Archive for the ‘E-procurement Tools’ Category

Why increased profitability continues to evade the middle market retailers.

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

 

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

I wrote this post 12 years ago. Not much has changed. That’s a shame.

There are two primary sources of objections that continue to halt the use of these profit enhancing tools in the middle markets.

The first source is your own buyers or category managers. For some, it is the false belief that these tools will eliminate their jobs. For others, it is the thought that in rising markets, buyers tend to be conservative in the hopes that their suppliers will continue to honor old contracts and delay price increases. Neither assumption is true. E-procurement tools make a buyer?s job easier as they can do more in less time such as working with dozens of suppliers versus only the same few.? Honoring old contracts almost never happens. Ever-greening of contracts is a huge problem in retail where the lack of sophisticated contract management systems that can provide automatic alerts results in hundreds of contracts auto renewing at predetermined price increases. This results in huge cost increases to retailers that were not planned for. This is all the more reason to be thinking about your spend months before contracts expire even if it only results in cost avoidance.

The second area where you can expect pushback is from your incumbent suppliers or wholesale distributors. If you have never participated in the setup of a reverse auction and most middle market retailers have not, that initial call to your suppliers to ask them to participate in a reverse auction event is always an interesting journey. Be prepared for all of the reasons in the world why you should not waste your time on this type of process. The more forceful the pushback the more likely you are to see savings that you should have seen earlier. As such, although suppliers may b well aware of or even using these technologies to reduce their costs, middle tier retailers have not able to share in these savings to the extent they should.

If middle market senior executives lead the charge and cost and the availability of new sources of supply is no longer an issue, there is no reason middle market retailers should not benefit greatly from running reverse auctions.

If you’d like a risk free trial, please contact SafeSourcing.

Here are Five Basic Tips for Writing a Strategic Online Survey!

Monday, April 26th, 2021

 

Todays post is from our SafeSourcing Archives

Creating an effective, quality written Online Survey that produces the detailed information you require from respondents can be a challenge. In this post, we’ll review 5 quick tips for writing a Strategic Online Survey.

  1. Create a naming convention for the survey and write a brief summarizing introduction. A Survey name and a brief introduction are great ways to give your respondents some detailed background and a frame of reference.
  2. Write a summarizing, brief survey. Begin with an outline of details as to what is important to know for the project. Formulate a question only when the answer will provide data you can use and need.
  3. Think ahead as to how the analysis of the information will look, as in what your end game will look like. This should impact how you format your questions. Statistical reporting may not be able to be performed if your questions to not adhere to the results framework you have pre planned.
  4. Attempt to use closed-ended questions. Limit the number of open-ended questions as these provide and opportunity to the respondent to get off track. Respondents usually have a better understanding of closed-ended questions because they are more straightforward and offer responses they can choose from. An excessive number of open-ended questions can frustrate the respondent and affect the quality of the answers they may provide.
  5. Craft a well-written pertinent subject line for the invitation email you plan on sending with the survey in order to capture your respondents’ attention.

Although these five simple steps are enough to get you started in the right direction reaching out to professionals like SafeSourcing about their SafeSurvey™ tool for additional guidance will guarantee the results you are looking for. A well-written online survey has much higher completion rates and is an effective method for gathering disparate data from differing sources in a format that us usable.

If you’d like to learn more about the SafeSourcing  SafeSurvey™ please contact a SafeSourcing Project Manager.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments

What is a Third Party Logistics Provider or 3PL and how do retailers use them?

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

 

If you are having difficulty with your current distribution model, compress your spend using eProcurement tools and then source a reputable 3PL.

According to Wikipedia a third-party logistics provider (abbreviated 3PL) is a firm that provides outsourced or “third party” logistics services to companies for part, or sometimes all of their supply chain management functions. Third party logistics providers typically specialize in integrated operation, warehousing and transportation services that can be scaled and customized to customer’s needs based on market conditions and the demands and delivery service requirements for their products and materials.

As such, there are a number of types of 3PL’s within retail that may in fact service a single retailer as well as smaller buying groups of small retailers. All might fall under this umbrella including wholesalers such as SUPERVALU, collective buyers such as TOPCO or even a retailer collaborative that may in fact just coordinate aggregated purchases and in fact pick other 3PL’s to provide warehousing, picking and packing and distribution. Each of these providers may in fact provide some or all of the same services. The later or collaborative of multiple retailers might even be looked at as a non asset based 3PL.

