August 2020

    As supply chain consultants we help our customers to improve their purchasing processes and find savings opportunities within their supply chain. There are a number of ways to do so, from instituting centralized purchasing tools, guiding purchasing behavior that promotes process efficiencies, and even managing the relationships with the suppliers that our clients choose to use to support their business. One of the quickest routes to savings is the management of indirect spend through Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs.) 

    Indirect spend is any spend not directly included in the Cost of Goods Sold of a product or service. Indirect spend refers to expenses incurred for materials, services and maintenance required to operate the business. For example, if you own or operate a fleet of vehicles, any money spent on maintaining that fleet would be an indirect spend. Other examples of indirect spend would uniform rentals, industrial supplies or even janitorial services. To help your business Corcentric would holistically analyze all expenditures you’ve made in the past fiscal year. From there we categorize which spend is indirect vs. direct, and then deem which indirect spend categories may be impactable with our help. We look for supplier redundancies, large tail spends, and spend volumes overall. These are all factors that would lead us to look into further details regarding a supplier relationship and discover the room for improvement. 

    One tried and true avenue to create savings is the utilization of Group Purchasing Organizations. GPOs are a quick way to savings because we connect our clients with the suppliers Corcentric has already partnered with and identified as among the best providers in their respective industries. GPOs were a new concept to me upon joining the consulting division here at Corcentric. A GPO is an entity created to combine the purchasing power of a collective of businesses to leverage better pricing and service with desired suppliers. 

    When we think about what that means for our clients, the idea is that we pull together all of customers’ expenditures to qualify for discounts and rebates that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve independently. If we continue to use our example before of being a company that owns a fleet, that fleet will need repairs, fuel and maintenance. If you are a smaller business, you may not have the purchasing power to qualify for rebates from large suppliers. If you were to need new tires, you would be stuck buying them at retail value. However, if you were to join Corcentric’s Michelin GPO, your company’s spend would be combined with all other clients of ours participating in that GPO program and thus would qualify you for better discounts and better service due to that now improved purchasing power. 

    By leveraging pre-negotiated contracts with leading suppliers to source the products your organization uses every day, you benefit from the best possible pricing and service levels. It’s the ideal solution to get everything you need to keep business running smoothly while optimizing control of your indirect spend. We have pre-negotiated GPO deals that you can get immediate access to just by signing up to be a Corcentric customer. Our consulting team knows all the questions to ask and has experience with all the elements of a successful implementation across varying product categories. Corcentric will also act as a managed service for the implementation process, managing the implementation between the customer and supplier. Our goal is to assist with your procurement needs every step of the way.
    See the chart below for more on what your company stands to gain by working with Corcentric GPO programs, either as a buyer or supplier. If you feel like your company could benefit from tidying up indirect spend and leveraging GPOs to reduce costs, or becoming a supplier in our network, feel free to reach out to us today to see how we can help your business grow.

When it comes to purchasing vehicles for your fleet, there are many more considerations than the sticker price of the asset. Asset acquisition, when done wrong, can have a crippling cost on your organization. However, when all factors are taken into consideration, like using Sweet Spot Analysis to find the right vehicles and managing financing and operational costs, it can save your organization millions! Using only manufacturer specifications on gas mileage and recommended maintenance schedules will not provide the best solution as manufacturers do not know the specific needs of your business. They do not know what the function of your fleet is. Your organization may make many local deliveries or strictly deliver large loads across the country. The need of your business will decide what vehicles are best to purchase, as well as HOW they should be purchased. Simply negotiating the cost of the asset upfront will leave potential savings on the table. Deeper analysis on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) must be done to take fuel, maintenance, and the correct specification fit for your fleet into account as these on average are eighty percent of fleet costs.

The cost of your fleet is likely to be one of the largest Capital Equipment expenditures your organization will make. Keep reading to see our recommendations on how to collect data, prioritize and analyze, purchase, and manage the cost of your fleet effectively!

1. Data Collection

 Having the right data is extremely important in making a buying decision. Knowing the ins and outs of what your business requires is important. Look at a full picture of your routes, or your company’s vehicle usage. See where most of your routes or lanes are geographically. If the climates are hot, different vehicles may suite you. If the area is mountainous, other vehicles will most likely suite you best.  Be sure to gather data on fuel use, maintenance costs, odometer readings, and your current vehicle specs to get a full picture of your fleet. This information must be gathered prior to making any decision.

One way to gather this data is to use software systems that aggregate this data with the help of Corcentric team members along the way. Many, including Corcentric’s offering, have a web-based portal that reports can be downloaded from on the fly. This could be vendor spend reporting, out-of-service reporting, and much more. However you get the data, make sure it is accurate and accessible.

2. Prioritize and Analyze

The next step is to perform some analysis on the data to prioritize what is most important to your company. The data you have already gathered can be analyzed to find the best vehicles for your specific fleet. Most importantly, you should attempt to find the vehicles that mitigate high operational costs. Remember that operational costs will be eighty percent of the Total Cost of Ownership.

The simplest way to do this is through Corcentric’s Sweet Spot Analysis. Simply providing Corcentric with the data you already gathered in step one, will allow for extensive analytics on how to best purchase and manage your vehicles. The data is run through a massive database of 800,00 fleet vehicles under management to compare pricing on many fleet related costs. The assessment will also offer you information on life-cycle     management, fuel economy and consumption, maintenance and more. From this, you will be able to find the sweet spot on what type of engines, trailer configurations, re-marketing policies, financing structures, preventative maintenance, fuel programs, and much more, work best for your fleet. The best part is that it is provided for free. It allows Corcentric to show how effective we are at providing savings within your fleet.

No matter how the data is analyzed, or what tool is used, the decision of what vehicles suite your organization the best can now be made.

3. Purchase

The last consideration is whether your organization should purchase or lease the vehicles. Many companies need flexibility where leasing will be more effective. Your company may not be able to spend the hundreds of thousands upfront on fleet vehicles to outright purchase them. Additionally, knowing that the most important aspect to look at is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), the cheapest price is not always the way to go. Paying a higher amount monthly for a lease allows for newer vehicles. This means that your operational costs, the eighty percent of TCO, are lower. Sweet Spot Analysis will provide you with the best vehicles to keep excessive operational costs down. This will save your organization much more in the long run. Luckily, this is another area where Corcentric can greatly help!

