Archive for the ‘Procurement Solutions’ Category

I could not believe the question, but it was asked in a category manager meeting.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Google or Bing certainly might help here, but in the old days we needed to know this stuff. So let me give you an old fashioned answer.

Typically this author thinks of this process in the six steps that follow

   1. When buying a product or a service a decision is required to do so.
   2. Once the decision has been made, analysis of what you are currently  buying in what volumes for use in what locations that will continue to satisfy your needs to be completed.
   3. Your purchase offer is submitted to a supplier or suppliers in order to collect pricing and other information such as the Terms and Conditions required in making your decision.
   4. A contract is signed for the product or service that outlines the responsibilities of the involved parties as well as remedies if contract terms and conditions or volumes are not met.
   5. A purchase order is issued with the appropriate approvals that match to the specifics as outlined in the contract in order to properly manage the contract.
   6. Payment is generated based on the purchase order submitted against the contract.

Sometimes there is a steep where an LOI or letter of intent is issued between step 3 and step 4 in order to take advantage of contract terms earlier in the cycle.

So now what happens if you don’t have a contract management system or a purchase order management system? Generally it’s referred to as leakage. In about 12 months you will be very familiar with it.

Contact SafeSourcing and let’s see if we can help you out with our procure to pay solutions.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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I’m proud to be a Veteran

Friday, November 11th, 2011

The background for my career began in base supply in the U.S. Airforce during the Vietnam era. My AFSC was that of an inventory management  and logistics specialist. I still use those tools today and think often of all the brothers and sisters in all branches of the service both past and present on this day.

Thanks to all of you for what you have done  and continue to do for our country.

We appreciate all of your contributions.

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Many Mid Tier One and Tier Two retail companies can not afford advanced analytic software! The truth is they also can’t afford to not have it! So what to do?

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Let’s first try to understand what analytics actually is. According to Wikipedia’ a simple definition of analytics is “the science of analysis”. A practical definition, however, would be that analytics is the process of obtaining an optimal or realistic decision based on existing data. Business managers may choose to make decisions based on past experiences or rules of thumb, or there might be other qualitative aspects to decision making; but unless there are data involved in the process, it would not be considered analytics.

So why can’t many companies afford analytics? The answer is because they are complex. In my early days of selling data warehouses with one of the industry leaders, in fact the best in the space today the combination and analysis of data from disparate functional areas of a business were nearly impossible. As such if a company was advanced enough to have this type of information it most likely existed in islands that evolved into departmental data marts like category management systems. These data marts ultimately evolved to complex databases with relational data models that allowed access of data contained in these  disparate systems and then into on line analytical systems capable of managing massive amounts of data .

It’s probably no surprise that the early adopters of these technologies were the biggest of the big companies and governments. So when we get to analytics that support e-procurement systems or procurement systems in general, the systems that provide the analytics have to reside within a company’s corporately supported data model. If not, they initially at least have to have a procurement data model that supports data contained in ERP systems, Financial systems etc. Since the trend is not a backwards direction of recreating islands of information,  pilots of these systems that show significant benefits, will only end up as a corporate roll out through integration within the corporate framework and data model.

I could go on to explain the expense and time associated with these implementations, but there is a reason that these solutions are not readily implemented within lower tier one and tier two retailers. Number one is that many still do not have easily accessible corporate views of data. Number two is the cost; resources and time to implement them are difficult for these companies to justify.

As such there continues to be a need (niche) for providers that understand retail from an operational and financial perspective that know where to look, what to ask for and can assemble, analyze and report on data the old way to support the procurement data requirements of mid tier one and tier two retailers.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Hey buyers! The economy is still terrible. Maybe now is the time to finally try reverse auctions.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

However, we continue to see a reasonable uptick in the use of e-negotiation tools in retail and this author believes that some of the following quotes from a retail CEO and his team  that watched their first  reverse auction last week may be the reason why.
1. “This was pretty simple to do”
2. “If we hired someone we could do these ourselves with you guys”
3. “This is fun”
4. “You mean the reports are already available”
5. “I love the sports concept”
6. “It was easy to follow the marquis and what was going on from one screen”
7. “The multiple color schemes were great”
8. “I can’t believe how fast you guys set this up”
9. “We saved that much money and only have to pay what we discussed”
10. “Can we do another one today”
11. “I may get a promotion out of this”
12. “I love that calculator at the end of the bid process”
13. “I like all of the supplier data that was accessible during the auction”
14. “Now I know how the big guys get the pricing they do”

Why not join others that have come a little late to the party. You can still benefit because today’s tools are easier to use, more interactive, maintain your attention during an auction, integrate gaming technology to keep it fun and are lower cost than their predecessors. If you happen to have already been doing this for years, why not find an easier way or do it less expensively.

