software and services; to retail pricing consulting; to in-store development, Unified offers a host of valuable services and products to its members.  From a technology standpoint Unified Grocer members have access to Interactive Ordering which is a technology that allows instant access to ordering information from a handheld unit right on the floor.  Some of Unified’s members may not have even had an opportunity to have this type of technology without their ties to the cooperative.

Consumer events – Unified is a huge supporter of public events including 6 major marathons; an Air Show and Women’s Show and the annual Seattle Seafair bringing hundreds of thousands of consumers to a month long celebration.  Through these events the Unified members can get directly involved and benefit from the exposure at a level most members could only dream of on their own.

Professional Services – Being a smaller retailer can make some professional services difficult if not impossible procure.  Unified has the capability with its size to offer significant savings on professional services to its members.  Logistics, Real Estate and Insurance services are key to the Unified members but on of the key services are the financing services where Grocers Capital, a subsidiary of Unified Grocers has provided over $125 million in financing to its members to help grow.

As we have detailed this week there are many great cooperatives out there helping retailers compete in industries that are getting tougher and tougher and to compete in.  Many cooperatives offer tools and services to their members to help leverage the power of the group to procure products and services with some offering specialized benefits and opportunities as we have described over the past week.

For more information on the retail industry’s cooperatives or other ways you can leverage the buying power of a purchasing group, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. 

We look forward to your comments.

Purchasing through a Cooperative Part IV of V

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

 

Today’s post is our SafeSourcing  Archive

In this week’s series we have been looking at the retail cooperative and in particular focusing on some of the organizations out there in different market segments and what they are doing to separate themselves from other groups.

One of the most successful retail purchasing cooperatives is one that many people do not even know is a cooperative because of how well they are organized and branded; ACE Hardware.

ACE Hardware, which also includes True Value and Do it Best, represents the purchasing power of over 13,000 independent stores.  Founded in 1924, by a small group of Chicago hardware store owners, the organization has become one of the most successful cooperatives in U.S. Retail history, allowing smaller stores to compete even in landscapes with larger competitors.

Some of the things that have made ACE so successful are the capability to convert your business to an ACE location, the capability of International opportunities and a huge support system for advertising and marketing needs.

Conversion – One of the unique benefits this group offers to companies is the capability to convert your existing business to an ACE, True Value or Do It Best format.  With this benefit comes a slew of professional services that help owners with the transition into the ACE family.  With every conversion a customized plan is developed to ensure the easiest and most efficient transition occurs.

International – With the ACE brand being one of the top 100 most recognized brands in the world, the opportunity for international cooperative services and purchasing power opens doors in a way that would traditionally never be accessible to most retailers.

Advertising/Marketing – As with some other cooperatives, one of the big benefits ACE, True Value and Do It Best bring to its members is a cost effective marketing programs that can drive sales and traffic at a level on pace with the larger national chain hardware stores.

For more information on the retail industry’s cooperatives or other ways you can leverage the buying power of a purchasing group, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  

We look forward to your comments.

Purchasing through a Cooperative Part III of V

Monday, February 15th, 2016

 

Today’s post is from our SafeSourcing Archives

In this week’s series we have been looking at the retail cooperative and in particular focusing on some of the organizations out there in different market segments and what they are doing to separate themselves from other groups.

Today we are going to be focusing on the Chain Drug Consortium.  The CDC is a collective group that represents 1150 retail Drug Stores with over $8 billion in revenue.  Its 18 members span the United States and service hundreds of thousands of customers.

Each day the CDC provides its retail members “an innovative savings approach through key purchasing programs and services, which help maximize market opportunities.”  Some of the specialized programs the CDC provides it members are detailed below.

Product Lines – The CDC offers two corporate product lines to its members; Premier Value and Premier Traditions.  With over 1,800 products that span over the counter medicine, HBC and general merchandise, the Premier Value brand provides its members a huge value in alternatives to National brands at a low cost to them.  The Premier Traditions line includes Christmas seasonal items such as lighting and tree products.

Conferences – The larger the cooperative/consortium is the more opportunities to provide members valuable activities such as National Planning Conferences become for the entire group.  The CDC provides its members an annual planning conference which allows all of the member presidents an opportunity to present their business strategy and receive high level executive collaboration to build more successful programs.  This is a valuable benefit the CDC and other cooperatives can bring their members.

Member Chirp – Through the member portal the CDC provides its members a forum for members to access import program information ranging from seasonal program offerings to latest updates of activity within the organization.  This is also a place for the pharmacy members to be able to access national and private brand label pharmaceutical information.

The CDC is just another great example of how a cooperative/consortium can provide great value to members who belong to it and how they can continue to grow with the clients with new and innovative to services and offerings such as aggregated purchases or both product and services.

For more information on the retail industry’s cooperatives, the CDC or how consolidating your purchase activity with other similar companies can benefit you, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.

We look forward to your comments.

Part II of V Purchasing through a Cooperative

Friday, February 12th, 2016

 

Today’s post is our SafeSourcing Archives.

Continuing with our series on cooperatives, today we are going to take a look into the hospitality industry by focusing on the Hospitality Services Group (HSG).  This group, formed in 1989, provides small chain and independent hotels, restaurants, and retirement communities the purchasing power of a large company and is one of the most successful cooperatives in the United States.

The HSG is a fee based system that focuses on hospitality businesses in the northeast and touts some very useful benefits to its members that are 100% focused on the procurement process.

Industry focused expertise and planning – The HSG offers several tools, whitepapers and articles geared toward helping hospitality businesses plan for their most efficient and cost-effective operations.  From menu planning and pricing to managing vendor agreements to a database full of product specific facts, the HSG is more than just a Buying Group.

High powered software – The HSG offers all of its members high powered software that allows them to track their costs, create recipes that allow for easier improvements in managed costs, and manage purchase orders from beginning to end.

Delivery & invoicing – By working with the HSG, companies have much less to worry about, as product is delivered straight to their building and the vendors invoice them directly.  The HSG handles the relationships for their customers so that their customers can focus on running their business.

Research – Part of what the HSG offers its members in the way of purchasing is by researching new products, standards and technologies for producing the items they are purchasing to continually look for ways to reduce their customers cost-of-goods.  This frees up the owners to be able to focus on their restaurants and hotels providing better service to their customers without worrying about staying current on everything in their industry from a procurement standpoint.

For more information on the retail industry’s cooperatives, the HSG or how your cost-of-goods can be positively affected, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  

We look forward to your comments.