Based on affordability and obsolescence, leasing can provide the dexterity that many businesses require. Your working capital will not be tied up in buying enough expensive vehicles to fulfill your fleet. Also, with the speed of technological advances, your fleet will stay up to date with a lease. The time frame to replace an out-of-date asset is much shorter and may have little to no penalty. Corcentric offers very flexible financing for fleet vehicles. There is no initial cash outlay and terms are very flexible. This will keep your finances and attention on growing your business rather than concern over fleet costs.

4. Continue Analysis 

Finally, just because you purchased vehicles does not mean the effort is complete. Creating an optimal acquisition strategy and maintenance policy are the keys to ongoing success. Fleets are expensive and their management is an ongoing effort. As long-time fleet specialists, Corcentric has an offering in Fleet Management, as well. The many years of working with large fleets has provided us a lot of expertise in this area. Whether it is policy development, better pricing on maintenance parts, ongoing negotiations, or risk-free enrollment, our program can benefit any fleet. We truly are a one-stop shop for any Fleet related need. 

If your company is like many, many others in the logistics industry, its supply chain has been disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. While some have been able to navigate these issues and mostly get back to business as usual in recent months, others still find it difficult to rebuild their procurement strategies. With partners shutting down or facing shortages of the materials they need, it's vital that any business in the supply chain be able to pivot under COVID, and find a new strategy that works for their short- and long-term goals.

First things first, as with anything else in business, it's vital to sit down and map out how the pandemic has affected you to date, and what options you may have to overcome that impact, according to 4C Associates, writing for Supply Chain Digital. When everyone in your organization knows what the problem is, and have a menu of potential solutions to choose from, everyone is on the same page and it becomes easier to find a comprehensive strategy that cuts the best possible path forward.

Simply put, the more you can do to codify and outline your procurement strategy — as well as other aspects of how you plan to operate in the supply chain as long as COVID issues persist — the better off you will be when it comes to pivoting to new options, the report said. When you have a predetermined plan for how you will respond to changing conditions, there's no ambiguity to create delays or entanglements.

Effective procurement planning starts at the team level.Effective procurement planning starts at the team level.

Getting every partner involved
Of course, your company may plan and plan to come up with different solutions for every scenario you can think of, but that might not matter much if one of your supply chain partners encounters its own issues and does not respond properly, according to DevEx. Transparency for as many aspects of your supply chain as possible is critical to understanding what issues your procurement department actually faces, and that takes work with potentially dozens of different companies to forge more effective data-sharing partnerships.

Put another way, your partners' problems become your problems downstream, so you need to do everything you can to encourage and empower them to have their own contingency plans, the report said. If you haven't yet laid this groundwork, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to the vagaries of a very tricky situation.

Optimizing the strategy
Finally, you have to recognize that if you do need to pivot to a contingency plan, you are unlikely to find a solution that allows you to keep operating in exactly the same way you did before the complication arose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting the need for these plans as it specifically relates to personal protective equipment, you need to have plans for three levels of operation: conventional, contingency and crisis.

The latter is important because, sometimes, all the planning in the world can't help you avoid procurement issues, but it's vital that you know what your operations look like even in a worst-case scenario, the CDC said.

The more strategizing you do now, to account for every possible outcome, the better off you will be in the long run.

Each week, we will go into details on how to address project and change management now to create a resilient and robust organization for tomorrow.

If you missed last week’s blog on Supply Chain Reconfiguration, you can check it out here.

This week, we will look at the 4th of 6 ways a company can use downtime to impact the greater good of the organization and position themselves to be a better, stronger company when the work picks back up.

Introduce Automation

What are some of the key ways automation can help modernize a company’s way of doing business?

  • Increase productivity and client satisfaction
  • Improve management accuracy and lower turnover times
  • Drastically lower risks
  • Facilitate marketing of high-performing business to larger clients
  • Decrease environmental footprint and eco-compliance
  • Reduce human error and increase efficiencies
  • Gain competitive edge
  • Generate agility to react better and faster to upcoming threats
  • Enhance company culture by bringing people together

Automation within an organization has become the primary strategy to ensure the realization of departmental productivity and financial goals while maximizing customer service levels.

Specific Example: Accounts Payable Automation

Automated AP processes mean you are extracting invoice data, classifying documents, matching invoices with purchase orders and receipts, assigning GL distribution codes, and posting and archiving invoices – all quickly, automatically, and with benefits like great labor cost savings.

When a company is able to convert their process to an automated AP system, they are not only able to save money on labor costs, they are also able to increase productivity, improve cycle times, have fewer payment errors and take advantage of more early pay discounts.

In addition to the benefits listed above, taking the time to commit to a fully automated AP process will also allow a company to keep the AP process in-house. There will be no need to outsource operations, thus supporting job retention. By utilizing AP automation, a company enables employees to be as efficient as possible and to strengthen their impact on the company.

Please check back next week for a look at part 5 of this series where we will discuss ‘Employee Training’.

Navigating the job marketplace is a challenge that continues to evolve. It used to be that you could apply to a job posting in a local listing or simply show up in person for an on-the-spot interview. But now there are so many more options, and in all that possibility - it's not always easy to land on the winning strategy. 

Recently, the Strategic Sourceror covered how executive recruiting experts Naseem Malik and Aaron Cleavinger have partnered to launch Vitalize Talent - more specifically the Procurement Spark and Supply Chain Spark Job Boards.  These two job boards offer job seekers and hiring managers a dedicated career hub for the procurement, purchasing, strategic sourcing, and supply chain management disciplines. 

We asked Aaron and Naseem to make the case for Procurement and Supply Chain job seekers to use their platforms:

Why should job seekers be using your platform, when there are already a lot of recruiting avenues?