If you would like to have fun, save money and do it quickly, please visit us at

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Getting to know your specifications.

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Here is a challenge: Pick a product that you purchase and write out a specification. Be specific and include components and peripherals. Take it a step further and write down how many and how often you purchase. Finally, what is the price you are currently paying for this product? Is that the same price you agreed to pay when at the beginning of the contract?

This exercise may seem basic, but this knowledge is a vital component of the procurement process. Here is a list of potential red flags that may mean it is time to research your products.

     1. All of your product data is in the form of a vendor invoice.
     2. You are uncertain of your order volumes or frequencies.
     3. You have been placing the exact same orders for years.
     4. Your pricing fluctuates often.

Be honest with yourself; is there room for improvement in product knowledge? I would encourage you to reach out to your strategic sourcing partner for suggestions. Aside from dollar savings results, you will also benefit from having a complete set of product specifications, vendor information and more at the completions of your strategic sourcing process. 

For more information on SafeSourcing and how we can assist with this process, please contact a Customer Service Representative for more information.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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What’s up? Is it possible to save money on anything in this market?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

If you had the tools to check all of the market indices, they are all up or headed up. Fuel, pulp, resin, metals, beef, grain and the list goes on. Many are up double digits over the last year and headed higher still. As such, your suppliers will be increasing their prices to you.

It is in this environment that procurement professionals are being asked to take cost out of the business or at a minimum hold costs flat. The question is how?

To begin with, even in up markets there remains significant opportunity for cost reduction and other savings. This does not apply to every category or to every product within a category, but there are opportunities.

Here are some things for procurement professionals to consider as they embark on this journey. All of these can provide clues that will help you map your way through today’s markets.

1) Review the last time all products or services were sourced in detail?
2) Review the dates on all current contracts?
3) Are there additional suppliers that are interested in your business?
4) Review all Terms and Conditions to uncover hidden opportunities.
5) Have your volumes increased or will they?
6) Will a longer term increase discounts?
7) Leverage freight and shipping terms? 
8) Use indices and escalator language to control price increases.
9) Understand what drives the pricing of the product or service you are buying.
10) Aggregate your volumes with other companies.
11) Reach out to procurement providers that have the expertise to help you.

If you can’t come up with at least another 10 items to add to this list of more than 3 of the items above did not occur to you, it’s time to reach out for some help.

The reality is that prices are always going to go up over the long term. The other reality is that there are companies that are still saving or holding costs. The reason is because they plan better than most and ask for help when they need it.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Understanding the Relationship Between Procurement and Marketing

Monday, April 4th, 2011

The relationship between a retailer’s Marketing and Procurement Departments has been one struggling to maintain cohesiveness in many companies for quite some time.

While the Marketing team is continually trying to find creative and cutting-edge ways to increase sales within a retail organization, Procurement is constantly looking for ways in which to not only reduce costs, but find the best fit of suppliers with their company.

In many cases, marketing will expend a good deal of effort to find vendors to work with them on projects that when turned over to the procurement team can’t even be considered because their price is too high.  In the end this costs the company money, creates continued division between departments, and causes unnecessary lost time and sales.

Studies and reports have shown, and we at SafeSourcing agree, that the involvement of the Procurement department, even at the most basic level, into marketing projects can reap huge benefits as both departments work toward finding partners in their suppliers to achieve both their marketing and procurement objectives.

Retailers whose Marketing departments can leverage the database of the Procurement department’s suppliers will find a positive effect on their spend while achieving the ROI they are looking for on their campaigns and will create a better team environment within the company to achieve like-minded goals.

