May 2020
Sanitization increasingly important in all industrial facilities

In just about any work setting these days, the health and safety of workers are in sharper focus than ever. While you may be doing plenty to provide protective personal gear for your employees and making sure they're following all reasonable protocols to maintain social distancing, you also need to make sure your cleaning efforts have gone above and beyond normal standards.

The following principles should guide your supply chain firm's cleaning decisions for the foreseeable future, to ensure worker protections are as strong as possible:

1) Make sure there's a schedule

While you no doubt have a relatively set schedule for cleaning already, you need to bolster those efforts to make sure potential contamination is handled quickly and expertly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Something as simple as doubling the number of cleanings your facility gets in a given week will help ensure everyone under your roof is safer, and all involved should be advised about the new plans.

Finding the right cleaning methods is a must these days.Finding the right cleaning methods is a must these days.

2) Use a different approach for various surfaces

There is no one-size-fits-all method to clean everything in your warehouse or other industrial facilities, so you need to tailor your cleaning methods to your exact facility, the CDC noted. For instance, if you have high-touch surfaces that are made from fabric, they should be cleaned in a completely different way than you clean your heavy-duty shelving and other hard surfaces.

3) Don't just spray disinfectant

Many supply chain managers may feel they have to balance the twin considerations of making sure their companies can keep functioning as normal while also getting deep cleaned, but that might not cut it, according to Envirox. As such, they should aim to prioritize cleaning specifically, with at least one scrubbing with soap and water before spraying a disinfectant onto a surface. The initial scrub will help ensure the spray gets through to a deeper layer of the surface.

4) Make sure you're buying the right cleaners

Along similar lines, you may want to think about what kinds of cleaning products you have on hand, and whether they're enough to get the job done effectively, Envirox added. A little more research may help you identify more effective products than those you currently use, and making the switch at this time is a good idea.

5) Combine cleaning methods

There may be a number of ways you can clean various parts of your facility, from using machines to doing everything by hand, according to the International Association for Food Protection. However, if you're only using machines or only working manually, you're probably not giving all your surfaces as much attention as they need, and you would be wise to stagger your approach instead.

6) Inspect after cleaning

Finally, once all cleaning has been completed for a single sweep of your facility, it's important to look over everything to ensure nothing slipped through the cracks, the IAFP noted. In most cases, a cursory inspection will be plenty to ensure your cleaning crew didn't miss anything, but that extra layer of scrutiny can help avoid a potential misstep.

Building out a business case for Procurement may seem like a daunting, albeit necessary, task in order to expand your team, capabilities, or tools. Whether your organization places strong emphasis on the value of Procurement, or is yet to fully embrace a holistic Procurement program, the right metrics can be an important asset in developing a business case and telling the story of Procurement. Let’s take a look at some of  the important metrics to track when building out a business case for your team or organization.

Spend Under Management

Spend under Management is an important number to track for any Procurement organization, as it can be directly tied to the amount of influence your team can extend, the amount of hard dollar savings you can capture, and an indication of reporting and tracking abilities. A firm grasp on your Spend and budgeted Spend can help better plan and forecast for upcoming years and savings projections. Moreover, if you have the ability to track and monitor the control your organization has, you can actively contribute to the bottom line of the organization and work toward enhancing your position within the organization. In short, Spend under Management is a good place to start when looking at your current program.

Cycle Time

Cycle time is the measure of how long a certain task or activity takes to complete its full life-cycle. An example would be time from Purchase Requisition to Purchase Order, or the time to negotiate a contract. While cycle time won’t directly contribute to your bottom line, it is an important measure of how efficient your team or program is in its current iteration. Additionally, the sooner you execute on a project (e.g. sign a contract, approve a proof of concept, etc.), the sooner you implement savings. Build your business case by presenting your team’s efficiencies, or highlight areas for improvement. As an added bonus, sort or segment your cycle time by supplier, category, spend amount for more granular level metrics – this can come in handy when working on a Supplier Relationship Management program or category planning.

