September 2020

Let’s face it – everyone looks forward to payday. For most it comes every other Friday but the schedules vary across the board. Some get paid weekly, bi-weekly or twice a month, it all depends. Even the day of the week can be up for grabs with Friday being a favored pick for many companies but some paying on Wednesday’s or certain numbered days in a month. Many people are familiar with their payroll company as it normally shows up on the corner of their paystub. ADP, Paylocity and Fidelity are a few big names that readily come to mind. What many don’t realize is there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure you actually get paid at the end of the day. Depending on the service provider it involves some manual or automated steps and a seamless integration with your companies HR, Finance and Accounting departments. Payroll providers also do more than just paying employees. They help manage any unemployment claims, wage garnishments and even things like performance review portals. This leads us to a very important question, is your company getting the most value from your payroll provider? 

Value in the payroll space can be determined in many different ways. To name a few:

1. How seamlessly do they integrate with your companies systems?
2. Do they provide a suite of offerings or only core/basic services?
3. Do they offer competitive pricing in the marketplace?

Payroll companies at their base all offer a basic utility or service – the administration and transfer of funds from one party to another. However as described above many have competitively differentiated themselves in the marketplace to offer a full array of services catering specifically to the HR suite. Many HR leaders are overwhelmed with many different offerings, it is important to cut out the noise and really evaluate what is important to your organization. Cost may not always be the driving decision factor, rather capability and features may outweigh everything else. There is no one size fits all approach but it is important to ensure that you are not significantly overpaying for the basic utility or service and that is the actual fulfillment of payroll. Many important factors go into cost structure such as the frequency of payroll, number of employees and complexity of integration. This being said it is important to note that a “good deal” may be very different between a large and small organization.

Many times either a CHRO, other HR leader or Finance leader makes a final decision on a payroll provider. It is important to take a step back and truly understand if your organization is driving the right value for this service offering. Additionally, it is very easy to get engrained and comfortable with a payroll provider and see prices that continue to skyrocket year over year. Taking your offering to market can help ensure that you are getting the ultimate value for you, your company and your employees. If nothing else it will help reset your relationship with your current vendor. Realize that optimizing these services is ever more important in today’s environment where every dollar counts.

In today’s bleak economic environment many businesses are looking for financial resources to weather the storm. To name a few these could be anything from a business loan/line of credit, better payment terms on credit instruments, additional incentives for treasury services and much more. While demand is heightening, supply is shrinking. Banks are tightening up the purse strings and increasing requirements for lending. If a business did not already have a stellar credit rating chances are finding credit opportunities on the marketplace are going to be slim to none. This is where relationships come in. In finance especially coming off cold from the street does not help the case to have a bank loan you large sums of money. Long term relationships groom trust and understanding. These relationship should be leveraged strategically even if there is nothing currently on the table as you never know when in the future a need might arise.

Recently I was working to find a credit line for a customer with a sub par credit rating but a compelling business case showing future growth. In shopping the market and identifying potential banks we hit many stone walls. It was not until I started to get creative and think what relationships could I leverage to get my clients foot in the door. Ultimately we found a large bank who was willing to take a call and consider our request. As we progressed down the vetting process there were upper level concerns at the bank. They wanted to feel like they had an open line of communication to our customers management team and preferred that the relationship be groomed over time. This brings me back to the key mentioned at the beginning - relationships are key and must be groomed over time! 

These lessons go to show that networking is key. Many times there may not be an immediate benefit but connections and interactions leave a lasting impression. In the finance realm trust is key. Banks rely on credit ratings, annual reports and financials. These all tell them if a client is responsible with their money, can pay the bills and whether they may be poised for future growth. What cannot be determined though is the cultural integrity and whether all the financials will live up to the name and principles. In this time of extreme difficulty continue to keep networking top of mind. While in person events are out of the realm of possibility there are many opportunities for virtual connecting on LinkedIn, through webinars and just picking up the phone and talking to a long lost connection. Let the power of networking work for you in this environment and lead to better sway with financial relationships down the road.

During times of stock shortages or last minute changes to orders we tend to lean heavily on our relationships with suppliers. And, most suppliers will understand the need to manage to changing customer requirements, respond quickly to changes, and fill orders on time for a competitive cost. However, we've seen relationships that begin with a mutual understanding of needs with a preferred supplier become difficult to manage, and costs can creep up year over year with an ad hoc management arrangement. 

One of the ways we've worked to mediate this possibility is with structured quarterly reviews and scorecards that maintain key performance indicators paramount in the supplier's mind as opportunities for maintaining and expanding the business. 

The main advantages to an ad hoc supplier relationship management approach are simplicity, focus on resolving specific and immediate tasks, and a relative small time commitment. This works perfectly for very small spend and infrequent ordering. 

