Archive for March, 2018

Growth in the Internet Has Impacted Our Economy

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018


Today’s post is written by Ivy Ray, Account Manager at SafeSourcing Inc.

Toys R Us is closing their doors following a disastrous Christmas season.  Amazon, Walmart and Target all ratcheted up toy discounts during the holidays.  Toys R Us typically does well against the competition between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because of significant inventory offerings and a strategy of selling late at high margins after competitors sell out of ‘hot’ inventory and attracting last-minute shoppers who fear that online deliveries will not be made in time.  This year, however, was different.  As a result of a general decline in toy sales, competitors had full product offerings through the end of the holiday season and same-day and two-day delivery guarantees eased customer fears regarding online shopping.

Toys R Us was once king of the toy castle. In the 1990s, it was the biggest toy seller in the US, expanding rapidly as it pushed out smaller chains. But by 1998, things had changed, and Walmart began selling more toys than Toys R Us in the US.

A winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Paul Krugman wrote in 1998, “The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in ‘Metcalfe’s law’…the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”  This seems silly now.  The Internet has had a major impact on our economy, and the shift has had an effect on everything in the marketplace, from home goods, to auto purchases, and to entertainment.

Most brick and mortar stores have had to recreate themselves to stay in business with the internet competition.  Even print media is fighting to stay alive in our internet culture. Change is good, if you’re on the right side of it, or if you know when to get ahead of it.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist you in exploring your procurement solutions for your business 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.




New Pollution Laws in China Will Raise Prices of Vinyl Gloves and Cause A Shortage

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018


Today’s blog is by Ashley Riviello, Account Manager at SafeSourcing.

As China’s pollution levels hit an all-time high, factories are being forced to shut down throughout Northern China. China has depended very heavily on coal to make itself the second-largest economy in the world, United States being number one. With the new pollution laws in China, how is this going to affect our vinyl glove cost and market?

The shortage of vinyl gloves will have a huge impact on the world. China is a major producer of vinyl used in latex-free gloves and in January of 2017, a production ban was imposed on vinyl glove factories due to record levels of air pollution. Vinyl has spiked in price by more than 55 percent in the past few months, from $946 per ton in September 2017 to $1,500 per ton today. That is a huge change. With a minimum of 170 production lines shut down in one area alone, this equals to around 1.7 million cases of disposable gloves. Longterm, all suppliers of vinyl gloves will be affected. Not only will there be a significant price change in the gloves, there will most likely be a shortage due to production being down. Anyone in the food, medical or surgical markets will be highly affected. Some companies have already started thinking of alternatives for vinyl gloves, such as a higher quality disposable nitrile glove or the octoglove which is a better quality than vinyl at half the price.

As we see the increase in price for vinyl gloves, and the shortage of supply, we will definitely be seeing a huge incline in new and alternative gloves for food and medical markets, most of which will be better quality at a cheaper price. Working with suppliers on a daily basis I would love to see this change and start saving people money, because that’s what SafeSourcing does.

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



Is your fleet prepared for Vehicle Emergencies

Friday, March 23rd, 2018


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

If you have been driving for a while, you know that unexpected things can happen.  Most of us spend hours in our cars and don’t think twice about emergencies that can occur while on the road.  These emergencies may not even involve you and your automobile.  With all of the traffic and congestion on the roadways, it is possible that you could end up stuck for hours because of bad weather or accidents.  It is important to be prepared and ready for these unexpected problems.  One way to prepare yourself is to have an emergency car kit in all of your vehicles.  These kits can be purchased or you can make your own kit stocked with all of the necessary items.  These emergencies don’t always happen in convenient places where cell phone service is available nor may a tow truck be nearby. Therefore, you need to be prepared for any conditions that may occur.  Below are some suggested items that you should include in your emergency car kit:

  • Jumper Cables
  • Tool Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Reflective Warning Triangles
  • Tow Strap
  • Foam Tire Sealant
  • Gloves
  • Flashlight
  • Duct Tape
  • Cell Phone Charger
  • Warm Blanket
  • Windshield Ice Scraper
  • Drinking Water
  • Non Perishable Snacks
  • Matches or a Lighter

If you need help researching emergency kits for your vehicles, feel free to contact SafeSourcing.   We can gather all the necessary information for you and help you decide which kit meets your needs.  If you would like more information on how SafeSourcing can help you, please contact a SafeSourcingCustomer Service representative.  We have an entire team ready to assist you today.