In all categories of third party logistics providers however it is still the end user or retailer regardless of size that determines what products they buy and accept delivery of in their stores. As such, it should be no more difficult for smaller retailers to run e-negotiation events? There will need to be discussions as to costs that are purely associated with the warehousing, slotting, picking and distribution of products by a 3PL once an e-negotiation event has been planned, but these items should be easy to break out for bid or add to the final pricing prior to award of business as a flat fee. This is a practice that all 3PL’s should be familiar with already. Retailers should anticipate that their existing 3PL depending on services offered would rather not have you conduct these types of events as it negatively impacts their volumes with manufacturers and other providers and as such their company’s margins.

Understanding your options and the flexibility that 3PL’s can provide may actually make it easier for all retailers to use e-negotiation tools to impact their bottom line.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Why should retailers be concerned with evergreen contracts?

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

 

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

This author has been asked on numerous occasions why I am so concerned with evergreen contracts. First, let’s discuss what an evergreen contract is. A simple definition is that it is a contract or an agreement between two parties (you and your supplier) that is automatically renewed or rolled over after each completion period which is typically a year, until canceled by the either party.

This does not sound so bad at first glance, particularly if the current terms of the contract such as price, performance, quality, service or service level are all being met and are to your advantage when they automatically renew. However this is not normally the case, particularly with contracts that are driven by commodity markets such as oil, chemicals, resins, pulp, steel and many others. In addition you can bet if the advantage is in your favor in the initial contract that your current supplier will notify you in writing within the specified period which is usually 60 days that they are going to let the contract expire or want to renegotiate.

In large parts of the retail trade, there are very few sophisticated contract management solutions deployed, the cost to the industry annually runs in the billions of dollars. This is because the original contract normally has language that includes price increases above the current contract when it auto renews and the auto renewal is normally for a year if the supplier is not notified in writing prior to the anniversary date. Once renewed you are stuck. This happens because most buyers or executives think they will remember in time to notify your supplier when in fact this almost never is the case. As most retail companies have thousands of contracts in the place the amount of data requiring review is unmanageable.

The worst case I ever reviewed was a contract written nine years earlier that had renewed every year. The customer was actually paying the uplifted prices and substantially more than a much smaller company was paying for the same type of service at significantly lower volumes. This did not even include newer technology benefits.

Contract management solutions that offer alert subsystems based on contracts Meta data are the best solution to this problem and typically provide near immediate ROI based solely on the cost avoidance associated with evergreen contracts.

SafeSourcing offers an easy to use solution called SafeContract™ to help our customers with this problem. Ask your solution provider how they can help you. Or contact SafeSourcing.

 

Do you know how a price index plays into e-procurement best practices?

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

 

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

Todays post is a little long in the tooth, but still relevant for sourcing professionals.

Being overly simplistic an index is a system used to make finding causal information easier! There are any numbers of indexes or indices available to help procurement knowledge workers insure they are sourcing products at the best possible pricing. The key word here is price as what we will be discussing are specifically price indices.

According to Wikipedia a price index (plural: “price indices” or “price indexes”) is a normalized average (typically a weighted average) of prices for a given class of goods or services in a given region, during a given interval of time. It is a statistic designed to help to compare how these prices, taken as a whole, differ between time periods or geographical locations.

Price indices have several potential uses. For particularly broad indices, the index can be said to measure the economy’s price level or a cost of living. More narrow price indices can help producers with business plans and pricing. Sometimes, they can be useful in helping to guide investment.

Normally an index reflects the current and historical price of a variety of commodities ranging from metals to grain. A common index used in sourcing petroleum products is OPIS or the Oil Price Information Service which you can learn more about by visiting www.opisnet.com.  However in order to drive the best possible fuel pricing there are other dependencies such as whether you are doing spot buys or bulk purchases and these strategies will determine what specific index you would want to review as well as it’s relation to other product information sources such as Platts or the Gulf Coast spot assessments.  This will put you in a better position to determine how to bid the product and also earn a discount relative to the lowest common denominator.

