July 2020

There isn't a company on earth that can get by without the hard work of its employees, whose labor drives all business growth and success. As such, it's important to cultivate an environment in which your workers feel engaged and dedicated to your company's mission, so you can all flourish together.
The following ideals should help you strike that just-right balance between your needs and those of your employees, to both attract and retain talent in the supply chain industry as time goes on:

1) Set clear goals - and regularly redefine them
You likely have plenty of monthly, quarterly or annual targets for your business, but perhaps not for your individual employees, according to Ajilon. Changing things up and giving everyone clear objectives for a given week or month is a great way to make sure everyone stays on task, completes projects small and large, and generally feels like they're working toward something on an ongoing basis.

Keeping new hires and long-tenured employees happy is critical.Keeping new hires and long-tenured employees happy is critical.
2) Give them a reason to work harder for you
Often, executives decry that workers just don't put in the above-and-beyond effort the business wants, but may not consider why that is, Ajilon said. Giving them financial incentives for hitting those above-mentioned goals could entice them to do that little bit more work.
3) Consistently reevaluate your reputation
A big part of succeeding in business is being able to continually draw in new hires, so your company needs to set an exemplary standard, according to Supply Chain Dive. Regularly getting feedback from candidates about what you're doing well in your hiring process and employment practices could give you some outside insight.
4) Give workers the chance to grow with the company
A great way to make sure you can retain the workers you've had on staff for years is to give them a clear path up the corporate ladder, should they want it, Supply Chain Dive advised. Something as simple as paying for new certifications and other avenues of professional development could be highly valuable to any employee - and pay for itself easily over time.
5) Prioritize active recruiting
It's not enough to simply create a job opening when you have a position to fill - you need to actively seek out established talent within your industry, according to MEP Supply Chain Optimization. Being able to maintain contact with top workers in your field so you can potentially lure them away when you need to make an important hire can give you an edge on the competition.
6) Boost your internal culture
You should always be on the lookout for ways you can keep your workers more engaged, MEP Supply Chain Optimization noted. Frequently checking in with them to find out what about your business culture is working, and what needs to be tweaked, could help ensure they stick around for the long term.
7) Onboard new workers successfully
When you make a new hire, you want them to be able to hit the ground running, MEP Supply Chain Optimization further added. Pairing them up with an experienced employee can help them learn the ropes and find some friends quickly and easily.

The coronavirus-related headlines in recent months have not been good for the U.S.: Cases keep rising, especially in "hot spot" states that are not managing infection rates effectively, and the economic downturn is likely to get worse before it gets better. But in a testament to how resilient the national and global supply chain have become, there are some strong signs of recovery within the industry.
Nationwide, 97% of companies in the supply chain saw at least some disruption of their operations due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the vast majority pivoted their operations to deal with it in one way or another, according to a recent poll from Procurious. While the effects of the lockdown and virus spread have been varied to say the least, the most common issues were a drop in demand (experienced by 31% of companies in the supply chain), lack of supply (26%) and slowdowns in shipping (21%).
With the benefit of hindsight, supply chain pros now recognize their biggest weaknesses that left them vulnerable to these disruptions, the survey found. Nearly 2 in 5 said they didn't realize their geographic risks, and 29% said they just didn't understand their suppliers' own weaknesses.

Executives are confident their companies have reacted well to COVID-19.Executives are confident their companies have reacted well to COVID-19.
Changing landscapes
Of course, even despite these difficulties, many companies continued doing business - albeit at reduced or greatly altered levels - and some certainly made out better than others, according to Supply & Demand Chain Executive. The Hackett Group's recent 2020 Working Capital Study found that companies in the top 20% of their industries were able to turn over cash three times more efficiently than even the median business. That meant collecting money from customers or clients 19 days more quickly, paid suppliers 20 days slower and turned over inventory more effectively (holding less than half of median numbers).
All of that has become vitally important during the pandemic, the report said.
"For most companies, there's suddenly a 'burning platform,' a sense of urgency that is driving improvement," Craig Bailey, associate principal of strategy & business transformation at the Hackett Group, told the site. "Companies are making liquidity and cash flow a top priority."
Getting on the right footing
With all these changes, companies are now feeling much better about their standing today, according to a separate report from Supply & Demand Chain Executive. A recent APQC survey found that 82% of companies are either confident or very confident about their pivots to the "new normal," and 61% say they have already fully changed their supply chains to acclimate to the current situation.
However, challenges do remain, the survey showed. Nearly 1 in 3 say their biggest issue will be training employees to handle the changes, and more than a quarter still need to implement more changes to their organizations. Another 25% said they have yet to shorten their supply chains.
With all this in mind, companies will have to continue improvising and finding new ways to manage in these uncharted business waters. The situation is evolving across the U.S. and issues that may have been cleared up for some time in one state may continue to persist for some time to come just over the border.

Planning and executing a complex sourcing project is no small task. Procurement teams spend months defining requirements, running a sourcing event, negotiating with suppliers, and executing contracts. When an organized approach is followed this typically results in substantial savings. Yet too often organizations fail to realize the full potential of Procurement’s contributions due to implementation challenges following contract execution. In many cases, 40% of more of forecasted savings are not realized as a result.

The solution to this problem is Change Management. While Change Management is more often associated with mergers, acquisitions, and complex technology implementations, the reality is Change Management will yield positive results for any initiative that involves change. It is particularly effective at solving the problems that typically plague contract implementations such as savings leakage and rogue spend. Below I am going to introduce three Change Management tools than are useful when engaging with stakeholders throughout the Sourcing process and when implementing new contracts.