Spend Visibility ​

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018


Today’s post is by Dave Wenig, Vice President of Sales and Services at SafeSourcing.

How well do you understand your spend? Recently, I have been having more frequent conversations about understanding spend. What has been interesting lately is that this question seems to be on the top of the minds of procurement professionals. It seems that, collectively, this topic has had a bit of a renaissance and we will all be better off as a result. It has always been fairly common that companies don’t have a very clear view into their spend and there have been many different approaches on how to overcome this challenge. Some set out on a lengthy, labor-intensive process, perhaps turning to spend cubes and the like.

Regardless of the method used for analyzing spend; there are often some common concerns. One such concern is the time and resources required to complete this analysis. This is particularly true when an organization approaches this task on its own. Another concern is whether or not the output of the effort is actionable.

At SafeSourcing, we have been addressing this question for our clients for years. Our approach is called SafeSpendAnalysis™. SafeSourcing’s clients that leverage this solution are able to understand their spend in just about two weeks. Better yet, the results of this solution are actionable immediately. SafeSpendAnalysis™ analyzes 100% of our clients’ spend for a 12-month period and assigns all vendors into Categories and Subcategories. SafeSpendAnalysis™ also determines the estimated savings opportunity for each based on SafeSouring’s extensive category experience and data.

When we review the results with our clients, we typically spend an entire day onsite meeting with the teams that will benefit from the new information. When that day is done, we have a clear picture of what the top targets are and where to focus. We also typically have over 100 categories identified for eProcurement.

As a result of the SafeSpendAnalysis™, our clients can answer confidently that they understand their spend well. Beyond that, they are able to make decisions and take actions to control their spend.

I’ll ask again – How well do you understand your spend? For more information, please contact SafeSourcing.  

We look forward to your comments.

How do you procure?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018


Today’s blog is by Margaret Stewart, Manager of HR and Administration at SafeSourcing Inc.

Whether for business or personal use, we all procure goods and services we need. Many of us even go further and shop around for what we need, especially if we want a certain quality, price, or customization. But the tools you use and the way you approach obtaining your needs can make a difference in what you pay.

Tools – First, the tools you use can help you get the results you want. If you need a repair on your car, you’d likely use the tools available to you, such as Yelp or Google reviews and Maps. These tools can provide you nearby mechanics and also let you know how to get in touch and get pricing. Just like for personal use, there are tools available if your business needs to source a service or good. Tools like contract management and large supplier databases can help your organization find the suppliers that meet your needs and can help monitor agreements you may make.

Partner – Next, getting help from others is highly beneficial in your procurement efforts. For the car repair example above, using a partner could simply mean getting reviews and feedback from other customers or seeking recommendations from people you know. For a business, reaching out to a professional procurement partner can help in a number of ways. They have the experience and know much of the suppliers available for whatever project you need. They can assist with specifications, pricing, and often have sets of tools you may not have had.

Timing – Finally, timing is significant when it comes to your sourcing project. If you need a mechanic in an emergency and the one you chose with the best price and quality isn’t open on weekends, you will have to change plans. Timing your project accurately can help you get the service you want at the time you want. This is the same for your business. If you wait to source your needed goods until your contracts are expired, your current supplier could dramatically raise prices. This could mean paying much more for what you were already getting until your procurement project can be completed.

The way you approach your procurement can affect your pocket in multiple ways. SafeSourcing can be your procurement partner and work with you every step of the way, bringing experience, tools, and dedication to help you get what you need the best way possible.

