Getting to the Root of the Problem with Nick Ammaturo, 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Star

In order to spread awareness of supply chain management among millennials, ThomasNet and the Institute for Supply Management collaborated to launch the "30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars" Recognition Program.

Nick Ammaturo, Director of Profit Improvement and Procurement at Hudson's Bay Company, New York, was included among this year's winners. Ammaturo, having begun his career in Procurement at PepsiCo, takes an approach that involves asking suppliers and partners every question he has, and then some. To top it off, he's dedicated to knowing everything about the organization he works for and the industry in which it participates. We managed to catch up with him for an engaging interview.

How do you value the 30 Under 30 program? Do you think the project will impact how millennials perceive supply chain management?

After getting the nomination and the award, it gave me a little inspiration to know that there are people in my age group who are in the same profession. For me, it was extremely valuable. I was honored to be named, and hopefully it's the beginning of something that stands for the next hundred years.

I think it's extremely important that ThomasNet and ISM are starting to draw attention to the industry. I think it's a good beginning, and definitely see the value in attracting people at the college level, because that's where students are starting to make those decisions and understand their career aspirations.

"Profit Improvement" is a part of your official title. What does that mean in regard to your responsibilities? 

When I saw the job – I know procurement, I didn't really know what they meant by profit improvement, so I asked the same question. I've seen a lot of major retailers sort of coin the term and include it as a part of their procurement operations. I don't know where it started, but it does seem to make sense, because not only am I targeting strategic procurement practices, but overall we are trying to increase the profitability of the company. We're looking at increasing sales through other channels and improving margins not only by reducing costs, but by improving the user experience at the store level or online.

How do you apply this practice of profit improvement when building supplier relationships? 

I always look to be a partner. I always say to myself "Hey, I want my suppliers to be healthy." At the same time, I don't want this relationship to be their golden egg and make their whole margin on us – I'm looking for a balanced approach.

At the same time, I go to them for innovation because, for the most part, they're the best-skilled in their industry and they know more than [Hudson's Bay Company does]. I wouldn't say we're an expert in everything, and that's why I go to my suppliers and look at two factors: One, how are they increasing profit and reducing costs for their customers? Two, is there something that's innovative that they want to test out with us?

In procurement, you have to know everything about the business you're purchasing materials for. How do you go about informing yourself?

In procurement, you have to be able to make informed decisions. Every procurement professional needs to ask a lot of questions and be a quick learner. You're often thrown into an industry that you may not have had prior experience in, or negotiations that you haven't had prior experience with.

So, what I do is ask a lot of questions internally to really understand what I'm doing with, and then I also ping some of my peers in other industries to see how they're addressing similar issues or suppliers, contracts – whatever it may be. Then I also ping my peers in the same industry to understand what their strategies are. I think procurement kind of gives us a bond where we don't see ourselves as competitors, because we all know that we're fighting the procurement fight.

As far as Hudson's Bay, I'm relatively new – I think it's been just about three months, maybe a little longer since I've come on board – so, my biggest challenge is understanding the retail industry.

What was the most vexing problem you've ever been faced with and how did you solve it?

Every day I'm kind of tasked with a new problem. Part of the role is putting out fires. So, I wouldn't say one problem stands out. Regardless of what I'm faced with, the approach is the same: working with all parties involved and fully understanding what that problem is. I like to look for the root cause and put something sustainable in place to correct it. I'm not one to look for a quick win. I like to sort of break down the process from start to finish and understand what broke, and then put something in place that will fix that.

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