All other commodities have similar sourcing issues dependant on what the highest cost item is in their product makeup. An example here might be the cost of grain in the feeding of cattle or poultry.

Ask you solution provider to explain these tools to you and to recommend how you might use them toward the best outcome.

If you’d like more information, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Services Account Manager.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Retail Contract Leakage. Where does it come from and how can we stop it?

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

 

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

How does your organization  now ensure that the award of business is implemented or delivered as awarded so that you indeed receive all of your savings?

This is probably the most difficult part of the entire procurement lifecycle. The first part is to understand your data and where it is kept, that includes understanding what constitutes contract leakage so that you know what you are looking at. Once you have the data needs to be looked at on a regular basis in order to insure leakage is not occurring. This should be at least monthly depending on contract language. Most contract management systems have alerts that can be triggered as frequently as required.

The following list although not all inclusive speaks too many of areas in which contract leakage can occur. This happens in all companies large and small. If you are aware of them, capture them and report on them there is a good possibility of controlling them.

1. Buying without a contract.

2. Expensing something outside of a contract

3. Having multiple contracts in place:

4. Executing a new agreement when one is already in place

5. Paying a price different from the contract

6. Delivery variances

7. Quality specifications variances

8. Making payments at a prices different from the contract

9. Scope creep

10. Invoice discrepancies

11. Missed volume discounts

12. Insurance discrepancies

13. Shipping discrepancies

14. Expired contracts resulting in price uplift

15. Evergreening

16. Overtime Violations

17. Material discrepancies

18. Sub Contractor discrepancies

Don’t  have your team work hard to drive benefits with your procurement solutions and then lose much of what you have gained to contract leakage. Ask your e-procurement solutions provider how they can help or save yourself a lot of time or please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Services Account Manager.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Retailers it’s really pretty simple; just look at your Gross Profit.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

 

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

How many times do we hear all of the reasons for a retail company’s performance being off? It’s the cost of doing business over seas, the economy, the cost of fuel, heath care costs etc. How often do we hear, that we are doing better than the same period a year ago or we are exceeding plan. All of that is nice stuff, but the bottom line is your bottom line. If you top line sales are up and your net profit is up it does not necessarily mean that you have all of your procurement issues under control.

Let’s start with some numbers you might want to look at. Don’t just assume that profit is a good thing because profit could be caused by an imbalance in your category margins.

Here are a few good questions to ask yourself.
.
1. How do your cost of goods compare to the rest of the industry for a chain of your size?
2. How do your operating expenses compare to other chains of your size?
3. How do your gross margins compare to other chains your size?

All of the above can be good indicators of overall company health and certainly procurement health. If your cost of goods is higher than industry averages for a chain of your size, why is that? Is there a specific category that is causing the issue? Do you know how to isolate the problem and then eliminate it?

If you don’t have or know this information, you should ask your e-procurement provider if they have it, because they should if they want to model an improvement plan for you.

As an example, here is an example of a previous years U.S. based convenience store chains targets for non fuel.

1. Cost of Goods Sold should run somewhere around 71% or 72%
2. Gross Profit should run around 28% to 30%
3. Operating Expenses should run around 26% to 29%
4. Net Operating Income around 2%

While these numbers are certainly off based on Pandemic issues, product  or services mix, you can build a case model on them to compare before and after for you company. That is if you have a tool like SafeBIM™ from SafeSourcing. BIM stands for Business Impact Model.

If you are way out of balance with these numbers and want to understand how to rebalance them, contact a  SafeSourcing Customer Services Associate.

 

Part II of here is some Lasik for retail e-procurement professionals in order to create better focus.

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

 

During yesterdays post Here is some Lasik for retail e-procurement professionals in order to create better focus we discussed the following four retail P&L measures and how to use them to pin point a starting point for e-procurement evaluation and events. They were

  1. Gross Sales,
  2. Cost of Goods Sold,
  3. Gross Margin and
  4. EBITDA.

Also in yesterdays post, we promised to review what underperforming the above measures means and how careful evaluation will point you in the direction as to where to begin your e-procurement journey.

Here you go!