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

When should I use a Request for Quote or RFQ

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018


Today’s post is from Ronald D. Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.

I’d like to thank my SafeSourcing associates both past and present for their constant quality input to my posts and whitepapers and upcoming book.

The Request for Quote (RFQ)

A Request For Quote is typically used to solicit price and price related details such as freight, that meet minimum quality specifications for a specific quantity of specific goods and/or services. “RFQs are usually not advertised publicly, and are used commonly for (1) standard, off-the-shelf items, (2) items built to known specifications, (3) items required in small quantities, or (4) items whose purchase price falls below sealed-bidding threshold. Suppliers respond to an RFQ with firm quotations, and generally the lowest-priced quotation is awarded the contract.” 4

Though the above historically represented the industry standard as to what an RFQ was, it is important to expand on each of the points and understand the pieces from a historical and practical standpoint. With online eProcurement tools suppliers have an indication of where they stand and an opportunity to adjust their pricing should they choose. In standard practice this is done by phone calls or e-mails and one at time. As such it is very time consuming and does show some savings, but not nearly the rate of success online tools have historically provided.

Standard, off-the-shelf items. This is a standard misconception of procurement departments everywhere. The fact is that virtually any product or service can be taken through the eRFX process.  Strategic Sourcing solutions providers with extensive global supplier databases can invite a number of new suppliers to participate in the bidding process on whatever items or service may be required.  Many will have some level of experience in successfully participating in eRFX events in a variety of functional areas within the organization such as HR, Marketing, Construction and IT to name a few.

Items built to known specifications. While this is a valid concern, it is also the biggest reason why projects are never taken out to bid; not having specifications or having the time to assemble them. Working with 3rd party procurement solution providers companies are more able to cover all of their needs, taking into consideration all of the moving parts that affect these items. Such as freight, fuel surcharges, additional fees and hourly rates.  Results can be achieved that are comprehensive enough to allow strong decisions once the project has been completed.

Items required in small quantities. Another misconception about RFQs are the quantities of items that can be sourced and duration of time for which those quantities are needed. There should be no limits at all, including number of items to have the suppliers bid on. With that established, however, there are always unique strategies to every event so that the host company can end up with the most complete set of information while allowing suppliers to focus on those areas that need the most attention.  This is part of the service that needs time to be considered as sourcing projects are strategized and developed.

Items whose purchase price falls below sealed-bidding thresholds. The recommended approach for pricing within the RFQ should be analyzed based on the historical spend, also taking into account any price indexes that can affect future pricing increases. Using historical spends and any additional information available, a max quote is often established that the suppliers must meet prior to participation. Setting a price decrement is also strongly recommended, and often plays a key role in the strategy as to how you would like to have the suppliers act, giving them the flexibility to make price adjustments they are comfortable with while driving savings as part of the process.

Understanding the differences between historical RFQ strategies and changes that are resulting in stronger results is the beginning of assembling the right strategy for your project. Strategies that have proven successful in the past generally have similar features in common and drive the two most important aspects of every project; valuable results and supplier participation.

Details, Details, Details- In the RFQ, send an invitation to potential suppliers containing a detailed list or description of all relevant parameters of the intended purchase, such as:

  • Personnel skills, training level or competencies
  • Part descriptions/specifications or numbers
  • Quantities/Volumes
  • Description or drawings
  • Quality levels
  • Delivery requirements
  • Term of contract
  • Terms and conditions
  • Other value added requirements or terms
  • Draft contract

An RFQ event can have many suppliers participating in your project. They will all be actively participating during the RFQ in a preset timeframe, which is usually 15 minutes, but can be adjusted when the line item count grows over 25 items. Within the 15 minutes, suppliers can lower their bid pricing an unlimited amount of times. Like sealed bidding, suppliers cannot see one another’s pricing. There is only one way they know they have a low quote on an items and that is through the use of a low quote indicator when they achieve that milestone by phishing for it.

