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.

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.

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.

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

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.

“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.

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.

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.

Procurement Camouflage! At SafeSourcing we’d rather wear ORANGE.

Monday, August 5th, 2013

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.

Conduct your sourcing as a market basket or product alone and you’ll leave value on the table.

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Market basket sourcing has been around for a long time. Most of us are familiar with a market basket as something we see or use in a supermarket. Every market basket is made up of different items and different quantities of items based on the needs or desires of the individual consumer. The majority of the mix is based on use both planned and historical. In today’s age of big data, the relationships of these items one to another or their affinity is also important although not necessarily well understood. An example would be why someone buying baby diapers might also be buying beer and chips and how that may influence sourcing decisions.

As such it is the uniqueness of these individual market baskets that should concern business owners when they develop their sourcing strategy. This applies as much at an individual shopper level for a retailer as it does at the business to business level.

Understanding the unique characteristics of products and their relationship to other products is key to understanding how to source those products. Just as retailers look at the their top deciles of customers and try to figure out how to get better wallet share from these groups by understanding the mix of the products they buy; businesses can look at the top deciles of the goods and services they buy to conduct their business and figure out how to get a better price for the items the sell or use most frequently. A market basket approach to sourcing where everything is lumped together will never accomplish the compression goals set in a companies sourcing strategy.

Sourcing based on the top deciles within a particular product category on an item by item basis not only drives the best possible compression, it also creates data relative to products and services where incumbents or awarded suppliers are not competitive. This data is extremely useful in setting next cycle strategies. It is also important as to your supplier strategy in terms of who to invite to participate, such as specialty suppliers within certain deciles of spend.

Sourcing using market baskets combined with sourcing based on deciles as well as units will achieve the best overall results over time. To learn more contact a SafeSourcing representative and ask them about SSDBS™.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.