Stakeholder Analysis
Everyone knows we must engage the appropriate business units when planning a sourcing event to define requirements. However, taking things a step further and formally assessing the effects on different stakeholder groups can provide tremendous value when we reach implementation. The purpose of conducting stakeholder analysis is to ensure we identify ALL affected stakeholders and gain an understanding of the ways in which they are impacted. This will allow us to assess which groups are most impacted so we can be sure to carefully target these groups and prepare them to purchase goods and services once new contracts are implemented.

Resistance Management Plan
Resistance is the natural human reaction to change, and therefore should always be assumed. Stakeholder attachments to their supplier relationships is a prime example. While there is no magic answer to eliminating resistance, early anticipation and planning will greatly mitigate the occurrences. It is important to spend time considering which of the groups identified in our Stakeholder Impact Analysis are most likely to resist purchasing from new suppliers. Some basic questions we should be asking include:
  • What are some possible resistance points: particular groups, locations, managers?
  • What types of resistance should be expected: avoidance, rogue spend, vocally expressing discontent?
  • What are the reasons for resistance: fear over loss of control, personal attachments to suppliers, concern over needs being captured?

Once we have identified our expected sources of resistance and the underlying reasons, we can plan out tactics to neutralize the impacts. Reactive resistance management is much more difficult and time consuming to resolve. Developing a Resistance Management Plan puts Procurement in a proactive position and will greatly accelerate our path to ROI.

Communication Plan
My final recommendation for integrating Change Management into the Sourcing process is to develop a formal Communication Plan. The purpose of developing a Communication Plan is to ensure all necessary stakeholders are engaged and receive effective communications that will drive adoption. A well-designed Communication Plan will ensure stakeholders are aware of the categories and suppliers impacted and informed about important dates and timelines. A Communication Plan is also a great way to engrain sponsor participation into the project plan which reinforces the need to comply amongst stakeholders. The basic steps to completing a Communication Plan include:
  1.  Identify the audiences.
  2.  List key messages and timing.
  3. Determine means of communication packaging, method, frequency, and sender.
  4. Convert into detailed outline and schedule.

Savings projections typically assume 100% adoption and compliance. To come close to that mark all stakeholders need to know what categories and items are changing, when the new contracts take effect, and how to purchase the relevant goods and services. Following the steps outlined above to complete a Communication Plan will ensure that all stakeholders receive this information and are prepared as new supplier contracts are implemented.

Hopefully I have made it clear how incorporating Change Management into the Sourcing approach will greatly improve the odds of Procurement teams obtaining projected savings. When we achieve our saving projections, we improve our standing amongst our internal stakeholders and clients alike and move closer to reaching our goal of becoming trusted business advisors. If you are interested in learning more or receiving services related to Strategic Sourcing or Change Management, please visit our website.

In 2017, approximately 5% of workers in the US worked from home. This was an increase from previous years, as more companies were opening up to the idea of a remote or semi-remote labor force. Now in 2020, due to the global COVID pandemic, we have witnessed a historic switch to working remotely. According to Stanford researched published in July 2020, 42% of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time, while only 26%, mostly essential service workers, are working on site.[1]

This transition to working from home has been vital to help curb the spread of COVID-19. If we had been unable to work remotely, the negative impact to the economy would have forced workers to return to offices, and effectively made social distancing efforts near impossible. The decision on when and how to return to the office will vary from company to company, and in many cases by business function. The negative stigma associated with remote working has largely disappeared and many of us have learned to adapt and even thrive in remote environments. But not everyone has the ability or desire to continue to work remotely, and many other functions simply can’t be done off-site. So as companies look to reopen offices, they must partner with organizations that provide 
comprehensive testing programs and ensure employees return to the safest workplace possible.

Here at Concentric we have worked with our clients, in partnership with testing providers, to develop and source custom testing protocols to fit each company’s needs. These protocols center around:
1.       Testing regularity and cadence
2.       On-site and remote testing capabilities
3.       PCR virology tests
4.       Serology/antibody tests

If your company is working on a return to work plan, a strong testing protocol should be at the forefront of your strategy. This includes working with established testing providers to create customized plans that allow employees to return to the workplace in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

For a best in class return-to-work strategy, a competitive sourcing event should be run hand-in-hand with development of this testing protocol. From a high level, the process should operate like this:

1.       Identify site list, essential employees, and a wave plan

Have an understanding of what workers need to be onsite, and at what locations. If you have offices in multiple states, you might need to partner with multiple testing providers. Knowing who is returning to work at what locations is essential for developing a strategy. You might also consider a phased approach, where employees return to work in waves based off need.

2.       Establish best-practice testing methodology and cadence
3.       Competitively source established testing providers

Steps and 2 and 3 can and should be run concurrently. Companies need to create a partnership with their selected testing provider to ensure they are adhering to best practices while tailoring a program to meet their requirements. This may include PCR nasal swab tests, serology (antibody) venipuncture tests, temperature checks upon entry, and establishing on-site vs. off-site requirements and capabilities. Working with established testing providers to help develop testing methodology will help to ensure you are following CDC guidelines and minimizing risk to employees to the furthest extent possible.

By including the testing providers in the methodology development, it shows good faith heading into the sourcing event. As testing providers competitively bid their services, they understand your needs and desires and can develop a plan to best meet them.

4.       Negotiate pricing and sign service agreements

Cost of services is always important, but don’t forget to consider the human aspect here. Negotiations should not focus solely on the lowest price point. Instead, the focus should be on getting the most value with the best possible terms while keeping employee safety as the primary objective. This should include set turnaround times for testing results. The sooner you know if someone is positive, the sooner you can take action. Understand what you’re paying for, and make sure every cent you spend is going as far as it can to minimize the risk to your work force.