If your EBITDA is low, and your top line sales are in line with your plan, it is pretty clear that you have either an expense problem or a cost of goods problem. If the problem is expense related the first indicator is that your gross margin is most likely in line and your costs of goods are ok relative to your plan. In this case since the issue looks like it is below the gross margin line you have an expense problem. This does not always mean that the issue is your largest expense category like health benefits. Often times the problem can be caused by mid level expense related categories particularly categories that are hard to monitor and as such hard to control like hired services. A few examples are items like landscaping, snow removal, pest control, window washing and other similar types of expenses. These expenses have multiple invoices from multiple suppliers multiple times each month and are approved at store level. As a result, eProcurement results for these categories return impressive results while also streamlining suppliers as well as the process. With out going into to much detail the exact same process works if you turn this issue around and sales are near plan and gross margin is out of line, you most likely have a cost of goods issue.

A caution that procurement professionals should be aware of is that of measuring yourself solely against your own plan. You may be achieving your plan, but underperforming the industry you serve. This author believes that this is the 2nd level of analysis required once you have addressed the items indicated above and want to take the next step in creating a sustainable e-procurement process.

I hope this helps and allows you to use the lyrics from the 1972 song by Johnny Nash titled ?I can see clearly now? as your sourcing mantra.

If you’d like to discuss further how I can personally help your company, please use our contact page as I get the updates as soon as you submit it.

 

On the Twelve Days of e-Procurement Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

 

Todays post is a holiday favorite by our CEO Ron Southard from our SafeSourcing Archives.

  1. On the first day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, a streamlined procurement process.
  2. On the second day of Christmas our e-service provider gave to us, more suppliers to source our goods and services from.
  3. On the third day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, pricing that works for smallest categories..
  4. On the fourth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, consistent and customized product specifications.
  5. On the fifth day of Christmas our e-procurement service supplier gave to us, more time for other priorities.
  6. On the sixth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, improved quality in our products and services.
  7. On the seventh day of Christmas our e-procurement service supplier gave to us, better supplier education.
  8. On the eighth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, a simple award of business process.
  9. On the ninth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, support for a better carbon footprint.
  10. On the tenth day of Christmas our e-procurement service supplier gave to us, total category e-procurement.
  11. On the eleventh day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, safer products for our customers and planet.
  12. On the twelfth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, a sustainable e-procurement process and improved corporate net earnings.

Now, ask yourself if all of these goals are accomplished on your company’s behalf by your present e-procurement service provider. If n0t, please contact a SafeSourcing customer services account manager.

Continued best wishes for a very Merry Christmas  the rest of the 2020 Holiday Season.

Collaborative Buyer Organizations, Share Groups and Consortiums are evolving in order to compete with mega retailers.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

 

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

These business structures have been around for a long time. Many have evolved to use cutting edge e-negotiation and eProcurement tools. Their retailer members are also benefiting from their use of these tools in order to reduce their net landed costs in many different ways.

These types of organization can go by many different names such as wholesaler, collective buyer, consortium, cooperative, share groups and more. They all have one thing in common. They consolidate purchasing volumes for a wide array of groups that may have very similar business structures, but for the savvy consortium can also be wildly different.

In the retail vertical, companies may actually belong to several different buying groups because their primary group does not offer expertise in a certain area.

Consortiums are also evolving and beginning to focus mixed markets where it makes sense. In general consortiums tend to be vertically focused such as a drug industry consortium with the members generally representing the drug industry only. However some consortiums are beginning to market them selves outside of their vertical to retailers or other companies who want to take advantage of learned expertise that the consortium possesses in the categories that are common across more than their own vertical and offer increased volumes. An example might be drug stores sourcing very similar products that health care organizations like hospitals source. Although this may seem like a stretch fro most, it is now very common within retail for non vertical specific players to work together.

Today’s advanced e-negotiation or e-procurement tools make it much easier to accomplish collective buying and aggregating outside of a consortiums initial area of expertise. Large and small retailers alike now have the capability of viewing a much broader universe of suppliers and other companies while also coordinating and participating in collaborative events from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Suppliers now have an opportunity to earn business they could never compete for in the past.

Retailers should ask their collective buyers how they plan to make the use of these types of tools and what they have to offer in terms of introductions to other companies for increased volume.

If you’d like to learn more about our risk free trial or how SafeSourcing may be of service to you, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Services Representative.