Cost Savings and Avoidance

Most Procurement professionals will agree that cost savings is a major value prop for Procurement, but an often overlooked component is cost avoidance. Savings are the negotiated savings and discounts that appear on the bottom line (important to note, you may want to establish as baseline to measure against your savings), while avoidance are the soft-dollar savings achieved that don’t necessarily appear on any bottom line, at least not without some type of data sorting and manipulation. Measuring your cost avoidance may be tough, so I recommend to highlight the areas for potential added costs and risk when building your business case and call out the types of problems that may arise (delays, product specifications, added costs or services). When your team is mature and can calculate a measurable number for cost avoidance (again, you may want to establish a baseline or a case study with significant delays or problems), this will only contribute to your narrative. Some organizations place significant emphasis on cost avoidance and count these numbers with their savings – this only adds to our realized savings, so count that as a win!

These measurables are only the beginning and you and your team should establish what is most important to you as an organization. If speedy deliveries are crucial for your business and/or supply chain, then certainly track on-time and delayed deliveries. Once you’ve established a firm grasp on these metrics, considering expanding your current data set – look for ways to gather more granular metrics (cost-per-PO/invoice, opportunity costs, etc.). Congrats if you are currently capturing any of these metrics, this shows you have strong reporting capabilities; now it’s time to put those metrics to good use and build a business case to expand your influence within your organization! 


Change management is a structured approach designed to ensure end users and adopters understand why changes in an organization are occurring and inevitably adopt and utilize the resulting new systems. Change management is a necessary component to project success because if business users to do not adopt new systems then organizations do not achieve their target business outcomes.

The business case for change management is pretty clear and logical, yet organizations often try to cut budget corners. Next time you find yourself in a meeting making the case for change management, try asking this simple question, “Are the target business outcomes we are trying to achieve dependent on stakeholders changing how they do their job?” For each target business outcome where the answer is yes, ask the follow up question, “What percentage of this outcome results from stakeholders doing their job differently?”

In most cases this is a very powerful exercise when seeking to obtain manager buy-in for including change management in a SOW. Of course if your project involves switching network servers there is going to be very little requisite change involved for employees. But if your project involves new processes, technology, KPI’s, etc., then odds are the realistic answer to the question is somewhere around 75%.

No matter how telling the answer is, sometimes it is not enough. To further support your pitch for change management, I am going to provide three approaches to building a business case for change management. The perspectives I am providing below are intended to alter the view of change management from “nice to have” to “must have”.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT BENEFITS

Cost Avoidance
Businesses suffer significant added costs when organizational change is poorly managed. Additional resources are required to fix the process or solution, and time is needed to retrain and satisfy disgruntled employees. Other costs that can be expected are: plunges in productivity, customer and supplier impacts, loss of valued employees, reduced quality of work, declining employee morale, stress, confusion, and added resistance.

Separate from these organizational costs are project-specific costs. These costs and disruptions include: project delays, missed milestones, loss of resources, budget miscalculations, unexpected obstacles, and rework required to correct mistakes. In a nutshell, the organization fails to receive the value the project was intended to produce and the initial project investments are lost.

Change management is an effective cost avoidance approach we can use to mitigate these negative consequences.

Risk Mitigation
More than likely risk analysis is already included in your organizations standard project management methodology. A strong approach to assessing the importance of change management is to conduct employee-dependent risk alongside financial risk, security risks, and any other risks your organization may already be conducting.

When change is not properly planned for and managed the organization, project, and stakeholders are all subject to risk. Refer back to the question we discussed earlier “What percentage of achieving the target business outcomes associated with your project depend on people changing how they do their job?”    Whether the answer is a lot or a little, if it includes changes to responsibilities, behaviors, processes, systems or tools, your project has people-dependent risk.

Change management is a powerful risk mitigation solution. When change management is done well organizations achieve their project objectives and employees walk away feeling satisfied, motivated and accomplished.

Benefits Realization
If employees do not understand why changes are being made, embrace the future state, and possess both the knowledge and skillsets required to successfully operate in the to-be state, projects do not achieve the intended results. Change management is an approach designed to ensure users graduate through this process. Think of change management as an insurance policy to protect your organization’s project investment. Whatever percentage of achieving your project’s target business outcomes can be tied to people changing how they do their jobs is the percentage that can be insured through change management.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE

All three of these approaches are highly effective, but there is no one size fits all solution. The priorities of managers and stakeholders will vary from company to company and department to department. Before making a decision about the perspective to take, it is important to consider your audience.
    §  What are the current pain points creating a need in the first place?
    §  What are the goals and objectives of this individual or team?
    §  How is the performance of the prospect you are pitching to measured?