If you would like to work with Concentric to help with development of your return to work strategy, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help.


Bloom, N. (2020, June 29). Stanford research provides a snapshot of a new working-from-home economy. Retrieved from Stanford News: https://news.stanford.edu/2020/06/29/snapshot-new-working-home-economy/

The good news for supply chain businesses across the country is that the economy is opening up again as stay-at-home orders are lifted in many states. However, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is still rising rapidly, so it's wise for companies to do all they can to make sure workers are safe, including giving them the flexibility to continue working from home until the pandemic has calmed down a bit.
Of course, that may be months away, and it means remote work is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, you should continue to refine your organizational approach to remote work with the following steps:
1) Give everyone access to the programs they need
If people have been using makeshift replacements for programs they use on company computers, or have simply been making do without, now is the time to make sure they get the real McCoy, according to River Logic. Paying for additional licenses on your existing account or otherwise getting these programs to people is vital to ensuring they can work efficiently.
2) Don't make people come back if they can work from home
Some companies are adopting the idea of "If some workers have to come back, everyone does," River Logic advised. This may seem fair - but it isn't necessarily safe. For workers whose duties require them to be in the building, that's one thing, but for those whose presence isn't essential to their or your efficiency, they should be allowed to keep working from home until it's safer to come in.

Remote work should stay a fact of life for the foreseeable future.Remote work should stay a fact of life for the foreseeable future.
3) Make sure there's plenty of communication
In times of uncertainty, make sure employees know exactly what their roles are, and what is and isn't required of them, according to Gartner. That means telling people what's going on with their own roles and the company as a whole more frequently than you might have if everyone was just in the same office every day. You don't want to create a situation where even one employee isn't sure what the plan is, or what's being asked of them.
4) Set clearer objectives
A great way to keep employees on the straight and narrow even as you go months without seeing them in person is to set more benchmarks for getting their work done, Gartner said. If they have a new set of clear goals over the course of every week or two, you can help ensure they're pulling their weight.
5) Keep the lines of communication wide open
Because you're more accustomed to working in person, your normal methods for communication may not hold up as well with remote work, according to In The IT Supply Chain. Finding new ways to stay in contact beyond the occasional Zoom meeting is critical for both managers and employees.
6) Stay on top of monitoring employees
Certainly, managers need to be more concerned about people getting their work done remotely, and set up systems to do so, In The IT Supply Chain added. Then, when something starts to slip, you can have a conversation about what's been going on. These are challenging times for everyone, and through such a conversation, you may find that the problem has a simple solution.

As a participant in the supply chain, efficiency matters - and not just for your own operations. Your efficiency impacts all your supply chain partners further down the line, so it's critical to get a better handle on warehouse management so that you can all take that next step forward together.
Adopting even a few of the following keys to warehouse management success should pay off significantly for all involved:
1) Always plan ahead
While surprises and complications are certainly a fact of life in any business, that's often even more true of the logistics industry, according to All Things Supply Chain. As a consequence, it would be wise to start planning your business setup at least a few months in advance. That way, you always have at least some picture of what you'll need to do, from ordering more of a certain item to adding staff or taking the time to train employees.

A few small changes could make a world of difference in your warehouse.A few small changes could make a world of difference in your warehouse.
2) Don't get caught flat-footed
At the same time as you are doing your long-term planning, however, the unpredictability of many aspects of this business mean you need to expect the unexpected as well, All Things Supply Chain advised. Circumstances in this sector aren't always ideal and any supply chain managers worth their salt have contingency plans in place - and contingencies on those contingencies - for when shipments fall through or manufacturing delays arise.
3) Reduce reliance on paper
All too often, warehouses rely on a mix of digital processes (such as inventory management) and paper (as with packing slips) - and that can lead to inefficiency in a major way, according to 6 River Systems. The more you can do to transition your processes to being entirely digital, the better off you, your employees, your partners and your customers will be, because this can significantly reduce errors and free up a lot of time.
4) Crunch the numbers
Of course, investing in more digitally based processes costs money, and you need to understand how much you will have to put into such an effort before taking the leap, 6 River Systems said. However, when you price these investments, you also need to keep in mind that they will likely provide a lot of financial benefit in the long run, effectively paying for themselves, so you'll have to do some math to figure out when you'll reach that break-even point. It may be sooner than you think.
5) Communicate with your staffers
When you're initiating any changes to your warehouse processes, it's important to keep your staff in the loop, according to industry expert Joe Crews, writing on LinkedIn. That way, all involved can be prepared for the potentially significant changes you're going to put into place, and you can begin to craft all appropriate trainings so that when you actually start using new tech or processes, it's far easier to hit the ground running. In addition, it might be wise to talk to those workers beforehand to get a better understanding of their view of the situation.

Environmental sustainability coincides with lean manufacturing practices whether business owners and consultants realize it or not. The primary goal of lean methodology is to improve business performance by ridding manufacturing processes of wastes to save time and money. Many supply chain wastes are linked to environmental hazards; for instance, companies may use excessive amounts of water and energy to produce their product or service. By eliminating the unnecessary use of materials, companies will not only help the environment, but they will also gain a better financial and social standing with stakeholders, consumers, and employees.