However, the supplier usually receives inconsistent feedback and ends up managing orders/products to avoid errors, which can lead to the supplier having more information than the buyer and make it difficult to switch if pricing becomes non-competitive. 

When a supplier transitions from a secondary to a preferred status we tend to see a more structured approach result in strengthening the relationship and keeping costs under control. 

One of the main components of quarterly reviews is the key performance indicator scorecard. This is a set of jointly defined criteria such as on time orders, responsiveness to inquiries, stock of materials, competitive pricing, and discount structure that helps the supplier understand what's important to the customer and allows us to keep an objective record of the relationship with the supplier. 

This can also include weekly review calls with buyers for priority items or in times of volume increases and availability limitations. A centralized point of contact for all locations in the case of a national supplier can also lead to significant time savings and the ability to leverage spend across all locations. 

Therefore, if you do see an increase in the spend with a specific supplier and a greater reliance of the items purchased it may be time to move from ad hoc to structured supplier relationship management. The first step is simply to schedule a review with the representative, or to request a national representative be assigned to the account in addition to the local representative and discuss historic buying patterns as well as define the KPIs that are critical to the business. 

This may be quite an extended process depending on the products purchased, but the result will be a stronger partnership and competitive pricing.

Getting a new Procurement Technology implementation set up is a daunting task, with implementation generally taking months. A large part of that implementation is building a new future state, and that is where the biggest mistake for most Procurement Technology implementations occur.

Most Procurement Technology implementations start at kickoff. In other words, the contract is signed with payments for the SaaS technology beginning that day, and then the vendor begins initiating the implementation process. During that, the vendor will ask seemingly endless amounts of questions around specific individual items depending on the modules you purchased: Approval flows, Purchase Order formats, required fields in supplier profiles, etc.

While there are many obstacles that can trip up an implementation, the biggest mistake companies can make in a Procurement Technology implementation is starting that future design at kickoff. Doing so means no time to see the entire design holistically but rather as individual requirements for each area as they come up. Doing it this way forces the company into performing a 'lift-and-shift' with little changes from the previous model, and that may not be the best way to execute it.

Some employees may have a change or two they would like compared to their current process, but haven't done much with it beyond some vague idea of what they would like. When implementation begins, there simply isn't enough time to go through and make major changes to the process without risks from not being able to fully think through the revisions.

In order to ensure a smooth implementation that addresses gaps from the current state, design needs to begin before supplier selection, and preferably even before sending out RFPs to suppliers. This way you not only know what the organization's future state design should be, you now have a list of requirements that go beyond feature functionality. That ensures your RFP is truly thinking about your organization rather than just a long list of features that may or may not actually be utilized. Those judging the RFP or seeing demonstrations from specific vendors know what to be looking for and the right questions to ask.

There are additional benefits. I hinted earlier at this, but when you sign on the dotted line for most Procurement Technology, you start paying for it from day 1. Depending on the vendor, modules, your company size, etc., that can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 per month. Hitting 'pause' at that point to figure out your future state will incur more charges and potentially additional change orders if your requirements have changed beyond the scope stated in the vendor's SOW.

This isn't only beneficial to making changes during the initial steps of the implementation. Having the major design ready before kickoff allows the design/architect phase of the implementation to speed up considerably, and can speed up future phases as well if the vendor has fewer follow up questions during the build phase.

From the many clients we've worked with on Procurement Technology implementations, we think it is a mistake to wait for the vendor to start kickoff before you design your future state. Doing so ahead of time allows for a shorter implementation cycle that reduces risk of delay, can save tens of thousands in SaaS payments, and enables a faster time-to-value for the Procurement organization.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how resilient and effective procurement organisations can be. But how can we ensure that we are spending correctly? 

What are the opportunities available to improve efficiencies, deliver with greater speed, build an even more resilient supply chain and be adaptive to other changes that could come our way - such as another wave of the pandemic or Brexit??

When we look back the way this pandemic changed the way we procure and interact with our suppliers, there is an opportunity to understand how spend analytics could provide better visibility into the spend through transparency, provide decision points, monitor and improve spend, identify demand-supply gaps and help us respond to these challenges in a quicker and a more effective manner.

We all saw how NHS scrambled its forces together to assemble the essential PPE kits required for its hard working staff and how the decentralized nature of this mammoth organisation did not really help with the leverage it could have otherwise had. 

We all faced empty shelves when we went to the local supermarket to stock up on flour, bread and even toilet paper!

We all realised how little equipped our retails chains were to respond to the huge demand in items such as hand sanitisers.