If you are presenting to a COO this individual might be most interested in cost avoidance. For a CIO the most successful approach will likely be to focus on risk mitigation. CPO’s are most concerned with cost reduction and efficiency gains, so benefits realization will more often than not yield the best results. The bottom line is in order to close your sale or obtain internal stakeholder buy-in for change management, your success is going to hinge on your efforts to develop a targeted approach.

The next time you find yourself developing a business case for change management, reflect back on these approaches. Consider your audience and their concerns, then select the value perspective(s) that will be most compelling. For more information about change management and how it can benefit your organization, please contact Corcentric’s Advisory team at our website.

5 tips for handling supply chain risk and COVID-19

It's been a few months since the first lockdown orders around the novel coronavirus pandemic were announced, and for the most part, companies in many industries seem to be adjusting to the "new normal" as best they can. However, while those in the supply chain may have been particularly proactive in dealing with these issues, there are also relatively few sectors that are exposed to more risk as a result of the outbreak.

With that in mind, the following tips will help any supply chain business keep themselves as well-positioned for success as possible:

1) Build better relationships with partners - especially those overseas

One of the biggest issues seen in the supply chain in recent months has been backups and confusion in shipping, particularly when it comes to imports and exports, according to Penn News Service. For that reason, it's critical for businesses at every step of the supply chain to know what their partners are dealing with and potentially finding solutions that work for everyone. With better data tracking, these kinks in the system can be identified as they develop and are smoothed out in real time.

It's critical to understand the large- and small-scale changes of the pandemic.It's critical to understand the large- and small-scale changes of the pandemic.

2) Improve planning for worker safety

The other most notable problem for many companies in the supply chain has been what they can do to keep their employees safe on an ongoing basis, because even a few positive diagnoses for COVID-19 can lead to operations being shuttered, Penn News Service said. For that reason, they need to take all due caution - providing safety gear, enacting social distancing rules and more - to ensure they can continue to work (more or less) as they did prior to the outbreak.

3) Communicate your risk mitigation strategies

When you're putting all these plans into place, it's important to make sure all involved know what's going on with them and why they're being enacted, according to Material Handling & Logistics. That way, there is no ambiguity about your plans or what it will take to make sure they are properly enacted and, as a consequence, things are far more likely to go smoothly as you attempt to adapt to the current conditions.

4) Invest in the right technologies

Often, you may find that you do not have the deepest or strongest insights into your own operations, which can put a serious crimp in your ability to react to emergent problems - or be the best supply chain partner you can be, MH&L added. For that reason, now might be the time to make sure you have all the right tech under your roof, and that it's being utilized properly, so you can be as nimble as possible going forward.

5) Have a plan to power out

While the pandemic is understandably front of mind for many businesses, and is likely to linger in some form or another for at least another year, it is still just temporary, according to Spend Matters. For that reason, it's important to have a plan in place so that your company can successfully pivot out of its "pandemic" stance and get back to its previous normal operations.

Coronavirus impacts pharmaceutical supply chain

It should come as little surprise that the novel coronavirus outbreak has led to the disruption - to one extent or another - of countless industries. However, some may be surprised to learn that one such sector is the pharmaceutical industry and, more specifically, the global supply chain it relies on to conduct business on an ongoing basis.

When the outbreak became a truly global phenomenon in the first quarter of this year, the disruptions for the pharma supply chain were not particularly significant, but as time stretched on, companies were forced to take action, according to Chemical & Engineering News. That lack of significant initial disruption, however, came because pharma companies large and small around the world were forced to dramatically change their approaches as 2019 drew to a close.

The reason for that is simple: Chinese factories comprised about 13% of all those from which active pharmaceutical ingredients were sourced in the U.S., the report said. While that share was smaller what's supplied by plants in India (18%) and the European Union (26%), as well as the U.S. itself (28%), it nonetheless required a big shift in strategy, and many experts believe this will result in a long-lasting - or perhaps even permanent - change for U.S. pharma companies.

Pharma supply chains are in upheaval these days.Pharma supply chains are in upheaval these days.