Lean Manufacturing Practices
Lean manufacturing began when companies needed to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Since then, many companies have followed suit and chosen to adopt lean practices. Many case studies have shown a drastic decrease in environmental waste with companies that have participated in a Kaizen event, which is a short, week-long, lean improvement project. A Kaizen event targets a specific area of production with the goal of finding the waste within. If companies do not know what areas should be targeted, environmental experts can help advise where to look to help implement lean processes. Companies may also choose to adopt alternative lean practices like just-in-time production and total quality management to improve the total efficiency of their production.

Other Environmental Initiatives
Additionally, companies may adhere to an environmental management system like ISO 14000 (https://www.iso.org/iso-14001-environmental-management.html) in order to set an environmental policy standard for the company to maintain. Often going unrecognized, the underlying benefit of these environmental policies is how most pollution prevention can be cost-efficient.

Bottom Line

Before any company decides to implement these lean methods into their business model, they must create a cost-benefit analysis defining whether the innovation will benefit them. Lean manufacturing is a great way to gain efficiency within certain processes. However, the theory alone may not achieve optimal sustainability throughout the organization. Regardless, the link between lean and green initiatives cannot be ignored, and the world should try to adopt more of its practices to maintain success, save money, and help the environment. 

Data Enrichment and Supplier Diversity

Many organizations struggle to identify Diverse Suppliers, limiting opportunities for Diverse Suppliers, with most Diverse Suppliers agreeing one of their greatest challenges is locating opportunities. So, how do we solve this quandary? At a high level, the solution is to establish procedure and policy for your Supplier Diversity program, but at a more granular level the solution may be Third-Party Data Enrichment.

Third-Party Data Enrichment enhances and supplements any existing Diverse Supplier database you currently house by constantly updating their expansive database able to locate Diverse Suppliers across the country with accurate contact information categorized by industry, need, Diversity status, etc. With access to a Third-Party Data Enrichment platform, you will ostensibly be given access to every Diverse Supplier certifying organization. A Data Enrichment platform can expand your current Diverse Supplier outreach to almost any industry, category, or need and allow your team to meet any Diversity requirements established as part of Supplier Diversity Program.

While Third-Party Data Enrichment can help identify and supplement any Diverse Supplier information you store, without an effective Supplier Diversity Program you may still have gaps. Manual processes or unclear program goals can be some of the largest deterrents from establishing lasting relationships with Diverse Suppliers, but streamlining the identification process by creating ease of use for your sourcing team can be a large first step in creating meaningful relationships and help reach your program goals. Find the right touch for your Diversity Program and goals, and then explore Third-Party Data Enrichment avenues to create an effective process that will not only identify opportunities for Diverse Suppliers, but also establishing lasting relationships with your suppliers. 

The past few months have hardly been an easy time for many businesses across the U.S., and every employee likely has a little more pressure on them to make sure they are doing what they can to guide their company through the storm so it can successfully come out the other side. That certainly includes purchasing managers, who should strive to keep costs down but also ensure strong ties within their industry supply chains.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways those in the purchasing department can ensure they are enjoying ongoing success on multiple fronts, including finding new ways to collaborate with other departments and supply chain partners, according to Fraxion. These are times of significant upheaval and the ways you were doing business even three or four months ago may not be the best way to proceed for all involved. As a consequence, it may be a better idea to shift strategies so they are more responsive to the current moment.

Staying connected to your existing network is critical at this time.Staying connected to your existing network is critical at this time.
That could include the need to look into new potential vendors so that you can continue to get the best mix of price and responsiveness to your evolving situation, especially in this economic downturn, the report said. You will still need to do what you can to uphold good working relationships with your current vendors, but adding a new one to the mix just might be exactly what your business needs right now.
Getting it right
In many ways, if you are trying to do more to make your purchasing efforts undergird and broadly support your company as a whole, it helps to have the right data at your fingertips, according to Ivalua. The more information you have on your ordering and shipment data from every possible source, the better off you are likely to be when it comes to tapping the right parts of your supply chain to help you continue as normal.
Often, the best approach to this effort is to call on your supply chain partners and see what you can both do to provide more real-time information - or at least, as much as all involved can manage - to one another, the report said. In doing so, you may make both of your lives considerably easier, and by creating these partnerships with a number of different businesses, you will gain incredible insights into your networks.
Never be satisfied
Even if you find success with your efforts on these fronts, you would also be wise to never think you have fully settled these issues, according to Supply Chain Digital. Periodically revisiting all efforts you have made to improve your supply chains will help you better understand your ongoing needs as they emerge or shift amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The things that worked well for you in March may not apply anymore, and that's true of your efforts last week or even yesterday.
The more you can do to monitor how your purchasing needs grow and change during this public health emergency and beyond, the better off all involved are likely to be for potentially years to come.

Just about every business has hit some speed bumps in the past several months, whether it was a slowdown in their sales or a hiccup in their supply chains. To the latter point, the global pandemic has undoubtedly constrained some company activities, regardless of the sectors in which they operate - and many experts believe that's a trend that will continue for some time. As a consequence, many companies are now working together to try to bolster their connections and ensure the reliable flow of both inventory and information.

In the health care sector, for instance, supply chains have become famously fragile and it's something all involved acknowledge needs to change, especially amid the global pandemic that is expected to last for months or more, according to Supply & Demand Chain Executive. A recent survey found nearly 2 in 5 health care companies have struggled to obtain personal protective equipment, and 15% have experienced issues with bidding wars for shipments and even price gouging.

Better planning can bolster supply chains, regardless of industry.Better planning can bolster supply chains, regardless of industry.
As such, priorities are shifting industry-wide, with close to 60% saying they are putting a greater emphasis on trying to obtain items manufactured in the U.S., and nearly as many saying they're increasingly sharing data with their suppliers (and vice versa), the report said. More than half are trying to bolster their stock of safety items so they don't have to be as reliant on regular shipments.