So how then do companies ensure they get the balance right (if and when such a situation arises in the future) between recognising opportunities to generate savings, meeting the demand-supply gaps that arise and above all, keep focus on a sustainable supply chain?

Its important that we stop and ask ourselves:

1. Do we have visibility into our spend? Where, how much and what are we spending on?

2. Do we have the skill set and more importantly tools to perform analytics that can show us where the opportunities are?

3. How quickly can we perform such analysis to not only create plans in wake of such situations but also deliver on low hanging fruits?

4. How do we identify savings levers specific to each category/sub-category and implement these quickly and effectively?

5. What metrics can we track beyond spend, savings and cost?

6. How do we work collaboratively with suppliers whilst supporting them with data that is available and visible to us?

Spend Analytics is key to identifying answers to all these questions. It not only helps you build a road map on category sourcing but also helps identify savings, tail spend, procurement KPIs, behaviours and provides visibility as well as action points to track spend.

Understanding and analysing spend has helped organisations succeed by identifying levers that help unlock savings and value. What further helps identify and implement strategies or tactics to manage spend during a crisis such as the pandemic is an effective digital platform or tool that is capable of raising alerts without the need for a resource intensive process. The fact that most of us have had to work remotely and will probably continue doing so while collaborating with colleagues and suppliers across the world only builds a stronger case for a digital strategy. If you have not considered a digital platform with spend analytics as a part of it, now is the time to do so.

Applying spend analytics can help a procurement organisation make better and informed decisions by providing a better control over your spend and can help navigate crisis situations more quickly and effectively. Spend analysis can enable competitive advantage, enable better supplier relationships, you may even want to see it as the most exclusive secret weapon at your disposal.

Diego summarizes the importance of spend analytics in his podcast here.

Logistics operations are always on the lookout for ways they can reduce turnaround times and improve efficiency in everything they do, and technology increasingly allows them to do just that. These days, that often includes the use of artificial intelligence and automation to identify and address efficiency issues before they even have the chance to really take root.

Today, many warehousing businesses are looking to technology options that will allow them to get an edge in the industry, and that often includes automation, according to a recent industry survey from the ARC Advisory Group and DC Velocity. For instance, a combined 17% of businesses say their current highest priority for tech investment include robots that work collaboratively with employees, case-picking robots and automatic sorting machines.

Indeed, 33% of respondents said they plan to invest in automatic sortation within the next year, the survey found. Moreover, autonomous technology dominated investment plans on a three-year timeline; companies favored shuttle system/robotics hybrids (49%, the largest share for any single type of warehouse tech), robotic case picking (45%), automated collaborative robotics (43%), automated zone-based robotics (38%) or robotic item-picking (36%).

AI is likely to power the next generation of automated warehouse tech.AI is likely to power the next generation of automated warehouse tech.

Added incentive
However, while it must be noted that the bulk of the survey was conducted before the novel coronavirus pandemic really took hold in America, companies aren't likely to be deterred from short- and long-term investment planning, said Steve Banker, vice president of supply chain services at ARC Advisory Group, writing about these findings for Forbes. The reason why is simple: As collaboration between humans and automated robotic systems improves, companies have less of a need to pack their warehouses with workers to meet demand.

It's not clear how long this virus is going to be a risk factor for businesses, but the odds that companies and workers alike are more cognizant of infectious disease risk going forward — for years to come — are high, Baker added. As such, automation and robotics can be a great way to ensure the risk is minimized on an ongoing basis.

Many uses for the technology
Of course, the practical application of robotics can go beyond simply picking and packing, working with warehouse employees and so on, and overseas efforts highlight that fact, according to Smart Industry. In Asia, for instance, warehousing firms have utilized robots to check workers' temperatures as they report for their daily duties, and others patrol the warehouse floor distributing hand sanitizer.

Likewise, AI and robotics used in concert are allowing more companies to operate automated forklifts, the report said. In some ways, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened some companies' resolve to make these investments as a means of simultaneously keeping workers safe and making operations more efficient.

Certainly, this is the kind of thing that all businesses in the industry should at least be considering. For those determined to take the leap, it may take careful planning to make sure these devices can be seamlessly integrated into your current operations.

Industrial workplaces can be potentially fraught with hazards for workers and managers alike, but as warehousing has continued proliferating across the U.S., more effort is being put into reducing and eliminating such risk. As such, the broad consensus in the industry as a whole is that it is now safer than ever to work in a warehouse, especially when it comes to heavy equipment.

The initiatives the industry has taken to improve safety include National Forklift Safety Day, which seeks to educate workers about proper use of such machines, the dangers they can pose and so on, according to EHS Today. As one might imagine, this has been a years-long effort, but industry leaders say it's having a big impact on reducing forklift-related accidents. This is, in part, because the education around this issue highlights one salient fact: Maintaining a strong safety record takes buy-in from the warehouse floor to the boardroom.