Our vision behind Procurement Spark and Supply Chain Spark is to make the hiring process more efficient and improve the outcomes. Having a robust feature set, active users, and a business model that caters to just procurement and supply chain will undoubtedly improve the velocity and quality of our new platform. The most prominent hiring platforms in the market today, like LinkedIn or CareerBuilder, are "horizontal" marketplaces. They cut across industries, job types, disciplines. Our platform, on the other hand, has a very specific functional focus on Procurement and Supply chain "verticals."  This gives a depth and weight that other job boards by their very nature just aren’t capable of having. 

So where does that depth and weight come from?

We (Aaron and Naseem) spent our careers as practitioners, building and leading Procurement and Supply Management capabilities in industry before we each launched executive recruiting firms. We've seen time and again that procurement and supply chain professionals want to connect directly with employers. They want to avoid the typical roadblocks (membership fees, expired postings, duplicate jobs, etc.), and let their expertise speak for itself

What else should Procurement and Supply job seekers know?

As we continue to evolve, we’ll adopt an open-source approach to enhancing our offerings and improving our services to both companies and professionals. We have no qualms about being in a constant state of work-in-progress because we’re all about continuous improvement. Our goal is to make our job boards the ultimate conduit for companies and their next great hire.

Visit the Procurement Spark or Supply Chain Spark boards to get started!

When you're in the logistics industry, you likely handle a large amount of data — both internally and from dealing with your supply chain partners — on a daily basis. You can't afford to let that information be compromised, and you likewise cannot lose access to it. The latter issue, in particular, is why ransomware is such a big problem in the supply chain; if hackers can lock you out of your own systems, it's a problem not just for you, but also your partners and your customers or clients.

What can you do to prevent such an attack? The following tips should help:

1) Back up everything regularly

Ransomware works by denying you access to information on your systems, so the best way to avoid that risk is by backing up all vital data consistently, according to Tripwire. That doesn't have to happen every day, but at least one backup per week is critical to ensuring you don't miss a step — or at least can quickly pivot — if ransomware infects your networks.

2) Look at the file extensions for everything you download

Often, ransomware and other malicious programs will come to your network in the form of a file attached to an email or as something automatically downloaded from a bogus website, Tripwire said. Before opening literally any file, a quick check of its extension (such as .exe or .dmg) could help you determine whether it's what it claims to be. Often, such software is designed to look like an image or audio file, but is actually an executable program.

Ransomware is a real threat to any business or organization.Ransomware is a real threat to any business or organization.

3) Train your staff on how to handle potential phishing scams

Much like you as a manager need to be more aware of these risks, so do your employees (and partners, though you obviously have less control over what they do), according to Norton. Training your workers to spot these risks, report them and adequately respond to them in real time is vital to preventing infection.

4) Invest in the best antivirus and firewall software

Despite the fact that you may take plenty of reasonable precautions with your workforce, even the best-trained employees in the world may occasionally miss a potential infection threat, Norton advised. Having proper antivirus and firewall software in place provides a solid safety net, because it can easily catch the possible risk and handle it as necessary.

5) Don't plug in USBs you receive

In the world of business, you may often receive USB drives or small gadgets powered by USB that you could, theoretically, plug into your devices, according to Kaspersky. You shouldn't actually do it, though. Simply put, you never know what's on a USB device, and plugging one into your computer may put your network at considerable risk.

6) Keep all software updated

Finally, because so many programs connect to the web these days, they may have security flaws that hackers can exploit in a ransomware attack, Kaspersky noted. Developers routinely patch these vulnerabilities, but you don't get the benefit of the improvements if you're not diligent about downloading the latest updates as soon as they're released.

Hiring Managers – where do you currently look for Procurement and Supply Chain talent? 

That's the question being asked by recruiting gurus Naseem Malik and Aaron Cleavinger, who recently partnered to launch Vitalize Talent - more specifically the Procurement Spark and Supply Chain Spark Job Boards.  These two job boards offer job seekers and hiring managers a dedicated career hub for the procurement, purchasing, strategic sourcing, and supply chain management disciplines. 

Back to the question - where do you find talent to fill your open Procurement and Supply Chain positions?  If your answer is, "We outsource talent search to HR and don’t get too involved," - then you may not be interested to read on.  

But for those that take an active role in their recruiting, there’s now a new service to help streamline this process. We talked to Aaron and Naseem about the Procurement Spark and Supply Chain Spark job boards. Here's what they had to say:

There are plenty of job boards out there. Why launch one for Procurement and Supply Chain?

We both share in the quest to enhance value across the talent chain.  In thinking about the things that challenge both companies and job seekers alike, we asked ourselves a series of questions:

  • Why is it, that with the growing significance of these critical functions, we don’t have trusted, niche procurement/supply chain job boards and career portals? 
  • What if you no longer had to post a job on multiple job boards or sites, and wait passively with the "post and pray" strategy?  
  • What if you no longer do you had to merely rely on the traditional, "horizontal marketplaces" that are out there serving every kind of company and job?
To put it simply, what if there was a better way to hire?

What do hiring managers need to know about the Procurement Spark and Supply Chain Spark Boards?

It's a better way to hire! These boards are places where procurement and supply management professionals can facilitate and engage on all things related to jobs, career advice, and communicating with fellow like-minded practitioners. We are convinced that our specialization is one of most important value-add and differentiators with other methods out there. As evangelists of both procurement and executive recruiting, we are creating an online and exclusive talent support community: We know procurement practitioners are zealots when it comes to networking and collaborating. And Procurement & Supply Chain Spark is the place for them.

How can Hiring Managers become part of this Community?

Head on over to the Procurement Spark or Supply Chain Spark boards to learn more!

Let's face it, the job market today isn't exactly booming, and it's unclear when conditions are going to change for the better once again. For that reason, many with experience in the procurement side of the supply chain may be on the lookout for new employment opportunities, but may not be sure of how to maximize their chances for success.

No matter if you're just getting into the business or you've been working in procurement for years, it's critical to know what companies that may be hiring today are looking for, and how you can position yourself as the best possible candidate for any open purchasing role, according to Whether you are interested in public- or private-sector jobs, the ask from a would-be employer in terms of your skills and qualifications probably won't change much, unless when looking at various levels of the corporate ladder.

How can you stand out in a crowded job market?How can procurement pros stand out in a crowded job market?