A shock to the system
In this undisputed era of disruption, there have already been significant shortages of some medications and pharmaceutical products, but because the pharma industry has longer production times, the worst may still be yet to come, according to an editorial by Pinar Keskinocak, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Evren Ozkaya, a supply chain executive, published in Healio. Even before the outbreak, the FDA had flagged nearly 100 products as facing shortages, and a combination of higher demand from concerned consumers and reduced supply could lead to significant issues in the months ahead, as well.

Pharma, after all, tends to carry supply chain lead times of up to six months, Keskinocak and Ozkaya wrote. With the outbreak in China first becoming public knowledge in late December, that means the industry could still be waiting for the initial shockwaves to hit in some cases, let alone the ones that may come later.

Long-term views
A recent industry poll found that just 24% of respondents were "extremely confident" the supply chain wouldn't be disrupted, compared with 22% who were "extremely doubtful" of this fact, according to Pharmaceutical Technology. Altogether, though, people with a positive view comprised 47% of those polled, compared with 42% with a dimmer perspective. The remaining 10% were unsure.

What that means, more or less, is that uncertainty reigns in the pharma supply chain these days, and the likelihood of anyone having more concrete answers about what comes next for the sector is remote, the report said.

For these reasons and more, companies in the supply chain need to have not only contingency plans in place for any type of disruption, but contingencies on those contingencies, to ensure the impact of just about any unforeseen event is minimized.

Some aspects of supply chain now seeing ups and downs

Much like almost everything else in life and business these days, the supply chain has been experiencing some wild swings between positive and negative news in recent weeks. Some experts believe the industry has been extremely responsive to the coronavirus crisis, while others note that there are signs of stress - and while both are certainly true depending upon the angle from which it's being viewed, that has nonetheless led to some uneven performance.

For instance, after initially taking a hit in many parts of the country, stores large and small are now seeing their shipment levels return to normal, according to Austin, Texas, television station KXAN. When the downturn first hit and supply chain businesses were having trouble meeting staffing goals, that wasn't always the case, and even big-name stores like the grocer H-E-B had to scale back hours and offerings simply because they couldn't keep up with shifting consumer demands.

While some may still limit the quantities of certain items that individual customers can buy, most are more or less back to where they were before the crisis hit, the report said. Of course, most stores are still following all reasonable protocols around consumer and employee safety and hygiene, and many larger chains are also offering extended hours for senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems, all of which helps keep them responsive to current and emerging trends alike.

Companies are having major difficulties responding to the pandemic.Companies had major difficulties responding to the pandemic initially.

Difficulties linger
While many stores are now able to get back to normal operations, the producers on which they rely may not have been so lucky in some cases, according to The Washington Post. Meat processors, for instance, have been receiving a lot of negative attention in recent weeks because some - among the largest producers in the nation - have become hotspots for spreading coronavirus, understandably leading to plant closures and severe slowdowns in operations.

Indeed, some industry estimates project that the national meat supply has declined "by at least 25%," The Post noted, and these disruptions have hit numerous locales, including in Washington, Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Indiana, Georgia and more. These trends could also continue as more testing is completed and potentially hundreds of workers test positive for the novel coronavirus.

The big picture
Perhaps most problematically for the supply chain sector is that the major disruptions at many steps of the chain have been thrown into chaos, according to The Verge. The analytics and data that feed complex algorithms used by the largest members of the supply chain simply aren't built to respond to current conditions and that information, at some point, began to become so unreliable as to be more or less useless.

"When you have something like COVID-19, it's just a total outlier," Joel Beal, the co-founder of the consumer goods analytics company Alloy," told the site. "No model can predict that."

With all this in mind, companies can only do so much to prepare for each unique circumstance, but should nonetheless strive to be reactive to whatever comes their way as the pandemic continues.

5 tips for managing supply chain talent more effectively

When you're trying to get the most out of your supply chain operations, there are many avenues you can pursue, but perhaps the most fruitful will be increasing engagement with workers and managing them more effectively overall. With that in mind, now is certainly the time to look at your company's handling of talent today and see what can be done to make those processes more effective.

The following tips should help you on your way to more effective workforce management within your facility:

1) Keep better tabs on productivity

Especially in the supply chain, if you don't have full visibility into your various processes, you often don't even know what you don't know, according to F. Curtis Barry & Company. With that in mind, now is the time to make sure you have enough monitoring platforms in place to identify areas for potential improvement so that you can start culling actionable data - and giving workers the insights they need to be more effective and efficient.