Missing Pieces– An easy way to establish specifications and develop base pricing is from the RFP responses submitted earlier. Many times a list of suppliers is established that has already been educated on entering pricing through an online sourcing or bidding tool. The RFQ gives the supplier the opportunity within the live event to view whether or not if they have any low quotes and to “sharpen their pencils” in order to lower their pricing if they wish to do so. From this event an award of business based on the results can be made.

Training and Communication – Suppliers should be trained as to how to use the eProcurement system, how to place their bids, how to look for the low quote indicator, and at the same time communicated with on questions and the pricing and products and services you are looking for. The overall goal is to drive the best overall value, so suppliers should have an opportunity to enter notes within the RFQ during the live event. This additional information often offers additional hidden savings opportunity, i.e. if 1,000 cases are purchased rather than 900 cases, additional discounts, or other value added services such as freight waived for the first 6 months of a 1 year contract if awarded the business. These additional notes can provide and overall benefit, rather than just a low price wins.

Returning to our original RFI example of a company owning a building they intend to repurpose as a Distribution Center, the process began as an RFI in order to understand what was needed so it could be followed by an RFP in order to collect further detailed information and base pricing. These two steps were then followed by an RFQ in order to compress the pricing from suppliers who participated in the RFP and were invited to this final stage. In this last stage running the line items as a complete list of materials rather than an item by item list, total cost of freight, total installation pricing- which could include teardown pricing which could also be listed as its own line item can have great value and provide the opportunity for the suppliers to keep their focus where it is needed rather than on 100’s of individual line items submitted during the RFP. The four items mentioned here represent the largest spend items of the proposal and have the opportunity to lower pricing by 20% or greater from the original RFP pricing.

Determining what stage of the eRFX process to begin with and how to assemble those pieces can be a difficult puzzle to put together especially if a procurement team is already engaged in a myriad of other daily activities. A good Strategic Sourcing solution provider can help put these pieces together in a way that requires less of your company’s time and resources.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can help you through the complex minefield of eRFX strategies, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.







How to identify good ideas – Episode I

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018


Today’s post is from our SafeSourcing Archives

Creativity is the ability to come up with novel ideas, but innovation doesn’t occur until those ideas are productive. Many businesses end up chasing ideas that never bring any productive value, because the idea was adopted for reasons that were not objectively measured and vetted. There are two primary things we should be considering when trying to determine whether an idea is good or not: Value, and Validity.

Value and validity is NOT contained within an idea just because:

  • It was given loudly
  • It was given by the highest ranking voice in the room
  • It was given from someone with many ideas
  • It was given eloquently

These are all attempts to validate an idea through personality, not value or validity. Everyone has ideas, but quantity doesn’t mean quality. How many musicians have you heard that put out a brilliant project, but followed up with something that made you question their talent altogether? The true talent lies in the ability to order, demonstrate, communicate, refine, reject, and select their ideas.

An idea has value when:

  • It solves an identified problem
  • There is a specific benefit
  • It supports a specific goal

An idea has validity when:

  • The facts behind it are true
  • There is hard evidence backing up what’s being proposed
  • There are specific numbers taken into account, calculated correctly

Adopting an idea just because it “sounds good”, “feels good” or “makes sense”, doesn’t mean it will accomplish everything it needs to in the context of the conversation being had. It can be easy to get lost in the weeds, forget what you were trying to accomplish, and adopt the idea given by the most senior representative in the room with the most passionate speech, even if solves a DIFFERENT problem than the one you met to solve in the first place.

Objectivity means you can separate yourself from the object, measure the object with other objects, view it from a perspective outside yourself. Subjectivity means you can’t see the periphery, you can only see from a perspective from within yourself, and therefore can’t bring in anything not dependent on you to measure against. Don’t get lost in complex narratives, appeals to emotion, or appeals to authority in your meetings. There are more specific methodologies available for qualifying ideas, and I’ll get into those in future posts (Six Sigma perhaps being the most well-known, but cumbersome methodology). But for now, just remember that you have the ability to step back, look at the bigger picture, and find the appropriate solution by measuring each idea’s value and validity objectively.