You will likely need skills including familiarity with database management, enterprise resource planning (and accompanying software), inventory management, negotiation expertise and more, the report said. Simply put, you are being asked to strike that just-right balance between price and quality on an ongoing basis, and you need the experience and talent to deliver results. More importantly, you need to demonstrate that experience and talent on a resume or cover letter and in an interview.

Know what you're looking for
As with many other things in the professional world, there's a lot more to finding a good job than just landing any available position, according to Bramwith Consulting. Ideally, your position will align with both your short- and long-term career goals, the skills you bring to the table and be in a corner of the industry you're passionate about. Of course, ideal circumstances may be fewer and farther between in today's job market, but it's still important to find as much symmetry between what a company can do for you, and what you can do for a company.

However, you can also do more to make it clear to would-be employers what you're looking for so it's easier to nail down a role that will be a good match, the report said. Ensuring your resume or cover letter (or even LinkedIn profile) make your career goals evident to a hiring manager will help make sure everything is as lined-up as possible.

Understanding the game
Of course, you need to be in a position to put your best foot forward in interview settings, and the best way to do that is by anticipating the kinds of questions you will be asked, according to Supply Chain Game Changer. A little research will help you determine more about what a specific company is looking for in a procurement professional, and you can really think about how to provide a perfect answer, drawing on your experience and knowledge of the field.

While no two jobs or professionals are alike, making sure you put in the work to present yourself in the best possible light when you find the right role is really all you can do to ensure you find a position that fits your wants and needs.

Each week, we will go into details on how to address project and change management now to create a resilient and robust organization for tomorrow.

If you missed last week’s blog on Accessing Inventory Management, you can check it out here.

This week, we will look at the 3rd of 6 ways a company can use downtime to impact the greater good of the organization and position themselves to be a better, stronger company when the work picks back up.

Supply Chain Reconfiguration

The supply chain consists of many elements and it is critical that they are working in concert with each other. Strong communication between departments becomes essential to the success of supply chain operation. For example, the procurement and logistics teams must work together to achieve their goals. Typically, procurement’s mandate compels it to pursue the lowest possible price. The logistics function, concerned with the entire supply chain, is evaluating the best possible price, which includes factors beyond the actual price tag, such as end of day pick up time cut-offs, delivery times to top-tier customers, and damage rate. Departmental synergy between procurement and logistics is a must when a company seeks to evaluate their supply chain and reconfigure for optimal operation.

Specific Example: Centralized Versus Decentralized Warehousing Analysis

In the centralized distribution model, operations are typically limited to a “central” location. If there is more than one hub, the locations may be geographically spaced to handle East Coast and West Coast time zones or area-specific product lines.

When a business moves into a decentralized distribution model, the product moves further away from the key stakeholders at the “central” corporate office and closer to the end customer. While this can be accomplished through self-owned warehouse and logistics, a managed decentralized logistics network is far more agile than the alternative. Industries more primed to take advantage of decentralized supply chains are e-commerce, service and repair, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and just-in-time inventory.

By applying a hybrid model that blends centralized and decentralized supply chain methodologies, a business can enjoy some of the advantages of each while mitigating the negatives. The idea of a hybrid supply chain, although may be an easier sell to a leadership team that favors a centralized or a decentralized logistics solution.

Centralization Positives

  • Fewer locations make the standardization of systems and processes through the business easier. Company culture is easier to foster and maintain in a single location.
  • Management has faster visibility to a product when there is a concern since everything is often located in the same building.

Decentralized Positives

  • Each node of the supply chain can be tuned to that specific area's demand to best serve the customer base. Product levels can be distributed to locations across the country based on the volume of orders in that area.
  • Customers with critical need may have the option of will call or same-day delivery with moderate cost. For example, a customer may be able to order an item and pick it up in the same day.
  • The ability to test systems, products, markets, and suppliers on a small scale before rolling out to the entire organization can lead to better data-driven decisions.

Hybrid Positives

  • Standardization of systems and processes is easier. Company culture can be fostered and maintained in a single location.
  • Leadership has the ability to locate products quickly if there are concerns about inventory status or reliability.
  • The additional locations can be stocked to that specific area's demand in order to better serve customers. Products can be distributed to locations across the US based on the volume of orders.
  • Customers with critical needs may have the option of will call or same-day delivery with moderate cost.
  • The decentralized locations will grant the ability to test systems, products, markets, and suppliers on a small scale before rolling out to the entire organization.
  • Bargaining power with suppliers can be maintained by shipping in bulk to a single location.

Procurement Sidebar

Organizational Recommendations for Procurement

At Corcentric, we strongly recommend that Procurement departments do the following:

1) Align with the strategic goals of the organization

2) Consider the sourcing profiles and nuances for all categories

3) Understand each business unit and stakeholder requirements

4) Provide visibility to the entire organization and share best practices across categories and business units

5) Leverage data analytics and tools to identify, road-map, and execute on actionable sourcing strategies that would maximize value with minimum stress while adequately generating reports

6) Enable organizational culture, in which all sourcing activities are centrally led and reported into but execution and tactical deployments are category driven and left to the sites and business units.

Such steps enable volume consolidation with a healthy supply base balance that supports local or regional concerns. Corcentric defines this approach as center-led procurement. The objective should be to build a center of excellence that entails a much more comprehensive structure, one that leverages the blessings of data management, as much as it does cultural alignment or category management modeling. Center-led procurement maximizes savings without causing disruption. It enables superior supplier relationship management, aligns the businesses to the strategic goals of the organization, and provides key insights and visibility into the organization’s purchasing behavior.

If a company is under the assumption that the only options for warehousing are either centralized or decentralized, they should look deeper into the center-led (see sidebar) or hybrid models. The best center-led procurement organizations concentrate on defining strategy and policy, as well as applying best practices to both direct and indirect procurement. They mostly employ a category management structure that supports the roll-out of their directives to business unit and regional levels. Hybrid models adopt a pick-and-choose approach to procurement, with a central leadership structure supported by local managers with some degree of autonomy. The most effective center-led systems maximize communication along the organizational chart to ensure core standards are maintained and aggressively take advantage of technology to facilitate those goals. An organization must be prepared to take action if change is the best option. If it is determined the center-led model works best, it is incumbent on Procurement to gain the necessary buy-in and resources to make the change.