Another industry impacted
Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector is facing similar issues, and many believe it could hinder business activity for the companies within it in the near future, according to a Green Car Congress report citing polling details from GlobalData. Nearly half of respondents felt that the pandemic would have a "high impact" on efforts to expand renewable energy, and another 26% felt the impact would be moderate, and in both cases, it was believed that this was because of how much equipment for such efforts is produced overseas. Only 27% felt the impact would be minimal or non-existent.
Somik Das, senior power analyst at GlobalData, noted that companies in the industry may be particularly impacted if they are in the midst of working on projects, because delays and hurdles in the supply chain could increase their risk and liabilities, the report said. If these companies can follow suit with the more proactive health care companies above, and invest in a more diversified roster of shipping sources, they may be able to weather the storm more effectively.

When public perception is an issue
Meanwhile, when it comes to the food supply chain, the general population is certainly noticing the disruption, according to a recent poll from the American Farm Bureau Federation and Morning Consult. Altogether, 85% of respondents said they've seen at least "some" impact on the food supply chain, and 59% believe the U.S. government should classify agriculture as a "matter of national security" so the industry can further bolster the supply chain.
No matter what industry a company operates in, getting a better handle on their supply chain operations - through stronger communication and more effective planning - will typically result in a more resilient response to any issues, from pandemics to natural disasters.

There hasn't been a great deal of good news in the economy lately, and that's certainly the case for the supply chain as well. Even as supply chains in many industries proved at least somewhat resilient, many were staggered by the initial onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and this is perhaps best observed when it comes to the food supply chain.
The good news is that the general public seems to be taking these issues in stride - and still puts a great deal of trust in companies' ability to bring them safe, high-quality food despite all the ongoing obstacles in the sector today, according to a recent survey from the International Food Information Council. Altogether, about 78% of consumers say they are at least somewhat confident that the food they're eating is safe, and 73% believe the food supply chain will keep meeting consumer needs. Both numbers were down slightly from the findings of the same survey a month earlier, but still quite robust overall.

Meanwhile, consumers did express other concerns about the way things were going, the survey found. For instance, 30% said they were worried about how healthy workers at their local supermarkets and food shops were, and almost as many felt the same way about their fellow shoppers. Fewer than 1 in 4 said they had concerns about the safety of the foods they purchased.

How is food being impacted by the pandemic?How is food being impacted by the pandemic?
Keeping tabs on the situation
Consumers may not be too worried about the state of the food supply chain right now, but things could change in the near future for one simple reason, according to the World Economic Forum. The strain the pandemic and other global issues has placed on the international food supply chain is likely to result in higher food prices as the summer goes on.
It's worth noting that developed nations like the U.S. are less vulnerable to these risks than those without advanced, highly financialized economies, but even China was not immune from a pork price increase in the range of 20% on an annual basis, the report said. Moreover, the longer the pandemic goes on - and there's currently no end for it in sight - the more likely other nations will be to implement controls on how much food they export.

An evolving situation
For all these reasons, experts largely say they can't be sure how the food supply chain is going to shift in the months ahead, according to MarketScale. All that can be done is for the industry to continue adapting and making sure they are responsive to whatever developments arise.
"There's been an incredible amount of fluidity," by Kevin Kenny, chief operating officer for the FoodChain ID company Decernis, told the site. "Every day I wake up, and there's a new situation. There are new problems to talk about, and there are new challenges in the supply chain."
For companies in the food supply chain, this means they need to keep close tabs on their partners and work together to find solutions to the ongoing issues they face collectively.
Sign Warning of COVID-19 Corona Virus Outbreak

       As we slowly pull into what seems to be a post-COVID scare world, sourcing professionals would benefit from jotting down important lessons that were learned. The economic impact was vast. The unique times tested companies, departments, and individuals themselves. Many undoubtedly learned valuable lessons that may be of benefit to reference in the future. Scares like this will happen again, and we all should be better equipped in the future with our “practice run”.

       Procurement has gained extensive ground and has officially been accepted as an absolute necessity relatively recently. We were “given a seat at the table”. Skeptical companies now know we in the purchasing and procurement field are a shield against scares like COVID-19. In the coming years, I believe sourcing and procurement departments will grow rapidly. Not only direct materials will be sourced and purchased smarter, but indirect spend will be added to the procurement umbrella, as well. With this growth, will come new challenges and opportunities. Learning from the difficulty of a scare shutting down the economy will benefit us greatly.

       I have been taking some notes when challenges arose throughout the last few months. Here are some of the valuable insights I gained. Some were directly related to the procurement field. Some were just brilliant, fast thinking moves that suppliers made to find revenue streams with the cards they were just dealt.

1. Aggressively vet your suppliers and know who they get their supplies from.

       Many companies were left empty handed when the global supply chain was disrupted to such an extreme extent. Few planned for the disruption to be so large. Some organizations planned for blips in supply issues, but almost no company was fully prepared. It is our job as Procurement professionals to look to the future and plan for concerns that arise. No one expected a pandemic of this magnitude, but now we know what is possible. Confirm your supplier can weather the storm. Confirm their suppliers can weather the storm. Also, supplier’s financial health and the financial health of their suppliers is important to understand. A large amount of organizations went out of business within weeks of revenue shortages. If margins are that small, or their balance sheet is that unbalanced, issues should be expected.