Reconsidering your processes can help you manage your workforce more effectively.Reconsidering your processes can help you manage your workforce more effectively.

2) Do more to attract and retain talent

One of the biggest issues for companies on a number of fronts arises when tenured, experienced workers leave for greener pastures, F. Curtis Barry & Company added. The lost productivity - not only while you're actively searching for a replacement, but also when getting that new hire up to speed - is costly enough, but so too is the potential damage to your reputation if employees feel they're under-compensated. Higher pay and better benefits will typically translate into far less turnover.

3) Offer professional development

Another reason workers may feel as though it's time to move on is if they feel they've hit a plateau on their career development, according to Veridian. To help you avoid that issue, it can be helpful to offer not only training exercises on a regular basis (which also helps ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction with your latest processes) but also to cover the cost of professional development courses, whether in-house or from local colleges. Doing so could help ensure your talent doesn't look for greener pastures.

4) Keep communications open

Employees may often feel frustrated if they cannot figure out who to talk about their workplace concerns with, or if they feel you aren't actually listening to or acting on those concerns, Veridian noted. Likewise, if they do not receive feedback on a regular basis, they may not know what else they can do to maximize their efficiency. Making communication a two-way street will help workers feel as though they're being heard and have plenty of necessary direction in their daily work.

5) Invest in technology

Finally, if your workers feel they are being truly put to the test and possibly overworked on an ongoing basis, that may indicate the need to modernize your processes, according to Adecco. Often, such feelings arise when employees are using years- or even decades-old equipment to get the job done, and a little investment in more recently released technology could be the key to unlocking new levels of efficiency.

5 keys for improving internal efficiency

When you are trying to get the most you can out of your logistics operation, there are so many moving parts to consider that it could lead to "analysis paralysis." Even if you find something to improve, you may focus on just one issue for a time and then move onto the next, making small gains here and there, but never seeing the kind of great leap forward you might be expecting.

Certainly, achieving peak operational efficiency for your supply chain business overnight isn't easy - and it's probably impossible to do in one fell swoop - but the following steps should help you get there over time: 

1) Start with a deep analysis

The fact of the matter is that you can't improve if you don't know what aspects of your operations aren't running as well as they possibly can, according to Hash Micro. Over time, and often without even intending it, employees or managers allow inefficiencies to creep into their daily work and become a more or less formalized part of the process. Taken by themselves, one or two of them aren't a big deal, but over time, they can add up to major sources of lost efficiency. Smoothing them out is vital to keeping your operations strong.

There's lots to consider when it comes to finding more efficiency.There's lots to consider when it comes to finding more efficiency.

2) Get employees up to speed

When you decide to implement any of these changes, the first thing to do is make sure your employees both know what the goals are and why changes are being implemented, Hash Micro said. Carefully communicating the need for these changes - and providing the necessary training to get them all pulling in one direction and eliminate any confusion - will help ensure workers on the shop floor and managers are all on the same page.

3) Invest in the right technology

One of the biggest sources of inefficiency in supply chain settings - and especially those with a manufacturing focus - is that machines get old and eventually need to be replaced, but companies can be slow to react to that need, according to MaintainX. The reason is often as simple as the fact that replacement equipment, shelving, production machines and so on can be big-ticket items, but the efficiency of new machines may help them pay for themselves over time.

4) Reorganize your facility

When you're adding new equipment and other items that take up plenty of cubic footage anyway, it's also a good idea to evaluate whether your layout is ideal for efficiency, MaintainX added. If it's not, taking the time now to rearrange where things literally stand in your facility could help you find a little extra wiggle room.

5) Make tweaks on an ongoing basis

Finding efficiency in your operation is never a "set it and forget it" process, according to the GWP Group. You should not only strive to continually identify issues as they arise - for instance, with an in-house tracking software - but also consistently convene meetings with workers and managers alike to understand when little annoyances are starting to crop up.

Adopting ergonomic changes to protect your workers

One of the most important aspects of running a successful supply chain operation is keeping your employees happy and healthy on the job. Sometimes, that's easier said than done, but there are changes you can make to ensure that the wear and tear these jobs can take on workers' bodies is minimized. In fact, rearranging your facility or processes even slightly could go a long way toward ensuring on-the-job injury risk declines sharply.