Please check back next week for a look at part 4 of this series where we will discuss ‘Introducing Automation’.

Supply chain employees are happy at work - can you keep capitalizing?

While there have been plenty of headlines in the last few years about the sometimes difficult conditions of warehousing businesses in crunch time, the fact is that the sector is widely viewed by the people within it as being strong and positive. That's reflected in a host of industry data, all of which tend to reflect that workers are largely happy in their roles within warehouses, and that's unlikely to change in the near future.

Perhaps the biggest reason why? A new survey from the Association for Supply Chain Management found that the median salary for workers in the supply chain is nearly $79,000 per year, roughly 24% higher than the national level, and up close to 5% from the same poll in 2019. Furthermore, 91% of those surveyed said they also receive some sort of financial incentives above and beyond their salary structures, such as bonuses or profit-sharing plans from their employers.

There's a lot to be happy about in the supply chain industry.There's a lot to be happy about in the supply chain industry.

At the same time, close to 3 in 4 workers in the industry said their benefits include family or medical leave, and more than 4 in 5 have at least three weeks of paid vacation each year. About as many say they are satisfied with those benefits, the survey found. As such, it should come as little surprise that 88% of respondents say they view their careers positively, and almost as many would recommend it to others.

A changing field
At the same time, it's worth noting that, more frequently, the supply chain industry is hiring "outside the box" from what has been common for years — the sector is increasingly made up of younger and more diverse workforces, according to a survey from Peerless Research Group, Supply Chain Management Review, APICS and APQC. For instance, 75% of millennials in the industry right now specifically chose the supply chain as a field where they could have long careers, and they have diverse interests under that umbrella: some are interested in supply chain planning (22%), procurement (21%) or logistics (15%), among others.

Moreover, nearly 2 in 3 respondents said they are planning to seek further education to bolster their qualifications in the field at some point in the next year, the survey showed. Roughly the same amount already have either undergraduate or graduate degrees focused on the field.

Growing opportunities
Meanwhile, thanks in large part to the proliferation of tech used within the industry, with a wide range of applications, there are more avenues than ever for workers to pursue their passions under the guise of supply chain work. Zippia recently examined large numbers of job listings for professionals with a degree in supply chain management, and the top-ranked availability was for supply chain analysts, followed by business analysts, data analysts, and logistics coordinators.

These kinds of professionals are also needed in a host of cities large and small across the country, from the San Francisco suburb of Richmond, California, to Seattle to Baltimore, and even Portland, Maine — all of which ranked in the top 10 for average salaries in the sector.

In the logistics business, you need to make sure your efforts to connect with supply chain partners go off without a hitch as frequently as possible — but that's not always easy.

However, when it comes to procurement in particular, there may be some changes you can make to insulate yourself from supply chain risk and keep things flowing smoothly:

1) Don't believe hype

Often, supply chain partners — and especially those dealing with their own problems — may try to assure you that everything is copacetic and going according to plan, according to However, that may not always be the case, and you shouldn't just take their word for it. Doing more to verify that things are progressing as well as your partners claim on an ongoing basis (such as data-sharing) will help you avoid hiccups.

2) Incentivize great work from your partners

To help promote a healthier supply chain and get more buy-in, it's important to make sure all involved have the incentive to follow through on promises as best they can, added. Financial bonuses and other rewards for a job well done can be built into your agreements to ensure a stronger relationship.

Strategizing for procurement success goes a long way.Strategizing for procurement success goes a long way.

3) Find data everywhere you can

The more you can do to digitize your operations — and ensure your partners do the same — the better off you will all be to identify issues in the supply chain before they arise, according to Material Handling & Logistics. With more data tracking at every step of the chain, you'll be in a better position to effectively strategize for any eventuality.

4) Don't get stuck in your old ways

In the supply chain, as in life, you can never simply "set it and forget it" with your day-to-day operations, Material Handling & Logistics said. The things that worked last year, last month or even last week might not be appropriate for today's conditions, and being willing to shift your efforts or focus as needed is critical to successful procurement.

5) Empower your employees

As a manager, you may not have a full grasp of the ups and downs of daily business, and your employees on the warehouse floor are more likely to be intimately familiar with these comings and goings, Material Handling & Logistics further advised. As such, you should empower them to make their own decisions about what's best for procurement, and certainly seek their counsel.

6) Plan for problems

Another aspect of real life that applies to the supply chain business is your best-laid plans don't always work out, according to Mercuri International. Having a Plan B, or even Plans C and D, will help you stay agile no matter what curve balls get thrown your way.

7) Review your processes regularly

There's no way you can know what may need to be improved, or which part of your operations need to be emphasized, without a frequent review, Mercuri International. Looking at every level of your procurement operations can uncover areas of need, and give you the chance to truly succeed in your efforts.

Even in the best of times, there always seems to be one or two hang-ups in the supply chain that need a manager's attention - and the past several months have hardly been the best of times. Increasingly, companies are realizing their supply chain vulnerabilities and moving to address them as best they can amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

If you haven't taken similar steps for your organization, you may be leaving some efficiency and flexibility on the table. The following changes should help you stay the course no matter what issues arise:

1) Cut your reliance on manual data

The more your internal systems rely on your workers to input data manually, the more difficult it is to see where you really stand or what might be going wrong, according to DemandCaster. For that reason, you need to automate data tracking and interpretation as much as you possibly can, and as soon as possible. While that takes some significant financial investment and a lot of time to get your operations up to speed, the efficiency you gain means the efforts more than pay for themselves over time.

2) See if you can mix up your ordering style

If you increasingly find yourself running into shipping delays these days, one of the simplest ways to fix that is to examine how you've ordered the shipments that got held up, DemandCaster added. For instance, if you're relying on one big order every once in a while, it may be wise to switch to a greater volume of smaller shipments. A change that simple can go a long way.

It's critical to always have a supply chain plan.It's critical to always have a supply chain plan.

3) Increase your relationships

Along similar lines to changing order types as needed, you might also want to think about the benefits of diversifying or shortening your supply chains for those orders, according to MCL. That way, even if one supplier can't necessarily get you what you need in the timeframe you're looking for, there is probably someone else (perhaps more locally based) who can.

