Today’s post is from Ronald D. Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.
I began working in the Supply Chain in 1970. I was in the US Air Force and actually worked in Base Supply. My certification was inventory management specialist AFSC 64550 and then supervisor AFSC 64570. We did not have category managers at that time, although our job was similar. We had to understand our category or categories in depth, evaluate usage, buy in advance of need, schedule shipments to just about anywhere in the world and do it on time and within budget. No $600 toilet seats in this job as the country was still at war. So at this point I have pretty much seen it all. Technology has and continues to advance at an ever increasing pace. Individual areas mentioned above have become areas of specialization such as logistics. All sorts of naming conventions for a particular practice like category manager have come and many have gone.
So what’s the point you ask? The point is that the base function of procurement has not changed that much from my description above, nor has how one attacks the overall procure to pay process. And that is precisely where the term camouflage comes in. We don’t need Wikipedia or an online dictionary to define the meaning of camouflage. Camouflage is worn in order to blend in to the current environment. It is worn to be the same so that others cannot see you for what you really are. On the other hand, hunters wear orange so that they can be seen and seen clearly as just that; different! Different from the trees, different from the animals, different from the grass. Very plainly it is worn to be seen as a hunter and not as the prey. The camouflage keeps them safe.
I think many companies in the Procurement, eProcurement and Procure to Pay space wear camouflage. They live in what Nido Qubein the President of High Point University likes to call “A Sea of Sameness”. They are doing the same things that others have done for years in the same way with little to differentiate them from one another. Technology is not the differentiator needed in this space, ideas are! Executable ideas are the foundation for wearing ORANGE, for standing up and standing out.
Let me give you an example without going into too much detail. After every RFI, RFP or RFQ we run at SafeSourcing, our SafeSourceIt™ system automagically sends a survey to all participants. This includes suppliers as well as the host. We use our SafeSurvey™ tool. Think of Survey Monkey but better. Many of our customers use this tool for their internal and external communication. You can’t imagine all of the ideas we get from this simple process. The information allows us to grow our sourcing intelligence as well as our application design. Last week we received a survey from a customer that participated in a very complex event for Safety Supplies. The input was not positive on the surface. Comments centered on the complexity of entering the data in the way that we required. I was something like this. We have never been asked to enter data in this way (our secret sauce). Although the tool was easy to use with no screens to toggle between, why would you collect data in this format (we call in decile based sourcing). Later that week, this same supplier called me and said I have used many eProcurement tools and the more we think about it, although it was tough for us to price this way (oh well), we are thinking about using SafeSourcing in order to bring our costs under control. Can we set up a meeting? By the way, savings for this event were seven figures.
What caused this type of response? ORANGE thinking (out of the box) swimming against the current to get out of the sea of sameness as our camouflaged competition.
If you’d like to learn more about how to attack your costs in a more creative way, please contact a SafeSourcng customer services representative.
We look forward to and appreciate your comments.