When thinking about changes you could make so that your supply chain processes are more worker-friendly and ergonomic, the first thing to understand is the unique risk factors your employees face, according to Steiner Technologies. For instance, if employees are constantly asked to lift and/or carry heavy loads on a regular basis, making the same repetitive motions many times per day and otherwise putting a strain on their bodies throughout the day, they may be more likely to suffer a workplace injury or repetitive stress problem.

Even simple movements can pose risk if they're done frequently.Even simple movements can pose risk if they're done frequently.

Of course, many of these hazards are not immediately apparent, even to the people who face them on a daily basis, so perhaps the best place to start when changing your processes to be more ergonomically friendly is with a thorough review of past incidents, the report said. Taken one at a time, each injury might seem to be a unique incident, but there may be similar contributing factors you might be able to turn into actionable points of focus. Along similar lines, it can be helpful to just talk to employees and find out where, when and how they experience common aches and pains on the job.

Making the changes
Once you begin to identify a pattern or series of patterns that could be leading to injury risk, it's time to consider how to address them, according to Darcor. Something as simple as providing workers with more tools to help them transport heavy items (including dollies or hand carts) can go a long way toward reducing risk, but so too can moving the areas where items are stored.

If, for instance, workers note that they constantly have to bend down or stretch upward to reach important materials on shelves, rearranging where those items are stored so that there's no bending or reaching involved can go a long way toward reducing risk, the report said. However, it's also important to make sure workers know the best practices for handling materials, so it's a good idea to install a regular safety training initiative to ensure everyone knows the best ways to reduce common injury risk.

Encouraging exercise
Just like having a proper safety training program in place is a good idea, another key component to making sure employees are physically prepared for the rigors of the job, according to Safety by Design. In many cases, that could be something as simple as mandated stretching regimens at the start of the day, and also at various points throughout it, so workers stay limber and prepared for the physical strain that can come with logistics work.

The more companies and employees can do to understand risk factors and move to mitigate them, the better off all involved are likely to be on an ongoing basis.

Avoiding missteps when choosing supply chain partners

You've no doubt heard the axiom that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and that idea is certainly applicable in the supply chain today. If you have any difficulties with your partners on either end of your operations, you will likely run into some major inefficiencies that can hinder your financial and operational performance.

With that in mind, you need to be quite careful about choosing your partners at every step of the supply chain so that your exposure to these risks are kept to a minimum, and making the right decision actually starts internally, according to TOC Logistics International. Perhaps the biggest consideration in finding a good partner is knowing what you need from them both now and as you grow and evolve. Laying out all your wants and needs and then evaluating which companies have the size or bandwidth to meet them is a vital part of such a search.

Finding the right partner is essential - but it's not always easy.Finding the right partner is essential - but it's not always easy.

Once you've whittled the field to a few options, you also need to understand how well-equipped those companies may be to share data and communicate with you on an ongoing basis, the company noted. An effective supply chain requires as much visibility and understanding between businesses as possible, and if a potential partner isn't set up to meet your needs, you shouldn't be in a position where you have to regularly compromise your goals to work with them. If you can work together to come up with a comprehensive approach to communications, you have likely found a solid partner.

Make sure they're reachable
Along those lines, you need to make sure your partners have emergency contacts who will be able to answer your calls whenever an issue arises, according to Thrive Global. It's one thing to be in regular communication when things are going smoothly, but if you can't get someone on the phone or to return your emails when you run into a hiccup in your operations, that's going to be a major source of frustration that also sets your operations back until the problem can be ironed out.

Of course, the point of communication and data sharing is to give you as much clarity as possible about the future of your individual business and its partnership with others. But if those partners don't have their own affairs in order and can't accurately forecast how their business will change in the next few months or quarters, that could have a significant impact on you. As such, it's best to make sure their past forecasts ended up being in line with their actual performance.

Flexibility is key
Every supply chain professional knows that you can plan all you want, but you'll still run into unexpected issues big and small as the year goes on, according to Frontline. In these cases, your partners have to be in a position to respond to issues on their end - and yours - and be willing to invest in solutions that help you both get ahead together. Hesitation or failure to do so could leave you in a difficult position.


This guest blog comes to us from Megan Ray Nichols of Schooled by Science.

Procurement consultants are vital to the success of any supply chain. Top-notch procurement can have a substantial impact on a company's profits, but this high potential comes with a hefty responsibility for procurement professionals. If you're in charge of acquisition, your decisions can make or break a company's success.