4) Work more closely with your suppliers on reducing lead times

If your most persistent problem in the supply chain is that it takes your orders too long to arrive, you might be wise to start incentivizing suppliers, MCL said. If they can routinely hit their deadlines, providing them with a bonus could make them work that much harder to prioritize your organization's needs ahead of other partners.

5) Create backup and emergency plans

The fact of the matter is that even when things are going smoothly in the industry as a whole, you might still run into delays and hiccups that require you to pivot to a Plan B, according to Big Commerce. The question, then, is whether you have a Plan B - or, for that matter, Plans C, D, E, F and G - so that when things inevitably go sideways, you can rely on a great fallback.

6) Look at your vulnerabilities and try to reduce them

Finally, if you find that you keep running into similar problems - or even the same ones - over and over, that might actually be a "you" problem, Big Commerce said. You should therefore review your internal plans and potential vulnerabilities so you can smooth over persistent issues.

Each week, we will go into details on how to address project and change management now to create a resilient and robust organization for tomorrow.

If you missed last week’s blog on Cultivating Supplier Relationships, you can check it out here.

This week, we will look at the 2nd of 6 ways a company can use downtime to impact the greater good of the organization and position themselves to be a better, stronger company when the work picks back up.

Assess Inventory Management

Manufacturing companies often look for the best time of year to perform in-depth inventory counting and reconciliation. For most, the holidays are the best time to do so. For others, whatever slow season makes the most sense will often get utilized. Performing a full inventory check is time-consuming, but necessary. Ensuring the accuracy of the inventory management system is critical when planning production for the future. When a count is off, the risk of not meeting a customer’s needs increases. It’s critical to identify the best time to review minimum stock levels, simplify the reordering process, and look at ways to automate processes. In the future, this downtime filler could be a thing of the past. Businesses utilizing automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) asset tracking processes are able to reduce the frequency of manual inventory counts and save substantial labor hours. That will help free up time to tackle some of the other projects suggested here. Essentially, the next time inventory is conducted, use it as a benchmark and then utilize process improvements in order to track enhanced efficiencies.

Specific Example: ABC Analysis or the “The Pareto Principle” (The 80/20 Rule)

When it comes to stock or inventory management, ABC analysis typically segregates inventory into three categories, based on its revenue and control measures required:

·       A is 20% of items with 80% of total revenue and requires tight control

·       B is 30% items with 15% revenue

·       C is 50% of the things with least 5% revenue and indicates more most liberal treatment

The numbers of any particular company may be different but have a similar distinguishable pattern. An ABC analysis aims to draw managers’ attention to the critical few (A-items) and not on the trivial many (C-items) and focus inventory control efforts on those particular items where management will have the most significant effect.

Once an ABC Analysis is complete, companies can use this data in supplier negotiations. When it’s all about getting the category A products sourced, it is understood that 70 percent to 80 percent of the money is about to be invested in those suppliers. Negotiation is a must. There are chances when a supplier might make a nod to your offer, but do not back off. You can still make offers like reducing the down payment, providing free shipping, etc. Your goal should be a win-win for both yourself and the supplier.

Please check back next week for a look at part 3 of this series where we will discuss ‘Supply Chain Reconfiguration’.

Corona virus showed us how important our supply chains are. The uptick in online shopping during the pandemic provided many companies continued revenue and the need to move product throughout the entire country. PPE had to make it to hospitals and essential businesses on time. Tractors delivered items across the United States putting many miles on the vehicles. Fleet management became an extremely important topic as financial efficiency  was made a top priority for organizations around the world.

Fleet Management is the management of expenditures related to fleet assets (trucks, trailers, sedans, other company vehicles, etc.). This can be from purchasing, to the disposal or resale of the vehicles, to preventative maintenance or driver training. Many fleet managers focus on purchasing vehicles at a low price, with the thought that this constitutes “good” fleet management. However, would you be surprised to learn that on average, eighty percent of the vehicle’s total cost of ownership is not related to its price tag? Most of the costs associated with your fleet is for maintenance, fuel, running costs, and parts.

Many fleet managers will spend a large amount of their time and energy negotiating the unit cost of the vehicles down. This is beneficial and should not be overlooked. However, once purchased the analysis should be increased rather than forgot. The ability to keep costs down is even greater now that the asset is yours. How and where will you buy parts? What are the maintenance management programs you will create policies for? Are you buying fuel at an effective price with rebates baked in? These are the questions I want to address so you can manage that other eighty percent of addressable spend.

Preventative Maintenance Considerations and Policies

Anyone who owns a vehicle understands the benefits of preventative maintenance. We grow up being told to get the oil changed at a specific interval, or that if we take care of our car it will take care of us in return. When you expand that to tens, hundreds, or thousands of vehicles the costs become drastic. But when we remember the costs of repairs when we neglected preventative maintenance the benefits are clear. Spend a little per vehicle now rather than a lot down the line.

This opens many other considerations for fleet managers to address. Who will complete the repairs? What mileage should services be completed at? Will the maintenance be completed in house or outsourced? These all are additional opportunities for smarter purchasing. If your organization does not want to spend a lot of money for maintenance, remember again that eighty percent of the costs were not in purchasing the asset. Remind them they cannot afford to NOT spend the money. Avoiding maintenance can cause breakdowns, legal issues, the need to buy replacement vehicles and can harm the resell value at the end of the asset’s life.

Define exactly what maintenance needs to take place in an official company policy. This will keep organization and compliance throughout the company. Fleet managers will know exactly what to repair, when, and where to get it completed. Define the need for drivers to continually visually assess the vehicle to shine light on issues that may not be covered in the policy. The main key is to catch things early so they do not turn into huge expenditures down the road.

Managing Fuel Costs     

The cost of fuel is always fluctuating and is one of the biggest considerations when managing a fleet. This fluctuation means that assessing exactly what you will pay per vehicle is difficult. However, one thing that we can usually rely on is that it will increase over time. So how do we manage it and keep costs as low as possible?