2. Build strong relationships with your suppliers. Do not always contract with the cheapest pricing.

       This is a common mistake I have seen with organizations and purchasing. The appeal to contract strictly based on pricing seems smart at the time but can really backfire. The companies that built long term, trust-driven partnerships were given a higher importance when suppliers were running low on products and services. They also were much more willing to rescue companies who were feeling the tightening of budgets. Mutually beneficial relationships turned out to be mutually beneficial for both parties. How ironic! As an Analyst at a consulting company, I saw this from both sides. The rough times allowed one customer to receive price cuts as the supplier greatly valued the relationship. However, on the alternative side I saw a supplier attempt a drastic price increase. Position yourself for the former and you will find pandemics to be much less stressful on your supply chain.

3. Leadership is everything.

       Overall, the biggest lesson I learned is that leadership is the single most important factor in Procurement, or any other field for that matter. Some companies suffered while others had a workforce that remained concentrated and confident. Most took a hit financially, but great leaders stepped up and made the most of a difficult situation. I saw companies that completely shifted their focus and manufactured PPE using existing lines. This brought large amounts of revenue and kept their workforce active. This is quick thinking and shows that those in charge can act rationally under pressure. I saw companies shift a whole department to fulfill an influx of orders. The great part was the department was made up of office workers who typically were responsible for much different tasks. But they were glad to jump in, maintain their job, and help leaders who were helping them.
       There were many good examples of leadership throughout this pandemic. However, I experienced a great one as a final example. I was a new employee when the Corona virus fears began. We quickly closed our offices since we have the opportunity to be effective from home. Immediately, I was fearful because I was barely underway. I did not have a lot of time to prove my value. Luckily, I stumbled into a few projects that were important and I was moving forward. The worry that lay offs would happen was still in the back of my head. Multiple friends had already gotten laid off. Even though you expect an Executive to attempt to instill confidence in the workforce, it often is not the simplest to believe. I believed my executive team and immediate boss this time, though. I was three months in, and something was different. I could feel the honesty. I could feel that the decisions were being made with the team in mind. It was strong leadership and it was the difference maker to me. I was motivated and eager to prove myself to return the dedication to the company. It got me and the company through this frightening time.

What important lessons have you learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?

Covid-19 continues to impact various industries and their supply chains.  One of the latest industries experiencing drastic shortages in supplies is the gym and exercise equipment manufacturing market.  With stay at home orders being implemented and certain states closing gyms indefinitely, people are starting to wonder where and how they will work out.  Because of this, many people have been panic buying fitness equipment.  This massive surge has caused shortages to arise.

In the United States, the gym and exercise equipment manufacturing industry generated $2B in revenue in 2019.  Of this, 65% of the equipment comes from foundries in China.  The massive shutdowns of factories have caused production rates to drop significantly.  In addition, many US retailers are having a hard time obtaining their products since a large portion of their items are outsourced to Asia.  The low production and difficulty getting products to America paired with an increase in demand has severely strained retailers' supply chains.  A popular equipment manufacturer Rogue Fitness outsources their kettlebell production to Asia.  Their inventory initially dwindled because of factory shutdowns and it continues to drop because of high demand.  They hired a foundry company in Rhode Island to start manufacturing kettlebells to work to get rid of their backlog.

Some of the most sought after equipment are dumbbells, kettlebells, benches, and resistances bands.  Kettlebells have risen in popularity and demand due to their versatility in various types of workouts.  Not only has the US experienced shortages of these items, Australia is also facing this issue.  People in Australia were purchasing damaged kettlebells for over $400.

Various studies and retailers have confirmed this sudden growth and desire for fitness equipment.  Yelp conducted a study in April 2020 and found that the interest in fitness equipment rose by 500% in the United States since March 2020.  Stackline also studied e-commerce trends in March 2020 and found "weight training" to be the eighth fastest growing category.  Colorado based Rep Fitness said they recently did more sales in one day, than it normally does in a month.  Brompton Bicycles recently confirmed that they are fully booked with orders for the next seven months and will not be able to fulfill any future orders.  Peloton saw sales surge 66% in the first three months of 2020.  They also ended the first quarter with more than 866,000 subscribers that have either bought their bike or treadmill.  Although Peloton has seen a spike in sales, the company has been unable to keep up with not only demand, but their customers' needs.  Consumers have been recently complaining about delayed and even cancelled deliveries, as well as poor customer service.  Peloton has noted on their website that deliveries can take anywhere between six to over 10 weeks.

Fitness equipment has become the latest sought-after commodity.  Retailers' supply chains are struggling due to the locations of their manufacturing facilities as well as the drive in consumer demand.  The shortages have caused price markups and severe difficulty for consumers to obtain these items.  Going forward, it would not be surprising if some of these equipment retailers look to move some of their manufacturing operations closer to or in the United States.

As a company, every purchasing decision you make has an impact on your bottom line, so making a misstep - no matter how big or small - can be a costly error. For that reason, now is the time for businesses to take a look at their purchasing processes to see if there are ways they can reduce those mistakes and continually find the best possible options for themselves.
The following tips should help in that quest:

1) Look at what others have to say about your options
The beauty of the Information Age is there's no shortage of stories online about almost any company you might choose to buy from - in the form of customer reviews, according to CXL. While you might be wise to avoid taking any one review as representative of a supplier's quality, when there are a host of positive reviews that specifically mention the things you're looking for in a supply chain partner, that's a good indicator that you've landed on the right option.

Making the right purchasing decisions isn't always easy.Making the right purchasing decisions isn't always easy.
2) Keep it simple
When you're starting a relationship with a new supplier, it's important to not come in with a slew of highly complicated demands and requirements, CXL advised. While you might have complex issues you're dealing with, you cannot expect companies to be able to understand all the intricacies of your business right out of the gate. Just like anything else, you're trying to build a relationship from the ground up.