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.




When should I use a Request for Proposal or RFP

Friday, March 9th, 2018


Today’s post is from Ronald D. Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.

I’d like to thank my SafeSourcing associates both past and present for their constant quality input to my posts and whitepapers and upcoming book.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document used in sealed or electronic bid procurement procedures through which a purchaser advises the potential suppliers of (1) statement and scope of work, (2) specifications, (3) schedules or timelines, (4) contract type, (5) data requirements, (6) terms and conditions, (7) description of goods and/or services to be procured, and (8) instructions for preparation of technical, management, and/or cost proposals. As an example, Government RFPs are publicly advertised and suppliers respond with a detailed proposal, not with only a price quotation. They provide clearly quoted specifications for negotiations after sealed proposals are opened, and the award of contract may not necessarily go to the lowest bidder.2

Breaking down each of these 8 pieces of information will help to form an understanding as to whether there is enough detail to move straight to an RFP,  thus skipping the Request For Information altogether.

Scope of Work: This refers to all of the elements that should be included in the proposal for the project and is generally specific to each customer along with the data and metrics provided to shape it. Simply, this is the definition of the needs and expectations for the work needing to be completed.

Specifications: “An exact statement of the particular needs to be satisfied, or essential characteristics that a customer requires (in a good, material, method, process, service, system, or work) and which a vendor must deliver. Specifications are written usually in a manner that enables both parties (and/or an independent certifier) to measure the degree of conformance. They are, however, not the same as control limits (which allow fluctuations within a range), and conformance to them does not necessarily mean quality (which is a predictable degree of dependability and uniformity).”3

Generally specifications will be broken into either performance or technical specifications that define the types of goods or services needed from the vendor community. Developing strong specifications ensures proposals containing exactly what is needed. As a result vendors will know not to over bid or under bid.

Schedules or Timelines: This is the time frame of the expectation of when the RFP is sent to the vendors, when questions (about the specifications or the RFP process) are due from the vendors, when the vendors can expect the questions with answers to be returned, and when the RFP is due to be completed.

Contract Type: This defines to the vendor if the contract is a spot buy, a one year, two year, or longer contract. There may also be additional special contractual requirements added within this area.

Data Requirements: This can vary from RFP to RFP, but every project should collect basic information about the vendors such as, their name, address, primary business, who the primary contact will be with their specific contact and other related information, usually a list of 3-5 references and a list of current businesses that are similar in size to the company running the RFP.


Terms and Conditions: General and special arrangements, provisions, requirements, rules, specifications, and standards that form an integral part of an agreement or contract.

Description of Goods and/or Services to Be Procured: This description defines what is being requested. It is a bridge between the scope of work and the specifications. This area is typically where vendors are asked to give their proposal of price based on the needs defined and within the guidelines of the specifications.

Instructions for preparation of technical, management, and/or cost proposals: These are the details on how to complete the RFP. Typically the supplier will be given a deadline to complete the RFP, to complete training on how to enter Responses and Pricing, and the additional information the customer may need as supplemental documentation and how to submit that information.

In the example I used in the RFI section, (Owning a new or used facility and turning it into a distribution center) It may be known where the racking should be located, how much racking is required (this would include a set materials listing), the details of labor to install new materials and remove and re-rack another area. All of these details are required for the suppliers to bid the job appropriately. Within a very detailed RFP there are fewer chances for over or under bidding from the suppliers. The quality of an RFP is very important to successful project management because it clearly delineates the deliverables that will be required.

The details received from an RFI can be used to build the specifications for an RFP. Multiple suppliers have verified and provided details needed to complete the project. The RFI may also produce details not previously known, for instance in the racking project: if the location is in California or other geographic areas prone to seismic activity a seismic analysis will also be required to complete the work. This can be completed, but for an additional charge from the supplier. Suppliers may all have similar products, but they may not be compatible to other supplier’s materials. In other words, their product will be proprietary and not interchangeable if a repair is required in the future. These details and more need to be inserted into the new RFP.