One way to lower fuel costs is focusing on the driver’s habits. Poor habits can cause excessive costs that do not need to be present. If a driver is idling too often or driving too aggressively, removing these habits can provide savings. GPS systems and ELD (electronic logging device) usage can provide some information on driver’s habits as they track the fleet vehicle in real time. Improving driver habits also provides the benefit of less tickets and traffic violations.

Most likely the best way to mitigate excessive fuel costs is to utilize a fuel management card with rebates. With many of the top cards, the larger your fleet the more you will save. Even for small and medium size fleets, savings can be found. It is important to confirm solid coverage when selecting the card. If you do not have routes near the stations accepting the card, you will not take advantage of the maximum benefit. Some fuel cards offer a rebate of up to six cents per gallon! That amount can really add up to impressive, easy savings.

Effectively Purchasing Parts for Repair and Maintenance

Another great way to lower your fleet cost is to be wise about how and where you purchase your vehicle parts. The goal is to purchase the cheapest parts that maintain the quality you require. Every single discount adds up when extended across the hundreds, or even thousands, of vehicles in your fleet. Signing contracts with individual suppliers can be very effective, but there is an even better way.

Fleet GPO’s (group purchasing organizations) are a great way to get the parts you need at a great price. This will not only leverage the size of your fleet, but it also leverages the fleet size of every member in the GPO. Corcentric offers GPO programs for tires, repair parts, lift gates, drive train parts, windshields, route planners, and many other categories fleet and not fleet related. For each category, we also offer multiple choices of suppliers. If you prefer Goodyear tires, we can lock in a better discount. If Yokohama is your preferred tire supplier, we can aid you in receiving a better rate than you are currently paying. This applies to batteries, heavy duty and light duty parts, and so much more.

A GPO also allows a smaller fleet to take advantage of better pricing. All the members of the group purchasing organization will pool their spend figures. The agreement with the supplier considers a larger amount of spend because the GPO contains multiple members. The supplier receives drastically more business via Corcentric’s pooling of demand, so they are willing to offer a better per unit price for each part and better back end incentives. It is possibly the simplest way to gain immediate and vast savings for your fleet.

Always remember to think of the other eighty percent of fleet spend. The price tag of each vehicle is absolutely an important consideration. However, it is not the only consideration. It may not even be the most important area to focus on when attempting to control fleet management costs. Understand your spend, be wise about purchasing parts, and never wait until minor maintenance issues turn into huge expenditures. This will take your fleet management to the next level.

Just about every headline about supply chains in recent months has related how hard the industry has been hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic. From just about any perspective, life in the supply chain is now a lot more difficult than it was several months ago, and it's likely to be a long road back to the way things used to be, if getting there is possible at all.

In some ways, though, that could actually be seen as a positive, with short-term pain - especially when it comes to procurement - prompting more companies to seek better long-term solutions, according to Supply Chain Dive. For instance, even as many companies were already investing in warehouse management and procurement software before the pandemic rocked operations, they've been forced to come up with more creative solutions amid social distancing and remote work.

After all, these companies didn't stop operations, but they did have to dramatically rethink how they worked and pivot to a solution that accommodated the "new normal," the report said. That, in turn, might encourage them to continue investigating their options for further investment that allow them to remain nimble even as conditions in the industry continue to evolve.

More companies are seeing the value in procurement software's insights.More companies are seeing the value in procurement software's insights.

A great example
One industry titan in developing procurement and inventory management software - SAP - recently announced that its business has boomed in recent months specifically because companies are taking the opportunity to modernize operations. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, the company saw 70 new major customers, as well as 245 renewals of existing contracts, and 290 customers pushing their new platforms live.

SAP Procurement Solutions President Chris Haydon noted that the current situation in the industry seems to have been the big driver in interest, because companies need more flexibility when examining both internal and external processes, and thus more insight into how effectively what they do today is working, the company said.

"As a result, we are seeing many companies accelerate digitalization projects to balance getting the supplies, materials and external talent resources needed to adapt quickly and meet customer demand no matter what comes next," Haydon added.

Getting it right
Of course, the entire supply chain also needs to have reasonable assurances their procurement efforts will be effective when it comes to guaranteeing the items they obtain are of the highest quality, according to Pro Bono. For that reason, especially amid the pandemic, more government entities are crafting plans to identify and certify suppliers that provide a good blend of quality, environmental impact, transparency and accountability, so the governments themselves and businesses within their borders can have more certainty about the quality and veracity of any items they need.

When companies are able to implement all the right technological solutions to ensure their efforts aren't in vain, and that they can move purchases through the supply chain as quickly as possible, they and their partners will be in a better position to continue evolving - even long after the pandemic recedes.

Supply chains still struggle to reduce fraud

Fraudulent products have long infiltrated supply chains, especially larger ones that involve more partners and suppliers, and that's a problem for all involved. This kind of crime can undermine the reputation of manufacturers, cause issues for freight companies and even harm customers - and all of those issues only seem to be increasing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The increase in phony products in recent months has certainly been noted among supply chain professionals, and unfortunately, it does not appear to be something that can be addressed comprehensively when there are so many other concerns in the sector, according to Medpage Today. This issue was recently addressed in a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, as demand for personal protective equipment in particular has led to a surge in delays, hangups and even fraud.

Phony products are still a growing problem in the supply chain.Phony products are still a growing problem in the supply chain.

"Before the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals and healthcare workers could avoid purchasing counterfeits by tapping into tried-and-true supply chains," Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said at the hearing. "However, as the demand for PPE skyrocketed, some of these providers have had to go outside their normal supply chains to source supplies, and in some cases have inadvertently purchased fake, faulty, and even illicit medical supplies."

Another major problem
Meanwhile, supply chain experts have also grown increasingly concerned with the prevalence of so-called food fraud - including substituting, omitting or diluting ingredients that can put consumers at risk, according to Food Engineering. Alma Delia Hernández, a food safety professional at a supply chain consulting company, noted that companies are increasingly successful at identifying these issues through emerging technology, but it's still a major problem for the industry.

Altogether, it's estimated that this kind of fraud costs the food supply chain some $50 billion per year, especially around certain products like seafood, spices, meat, coffee and more, the report said. A recent industry survey found that consumers are not especially confident in the safety of their food, and that may be particularly true when it comes to food products that are traditionally more expensive and, therefore, more likely to be counterfeited or otherwise tampered with.