You may be a good procurement professional, but are you a great one? With the right strategies, you can present an impressive return on investment to your company. Here are five steps to becoming a better procurement professional.

1. Build Relationships
The effectiveness of any acquisition effort hinges on the buyer's relationship with the seller. A stranger with robust industry knowledge may be able to negotiate a fair price, but an acquaintance will get an even better deal. If you hope to be a leading procurement professional, you'll need to build and maintain industry relationships.

The benefits of having strong relationships with suppliers don't end at smoother negotiations. Having connections with a variety of vendors and other professionals can give you insider knowledge. You'll hear about coming market shifts or price changes before other, less connected procurement specialists do.

If you work as a freelancing consultant, you should also build healthy relationships with your clients. The better you understand them, the more you'll be able to meet their specific vision.

2. Consider the Minute Details 
The best procurement professionals are those who understand the financial impact of every detail. Nearly countless factors play into a company's spending, many of which you probably don't initially consider. To improve your merit as a procurement professional, learn what small details you may be overlooking.

Seemingly insignificant factors can add up to a considerable amount of money over time. Nothing is too small for you to account for in your budgeting. Consider every instance of payment throughout the supply chain, not just the big-ticket items.

Some items or processes are likely more connected than you'd think. To further understand the extent of all influencing factors, you can turn to technology for help.

3. Take Advantage of Technology 
There are plenty of technological tools at your disposal nowadays. To be as effective as you can, you need to take advantage of these assets. Leveraging technology can help you streamline tasks and identify areas for improvement.

Using tools like project management software, you can offer more thorough and precise cost analytics. More advanced technology, like business intelligence tools, can help you gain a better understanding of the connections between all your processes. These services save you time and will likely highlight considerations you haven't thought of yet.

Becoming familiar with technology can also help you determine the best fit for your company's needs. The industrial world is moving toward advanced tech and automation, so it pays to understand these tools. Machines and software are often more cost-effective than traditional methods for most processes.

4. Recognize Industry Benchmarks 
The qualifications for what constitutes outstanding procurement invariably change. To stay competitive, you have to know where the competition is. You should always be aware of industry benchmarks and use them to guide your processes.

By benchmarking, you can see how your company's spending compares to industry standards, giving you a tangible goal. Whether a contract is a good deal or not depends on what other businesses are getting. Without benchmarking, you won't know how competitive your company is.

Benchmarking also applies to you, not just your company. As you're improving in your work as a procurement professional, so will the industry as a whole. You'll be able to develop a better plan for professional growth if you know what companies should expect from your work.

5. Know Your Impact
To be a competitive procurement specialist, you have to understand how all factors contribute to success. This concept applies to your work, as well. You should appreciate how your actions impact the company as a whole.

Know the costs of your operations, but also look ahead to the payoff if you excel in your role. If you understand the broader effects of your role, it won't just improve your performance, but it will help you market yourself. You'll offer a more convincing argument to both clients and suppliers if you know how exactly you can help them.

A good procurement professional understands the long-term impact of their purchases, but a great one also knows the advantages they bring to the table. If you don't consider yourself, you're not accounting for all influencing factors.

Exceptional Procurement 
There are no quick and easy tricks to make you an outstanding procurement professional. But there are measurable, knowable steps you can take to better your work. Most of these steps boil down to you developing a thorough understanding of how small details lead to major results.

An exceptional procurement expert knows how making the slightest adjustment will affect company profits. The path to gaining this knowledge is likewise full of making small, seemingly insignificant changes. Following market trends or fostering relationships with suppliers may seem like secondary tasks, but they're what separate good specialists from exceptional ones.

Competitive procurement is a complex, multi-layered process. If you overlook the importance of seemingly minor steps, you're not getting the full picture.

Thanks, Megan!

The last few months have certainly tested our ability to adapt to uncertainty. Realistically, no one knows how long this shutdown is going to last but presumably the peak will occur in the next 1-4 months. No matter how long the formal shutdowns last, economic recovery will be slow once businesses begin to reopen. So how can companies return to profitability as quickly as possible? Top line growth will be hard to come by in the early stages, so companies must look to back-office operations such as procurement to find creative ways to reduce operating costs. This post will highlight 4 ways that procurement can support those efforts.