3) Make sure your partner will treat you right
That having been said, you do need to know that any supplier you choose to purchase from is willing to work closely with you to ensure everything goes as you hope, according to sales expert Jim Logan. For instance, you might need support when buying and using a new product in your office - will that supplier provide it, or farm it out to a third party that you don't really have any relationship with?

4) Try to guarantee you will be properly updated
In the supply chain, visibility is everything, and if you don't have it you might find yourself in an extremely difficult position, Logan added. When trying to make a purchasing decision, it's important to get assurances from your new partners that you will be able to get the full view of where your shipments are and when you will receive them.

5) Identify what your problems have been in the past
Your company has undoubtedly experienced both successes and setbacks in your purchasing decisions, so you would be wise to take a look at your history to figure out what's worked, what hasn't, and why, according to B2B Marketing. Your findings should help inform better decisions in the future.

6) Don't settle for the first decent option
When you're looking for new suppliers, you're likely to find a lot that can provide what you're looking for, B2B Marketing said. However, it's important to get a number of options together and compare and contrast their positives and negatives. Getting quotes and trying to nail down particulars could go a long way toward helping you make better decisions.
Most companies could find dozens of cost cutting projects (larger companies could have hundreds) to get behind. That’s good! Yet few have enough resources or availability to pursue all -- or even most -- of them, meaning choosing the wrong projects could be a huge waste of time and a big opportunity cost. That’s bad.

Procurement needs a way to identify cost cutting opportunities and rank them from best to worst. This may be easier said than done. How should we proceed?

Understand Your Scope

Plenty of Procurement pros will jump right into a spend analysis and opportunity assessment project to find these answers. If you’ve read other articles I’ve written, you may expect me to do this as well. And we will – but first…

Let’s establish a couple important parameters that will help highlight critical projects:

  • Higher-level initiatives trump small-fry problems. Solving 3-foot problems has its place (see further down by what I mean), but 30k-foot problems will have a much bigger organizational impact when it comes to savings potential.
  • Cash cows trump side projects. Most companies have a few primary activities that bring in the bulk of revenue. Smaller products might be exciting and could very well turn into cash cows – but focus first on the foundations of your organization’s revenue stream.

Depending on how valued Procurement teams are as strategic resources, you may not have visibility into these points. If so, now is the time to engage senior leadership. What are their major goals? What do they want to achieve in the next one to two years? Not only will engaging leadership help paint a picture of where you should focus, but it’ll align you with initiatives top brass has a stake in – which could also help in marshaling needed resources to get the job done.

Getting the Lay of the Land

Now that we have a goal in mind, higher-level projects that support our organizations’ most important initiatives, we can analyze the data to identify opportunities. We’ll want to answer a few questions:

  • Estimate Results: How much of an impact will an opportunity have? Are we targeting cost savings or cost avoidance?
  • Estimate Lift: How many resources over what span of time will be required to see these results?
  • Rank Opportunities: Based on the above, how does one opportunity compare to the others? Which represent the largest decrease in spend, now or future, and how does each rank in terms of ROI?

Keeping in mind that this is a marathon and not a sprint, there are times when taking on lower total savings or ROI projects is acceptable. One of Procurement’s first goals, especially if the team is working on building relationships with other teams, is to land a few highly visible quick win projects – they may not have the impact larger projects do, but they help build momentum and turn stakeholders into Procurement champions.

Change Management

Bigger, more impactful projects will inevitably touch on critical products and operational processes. These cases require proper change management to be successful:

  • Identify all stakeholders that will be impacted by the change.
  • Articulate how these groups will be impacted by the change (and to what degree), specifically.
  • Use this information to inform a communication plan, resistance management tactics, and a training plan.

Our first goal here is to make sure all stakeholders understand not only what the change is, but why it is necessary. Our second goal is to give these stakeholders the tools and training to integrate these changes into their day-to-day activities without causing a negative impact.

The supply chain industry is, at its heart, all about building and taking advantage of relationships with your suppliers. When you can do those two things effectively, so many other aspects of your efforts fall into place with ease, so it's important to prioritize those dealings in everything you do.
The tips below could help you get a better handle on all these issues and bring both yourself and your partners to better outcomes in the near future:

1) Realign your organizational goals
Perhaps the easiest way to improve cohesion between yourselves and your partners is to think about the ways you can find common ground in what you're trying to achieve, according to Supply Chain Digital. While you may have many differences between you, aligning the aspects of your business that are generally focused in the same direction could help you build better connections.

2) Put expectations in writing
Once you know what you're trying to achieve together, it's important to codify your expectations for each other, Supply Chain Digital advised. There are all sorts of issues that can arise to knock your organization off course - and that's also true for your partners - but being able to refer to an agreed-upon document could help you right the ship more effectively.

Coming to terms on collective expectations can be a boon for all involved.Coming to terms on collective expectations can be a boon for all involved.
3) Take a closer look at IT and data tracking
The amount of data you could potentially collect on your operations is significant, according to Flexis. If you're not doing that, it's important to make the right investment steps now so you can identify issues that might be holding your company back from achieving collective goals.

4) Work together to spot problems in advance
If you and your partner aren't holding up your end of the bargain, that's one thing, but if a problem arises that you didn't foresee, it's another issue entirely, Flexis said. For that reason, both you and your partners should strive to identify potential challenges based on historical evidence, so you can find solutions to sidestep them before they derail your efforts.