A look at the tech
One of the easiest ways producers have found to combat supply chain fraud is to rely on the block chain, encryption and other digital technologies so that items can be tracked easily from the factory or farm to shippers to stores to consumers, according to the Enterprise Times. Properly traced shipments can tell partners or recipients everything that is supposed to be in a given shipment, serial numbers for every item within it and so on, all with a single scan. That, in turn, provides far more confidence about a given item's provenance for all involved.

Of course, this is not an issue that's going to go away any time soon, and companies need to continually plan for and evaluate how they combat fraud of this type on an ongoing basis. Just as manufacturers and freight firms innovate new ways to avoid fraud, those who commit it in the first place are likewise scheming for keeping up with that next wave of protection.

In recent months, there has been some fairly broad conjecture about the readiness of a vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. Regardless of how close pharmaceutical companies are to actually having a working vaccine, one thing that is generally agreed upon is the world's supply chains are just not equipped to produce and distribute that potential solution right now.

A big part of the problem is the vaccine is being developed - and eventually pushed to production - amidst an economic downturn that means many businesses are actually shrinking their supply chains, according to Bloomberg News. Moreover, supply chains for vaccines and other medical products require specialized services and even with thousands of specially equipped cargo planes - it's likely only about half the global population could get a vaccine in a timely fashion. Simply put, that kind of transport infrastructure isn't exactly readily available these days.

"We're not prepared," Neel Jones Shah, global head of air carrier relationships at the freight company Flexport, said during a recent webinar, according to Bloomberg. "Let's all be honest here, vaccine supply chains are exponentially more complex than PPE supply chain. You can't ruin PPE by leaving it on the tarmac for a couple of days. You will destroy vaccines."

Supply chains for a coronavirus vaccine will be critical.Strong supply chains for a coronavirus vaccine will be critical.

Getting a head start
For these reasons and more, the understanding in the supply chain sector is that they need to start ramping up capacity to handle shipping of a potential vaccine in relatively short order, according to Medical Xpress. With well over 100 vaccines being tested worldwide, including a few dozen that are already in human trials, it's possible that a workable cure is just months away from being ready for mass production. On the other hand, some experts believe a vaccine that can be made in large quantities may be more than a year from being ready.

Effectively, that means freight companies may just need to have shipping processes on standby, just waiting to be activated, the report said. As such, shippers would be wise to start crafting their response plans now, so they can be "switched on" and ready to go with relatively short notice, even if the likelihood of having hundreds of millions of doses produced in short order is somewhat remote.

A bit of runway
Currently, even if a vaccine is proven effective and approved by regulators around the world tomorrow (which is certainly unlikely), it would still take months to ramp up production, let alone actually start distribution, according to European Pharmaceutical Manufacturer magazine. With that understanding, many of the world's biggest drug companies say they are simultaneously massing power for their supply chains so that the roll-out of a potential cure - no matter who develops it - is as smooth as possible. That includes the production of single-use vaccine equipment that helps ensure the fastest treatments.

Certainly, those companies in the medical supply chain would be wise to start crafting strategies and partnerships to ensure they can play a critical role in reading and reacting to whatever situations develop in the months ahead, and keep a close eye on what may be asked of them.

The latest topic of controversy is long-term effects of working from home. Is it sustainable, reasonable, and effective? Would this set-up our company for long-term financial success and improve communication skills? How will our employees react if all training exercises and miscellaneous activities takes place directly within the comfort of their home?

Companies large and small have been exploring this topic for decades, such as Bank of America, AT&T, Aetna, Yahoo, Reddit, and Best Buy.  Amid the COVID-19 shutdown, 95% of Best Buy’s corporate campus is working remote. “We expect to continue on a permanent basis with some form of flexible work options” a spokeswoman said.

On the flip side, Marissa Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, says “Some of the best decisions and insights come from the hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings.”

While these are all very important considerations and key ideas to discuss, we need to stay afloat with the current pandemic and ways to actively improve communication styles. The key strategy is to consistently be in-touch with your employees, supervisor, and fellow co-workers.

Due to the current pandemic, most Corcentric employees began working from home mid-March and will continue to do so unless notably safe to our co-workers and the community. Ultimately, the option to work remotely or in-office is no longer a preference, therefore we are working together to enhance the system(s) in place to effectively communicate virtually.  

I wanted to highlight the strategies Corcentric is applying to stay ahead, promote conversation, and answer any out-standing questions or concerns related to the current pandemic and long-term commitments to working remote.

Ways to Stay Ahead:

  • Surveys
    • Corcentric releases a survey to all employees to better understand how they are feeling about returning to the office, the pandemic, roadblocks experienced through working remotely, and ways to improve. The survey requires the employee to reveal the location by which they are headquartered to better understand comfort by location and responsiveness by employees located within that area.
    • Survey results are shared, addressed, and further discussed during Town Hall meetings
  • Town Hall Meetings
    • Company-wide meetings held quarterly to discuss the financial health of the company and address pandemic concerns by employees. The meeting includes open conversation and a dedicated period for “Q&A” to ensure all employee are heard.
  • Weekly / Monthly Touchpoints
    • Weekly and monthly meetings are held with immediate supervisors and directors to discuss important updates, address questions, and discuss long-term strategies to meet goals during this unprecedented period.
Additional Incentives:
  • Corcentric recently launched a program allowing employees to take extra PTO to volunteer and offer community service to our local communities. By doing so, we are actively promoting time-off to decompress, provide a sense of purpose, reduce stress, and protect our mental health.
  • Remote happy hour and game nights with co-workers to encourage employee engagement and to in-turn improve collaboration and teamwork. This gives a chance for employees to interact with one another, celebrate accomplishments, enhance company culture.
  • Actively promoting mental health days, vacations, and taking time-off to reduce burn out and address work/life balance.

While there are many questions, ideas, and discussions about the pros and cons to working remotely long-term, I would like to point out the importance of actively staying present and considering the employee(s) experiences given the recent pandemic. After all, the employees are the meat of the company and their value is key to reaching current and future success.