Reviewing SOWs and Renegotiating Contracts

Spend drift is a common outcome of old or undermanaged contracts, meaning that extra services get tacked on over time or continue to be performed when they are no longer necessary. With operating environments changing so dramatically in a short period of time, companies need to be mindful of their changing needs and be cognizant of where purchases and services are no longer required. This will be especially true in areas such as travel, contractors, and facility services; chances are we won’t be traveling as much in the near future, and its entirely likely that we won’t be spending the same amount of time in offices. Now is the ideal time to review scopes of work and make sure they reflect the “new normal” so you don’t pay for services that are no longer needed.

Managing Risk

A robust risk assessment model should be part of any developed supply chain and sourcing organization. Now more than ever, procurement organizations need to be mindful of the financial health of their supply base by assessing critical suppliers and components and assessing their risk exposure. Risk can be assessed through a multitude of lenses – by direct spend (products or services with the largest spend) or by profit impact (components or services that go into finished goods with the highest profit contribution but that may not have the highest direct spend). Understanding risk can lead to vendor consolidation and additional cost savings. By combining purchases, you can align spend to low risk suppliers, trading volume for price concessions all while reducing your risk exposure.

Focusing on Cash Flow – both yours and your suppliers

Assessing the financial health of your supply base as part of your risk assessment can also create new negotiation levers surrounding cash flow. Understanding your cash position relative to that of your supply base can create negotiation opportunities around payment terms, early pay discounts, and even supply chain financing programs where having cash on hand takes precedent over capturing price and margin.

Outsourcing

Lastly, outsourcing is a tool that allows companies to remain lean, focus on their core competencies, and allows them to easily scale to their requirements while relying on the expertise of a 3rd party. It will be important to keep overhead and fixed costs low during the recovery period, and outsourced services can be scaled to meet your requirements depending on how quickly or slowly the recovery period plays out. In the procurement space, Corcentric can supplement your existing procurement team through a contingency model where savings are shared, incentivizing upside savings and minimizing your organizations up-front costs. In the coming months, that level of flexibility will be vital to getting back on track as we all try to return to normalcy and get back to growing.

What do supply chain workers need to know about PPE?

People around the world are now living with the new realities foisted upon them by the novel coronavirus outbreak that shows no signs of letting up in the next few months. Unfortunately, to keep the wheels of society moving, there is a necessity to bring workers in numerous industries - including the supply chain - out of their homes and to centralized places of business on a daily basis.

Any company asking workers to put themselves in harm's way at this time has a duty to make sure those employees are properly protected from being infected by the coronavirus, and that includes providing them with plenty of personal protective equipment, according to the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association. However, when companies take this necessary step, it's also important for workers to know the best practices around using PPE.

That starts with knowing how to effectively wear it and, when appropriate, remove it, the report said. There's more to safely wearing a facemask, gloves or eye protection than just putting them on and taking them off, and the most basic is washing hands thoroughly before and after doing so, as any potential source of infection that collected on these materials needs to be scrubbed away.

Having the right protective gear for your workers is a must.Having the right protective gear for your workers is a must.

What workers need
Companies certainly have a role to play in making sure workers know what they're doing with the PPE they're given (at least some training here will be helpful), but it's also important to take full note of the gear they need as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. Depending upon a number of factors related to their specific work, facemasks and gloves should be worn while on work premises at a bare minimum, but workers may also need gowns and eye protection as well to ensure they're fully protected.

They will also potentially need more - and better - access to proper sanitation stations where they can wash their hands, remove and dispose of single-use PPE and so on, the report said.

Other considerations
In some cases, it may be possible for workers to reuse certain types of PPE that you provide, but employers certainly need to make sure those pieces of gear are rated for reuse, according to Health.com. Moreover, most of the time they can only be reused after being sanitized, so if your organization does not have proper means of processing them, they should be disposed of rather than worn again. 

Furthermore, it's critical to stress to workers that they should never, under any circumstances, share PPE with others, the report said. The reason the first P in PPE stands for "personal" is because it's for one person and one person only. As such, one worker letting others even handle their PPE puts all involved at risk of infection.

Certainly, there may be more ins and outs related to proper use and disposal of PPE for your company, but these broad strokes provide the framework for basic worker protections at a time when they're absolutely critical.