5) Bring as many partners under the same umbrella as you can
While you can certainly seek a patchwork approach to these efforts with all your different suppliers, it can be a better idea to bring several or more under one agreement so everyone is aware of the efforts you're trying to undertake, according to Raconteur. That way, you don't need to constantly consider how one agreement affects another, and can get everyone on the same page.

6) Share data and collaborate on projects
If you're trying to make sure everyone works in concert more effectively, sharing whatever data you collect and coming together on new initiatives is always a good idea, Raconteur noted. That way, you and everyone else are constantly aware of how things are going, and able to find ways to make all of your operations better and more aligned with your overall goals that you set as a group.
Most companies understand the need to reinforce their Procure to Pay cycle with supporting technologies. The right tools can eliminate time wasted, reduce the opportunity for errors or fraud, and help Procurement teams discover new opportunities through enhanced analytics. These are all valuable benefits, and companies who recognize them should get started down the path of P2P solutions. Right?

They’d be on the right track, but potentially the wrong train.

There’s a “garbage in, garbage out” element to this decision. After all, automating a poor process just leaves us with a bad automated process. These solutions, alone, can’t solve problems that exist at the fundamental level of our P2P processes. So, what should Procurement do?

Examine the Need from the Ground up

Examining any solution, P2P or otherwise, usually starts with framing it in the context of the issues it will help us solve. However, moving right from problem to platform skips an important step: thinking critically about what those issues are – and what is causing them in the first place.

Develop an end-to-end workflow of the process as it stands today. Think through each steps, and highlight critical issues for each. Do this through the lens of your team’s KPIs – are we missing the mark on timing? Do we have too many errors? What is keeping this process from functioning at a higher level?

From here, we can start thinking about process improvements. However, at this stage, we should not be framing those improvements in terms of any technology. In other words, we should consider this final question: “How would we address these issues if we weren’t planning on implementing a new P2P solution at all?”

Choose a Solution that Fits Needs

There are plenty of solutions to choose from in the market. The complexity of the products, the wide span of our processes they cover, and the number of options collectively make this a difficult choice.
Examining our needs as we did above is the first step toward making sense of it all. From the workflow we developed, we start to get a sense for the problems we have – both in terms of what we can solve through process improvement alone, and where we can leverage automation to take us to the next level. This second bucket is where we want to focus on during our review of solutions in the market.

Many solutions will have more functionality that we need or even want. While some companies may implement a solution across their entire workflow, many others choose one or two areas that are a specific pain point (in other words, are most damaging to the process) and expand the tool outwards from there.

In this context, we will need to outline our requirements very carefully. We will need to ensure we understand what we want to accomplish with a solution today as well as tomorrow, and select a solution that that fits this trajectory.

A Considered Implementation

Implementing new technology isn’t a simple matter when it is intertwined with business processes. We need to consider the transformative nature of these implementations. Before we start examining solutions, there are a few questions we must be able to answer:

  • Do we know who our stakeholders are? Who will be responsible for using the solution? An even wider net, who will be impacted by the solution’s successes or failures?
  • What is our Change Management plan? Do we have a strategy for training users and communicating the value of the change? How will we ensure that the implementation will solve our problems… rather than just adding new ones?
  • How are we measuring success? What could make the implementation a failure, and what are we doing to mitigate that risk?

Any company involved with a sufficiently long or widespread supply chain in recent months has likely discovered that there are more ups and downs that can arise when even one aspect of the chain experiences some stress. For that reason, experts increasingly recommend that companies do more to make sure their supply chains are resilient - especially as the pandemic continues for months to come.
The importance of a resilient supply chain has been underscored time and again since the start of 2020, and now is certainly the time for businesses at any step of that chain check that their networks are strong enough to withstand whatever difficulties they may face, according to Logistics Management. Obviously, it's difficult or perhaps impossible to account for every eventuality - after all, how many would have done stress testing with a global pandemic in mind at this time last year? - but the more your organization can do to ensure its supply chain is resilient, the better off all involved will be.

Lengthy supply chains could be a source of weakness these days.Lengthy supply chains could be a source of weakness these days.
Taking the next step
The idea that logistics firms "don't know what they don't know" when it comes to these issues is a very real problem, and taking a holistic look at your operations is critical to finding areas of potential weakness, the report said. Suketu Gandhi, partner and leader for Digital Supply Chain at Kearney - which has developed a supply chain stress test - notes that while it's impossible to avoid every potential hiccup, the key to success in difficult times is being able to operate at something at least resembling previous levels of efficiency.
"Resilience needs to be examined from an end-to-end supply chain view, not just in isolation for each individual dimension," Gandhi told the site.

Plenty of good news
Fortunately, many companies have clearly seen the need for taking such steps in the past few months, prompted in large part by the pandemic, but also Brexit and other challenges, according to a recent Gartner survey. While only about 1 in 5 companies in the supply chain say they currently have resilient supply chains, the current situation has them looking at their options - and 55% say they believe they will be able to set up a "highly resilient network" within three years.
This comes despite the fact that close to 3 in 5 believe taking such steps will result in more operational costs, the survey found. Moreover, a quarter of manufacturers polled said they have already moved to local or regional production efforts so they can avoid the pitfalls that come with long-tail supply chain networks.

The problem for many of those companies is that building resilient supply chains is often more easily said than done, and that means companies have to be truly invested in taking those steps, according to Harvard Business Review. The cost and complexity of such efforts can be considerable, which is why stress testing and mapping is so important to understanding exactly what actions are needed.
The more companies can do to fully examine their strengths and weaknesses, the better off they will be when it comes to finding the right solutions for their unique problems.