So how can an RFI be combined with an RFP? If there needs to be a high level of knowledge about a product, project, or service, but the same supplier has been used exclusively for a long period of time and it is unclear as to whom additional sources of supply might be. An RFI could be combined by asking the questions specifically related to the new potential suppliers; who are they, where are they located, what is their business structure, who the contacts are, what areas or locations can they service, what are their references, etc.  Along with the specifications and details of the RFP, an overall picture will develop of who the company is, what they can or cannot provide, and what their pricing structure will be.

With an idea of how to collect information on a project with little initial data through an RFI and details on collecting RFP responses with the known information, the next step is ensure understanding relative to the best value, data and price from the suppliers that can handle the opportunity.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can help you through the complex minefield of eRFX strategies, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.















When should I use a Request for Information or RFI

Thursday, March 8th, 2018


Today’s post is from Ronald D. Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.

I’d like to thank my SafeSourcing associates both past and present for their constant quality input to my posts and whitepapers and upcoming book.

A request for Information (RFI) is a request made typically during the project planning phase where a buyer cannot clearly identify product requirements, specifications, and purchase options. RFI’s clearly indicate that award of a contract will not automatically follow.1

An example for use of an RFI would be if a company acquired a used warehouse that needed to be turned into a distribution center. The facility has some racking installed but needs more. There has not been a defined idea of what layout will be needed to improve the warehouse for DC use, nor what types of rack are needed, how much material is needed, nor how long it will take to install the racking. The existing racking is in adequate shape but it is unknown whether it is safe, placed appropriately, outdated, or even needed in any way. A situation like this often is a good time to rely on experts to provide feedback as to these needs.  The best practice would be to get a minimum of 3 sets of data submissions, but I’d recommend getting 4 to 6, submissions from your requests for information from racking manufactures, distributor, and/or installers.

The higher the supplier count, in an area where you have no knowledge, provides the necessary data to begin to make more informed decisions. With at least 3 submissions it becomes clearer if there are major differences between suppliers and how they operate.  Lead time, outsourcing, geographical coverage are all very important pieces of information to gather from the suppliers at this stage of a sourcing project.

The application of an RFI can be used on new goods for use, re-sale, packaging design, any and all services, software, hardware, equipment of any kind, actually it is limitless as to what you can utilize an RFI for in business.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can help you through the complex minefield of eRFX strategies, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.





Here are some additional thoughts on managing overstock and other inventory leftovers

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018


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

One of our customers recently mentioned that they were dealing with one of their vendors to purchase back some obsolete inventory.  This is just one of the methods some companies use to move old or excess items they have purchased and today’s blog will be taking a look at a few more.

Vendor Assisted – The example mentioned above is one method of dealing with excess inventory, and is one of the most important methods to consider when negotiating the purchase of new items.  Unfortunately, many companies miss this opportunity until it is too late.  Letting vendors you deal with know they may have an opportunity to buy back you excess inventory up front will many times get more aggressive pricing from them on the new items you are purchasing.

Third party buyback programs – If you are not able to negotiate a deal for your obsolete or discontinued items up front with the vendor, another approach is to contact third party companies who special in purchasing excess inventory at a reduced price and reselling it through their own channels.  Depending on the type of product you are looking to move there will always be companies who will specialize in handling it for you.

Donation Programs – Occasionally the sale of excess or obsolete will either not be possible or will not be not as valued as the tax write-off given when it is donated.  As in the cases above there are many companies who will coordinate the pickup and redistribution to charities that they work with; taking the entire burden of getting rid of the products off of your business and providing you with a tax incentive on top of it.

There are many ways to take care of your excess inventory and as is often the case, the earlier you plan the more options you will have in the directions you can take.  For assistance in finding ways to move your excess, discontinued or obsolete inventory, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  

We look forward to your comments.