For more information about how the SafeSourcing database of known suppliers can help your company’s marketing and procurement departments work together to achieve these goals, please contact a Customer Service representative today.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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How many times does someone ask you what does procurement mean?

Monday, January 31st, 2011

It really is a curious question; pretty much along the same line as what is spend management. Well my answer might create more questions, but all of the following job areas within your company are probably involved or impacted by procurement or e-procurement?

1. Finance
2. Purchasing
3. Logistics
4. Manufacturing
5. Warehousing
6. Materials Management
7. Inventory Management
8. Supply Chain
9. Distribution
10. Transportation

There are certainly many more areas of a company that have procurement or  e-procurement connections, but the above probably give you a pretty good idea of the breadth of involvement within any company. In fact, I can’t think of a job that is not impacted by procurement. Maybe I should just say we save every department in your company money every day.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Where does the retail spend data you need for procurement reside?

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The problem today is that there is so much retail data available that buyers and category managers could easily suffer business paralysis by data analysis.

Below is just a partial list of systems and places where data resides that is meaningful if not critical to sourcing professionals. Most of you can probably add to this list pretty easily. The unfortunate issue that confronts  retail procurement professionals daily is that most of this data is not integrated in any way and even at very large companies,  to much critical data is sitting on local employee desktops or even worse in their heads. And that is not what we mean by a neural network.

1. ERP systems
2. Enterprise Data Warehouse systems
3. Replenishment systems
4. Financial reporting systems
5. Demand Planning systems
6. Purchase Order management systems
7. Distribution and Logistics systems
8. Merchandise management systems
9. Retail Planning systems
10. Local employee desktops
11. Contract management systems

Number two from above the enterprise data warehouse is probably the most logical place to bring all of these data sources or elements together within one logical data model that drives the master data source integrated with a s business reporting and  busyness intelligence front end. Small companies may never make it to this level, but if they can find a business partner that offers these solutions in a SaaS format it will be much better than the current; Hey  Joe, how many of these did we order last year?

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Join the argument. Strategic Sourcing alive or dead? Part II of II.

Monday, September 20th, 2010

In Part I of this blog we posited that in order for a strategic plan to be successful there are certain elements organizations need to know. I’ll just list a few as an example.

1. Your own company.
2. Your Industry. Example: Retail.
3. Your vertical within your industry.
4. Your competition. Be careful.
5. Your category.
6. Your product.

So let’s assume that you have an e-procurement supplier that indicates they have great strategic sourcing tools that can evaluate your data and help you strategically build your sourcing plan which as a result would support your company strategic plan.

Let’s assume a tier two supermarket chain wanted to evaluate their total grocery category. Let’s just look at bottled water which is a sub category of the total grocery category. The first requirement is that they provide access to their sales and cost data. This may be easier said than done in the lower tier one and tier two markets. What is also required here is access to industry data. Data may indicate that their bottled water sales are 2.5% of their total grocery category, but what is the industry standard for this category? Are they already above the average?  Has their category grown year over year? Have industry category sales?  If they have access to both sets of data they have a start but who is their competition?  Are they comparing themselves to other supermarkets and should they be?  What about C-Stores, Drug-Stores, Liquor Stores and Mass Merchants that are close to their stores and get a share of category sales. Are they aware of these competitors category mix such as number of brands offered or private label offerings? All of this information is required for every category in the total grocery category. If they don’t conduct this analysis how would they begin to know what category to address first? The obvious choice is the category that is most out of norm with the industry average. But will sourcing that category have the best impact on the P&L and earnings.

Once this analysis has been completed, their e-procurement solutions provider should also have data that can guide them as to what month is the best month to source specific categories and what commodity markets are doing currently that may also have an impact on finished products.

After all of this is completed and categories are evaluated, ranked and prioritized they should then look for other elements that are incorporated in their company’s strategic plans such as CSR initiatives that support safety and the environment.

So, is strategic sourcing dead? This author does not believe so. However it is a process involving a lot of work, a lot of data, a lot of analysis and more than just tools in order to result in a strategic sourcing plan that can be implemented, scored and adjusted properly over time.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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