"t's important to understand that safety isn't an outcome, it's a culture," Don Buckman, EHS manager, Americas Division, for Yale Materials Handling Corp., told the site. "Safety is everyone's job and must extend across operations and the supply chain."

More warehouses are taking action to reduce worker risk.More warehouses are taking action to reduce worker risk.

New challenges emerging
However, even as various aspects of traditional warehousing work have become safer, more issues are on the rise these days, according to NBC News. For instance, while summer is wrapping up around the country, climate change seems to be having an impact on logistics work as well. From 2015 to 2018, major shipping companies in the U.S. regularly saw workers hospitalized for heat-related health problems, and as a general rule, temperatures are only likely to keep rising in the years ahead as well.

Experts note temperature-related health issues aren't just about heat stroke or cramps, the report said. R. Jisung Park, an environmental and labor economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told NBC that "there's evidence that finds that hotter temperatures raise the risk of other injuries, too." These could include disorientation and body strain that leads to things like heart attacks and passing out, which increase on-the-job risk significantly.

COVID-19 becomes an issue
While it may be temporary, the novel coronavirus presents its own problems for warehouse workers, according to human resources expert Deb Best, writing for the Albany Times-Union. Certainly, demand for shipping and supply chain services is on the rise, but now is the time to institute hard and fast rules like social distancing, mask enforcement and staggered shifts to reduce the likelihood of workers becoming ill, as well as encouraging workers who are experiencing symptoms to stay home without financial penalty. That way, the risk of an outbreak in your facility is greatly reduced.

With all this in mind, warehouse managers need to take a holistic look at all the risks their workers face and take reasonable steps to reduce those risks. That could include everything from training to extra break times in the summer to cool down, but every business has its own problems in this area.

One of the common challenges we see when partnering with clients is how often their approach to strategic sourcing is compromised by staffing limitations and management of priorities. Specifically, without resources available to focus on manage spend in a truly strategic fashion, it is often necessary to "keep the lights on" and compromise their ability to optimize spend and their supplier relationships. To be clear, it's not always because opportunities are not identified, it's because they have a roadmap and a team assigned with sourcing and other objectives clearly defined and prioritized and once that's carved into stone they simply lack the flexibility at any point in time to take a step back and look at the big picture. Most frustratingly, this can be how some of the biggest risks can be managed and the biggest opportunities can be discovered.

Let's consider an example in the telecommunications category. In most cases, barring acquisition activity, the majority of telecom spend falls to one or a few suppliers for each of wireline and wireless. That means, these categories tend to be looked at from a 30,000 foot view when slotted into a roadmap with the driving factor being the answer to, "Do we need to negotiate or source this category this year?" The answer often comes from a quick look at the contract and the run rate vs. the volume commitment and that decides it. The problem is that two out of three years the answer arrived at will be, "No." And, after all, if there is no sourcing or negotiation to be done, what value can Procurement bring to the table in that category besides jumping in to support tactical and one-off needs during the term of the contract? It turns out a lot. And involvement during those "off" years could pay extraordinary dividends to the years when the answer to that question is "Yes."

For this category and so many others, the behaviors and contractual obligations resulting from day to day management of a category are what set the stage for exceptional results or can largely diminish the results to be expected from broader strategic sourcing efforts. The reason this challenge seems to be so common is not because it’s not known to Procurement leaders, it’s that they lack the flexibility, scalability, and agility with their team to address these concerns. They’re too unpredictable to reliably factor into a roadmap and most Procurement leaders tend to head toward to knowns that will drive toward their spend under management and cost reduction objectives leaving little or no room to address day to day changes.

This is just one reason why many companies rely on third party support like Corcentric provides. Having an on-demand team to draw from provides more flexibility to assign the right internal and third party resources to the right projects and activities at the right times to optimize spend under management. It’s not the only solution, but it’s often the shortest and lowest risk path to discerning which categories or spends should be hedged more conservatively to allow for some agility to manage the day to day. This conclusion is drawn from the upside realized from broader strategic sourcing efforts for the category vs. perhaps the more tactical spends that would have taken up that resource time. This is an area of untapped potential for many Procurement organizations due to the pressure placed upon them to maximize their metrics with the resource they have. The variability and unknowns associated with applying more resource to day to day category management without an immediate ROI is just too high risk. Consider ways you can close this gap within your own team and don’t rule out bringing in additional support to simplify the process, reduce risk, and maximize results.

The holiday season is nearly here and if your logistics firm is trying to improve its operational efficiency during this time, it's important to take some time now to make sure all your ducks are in a row. That should certainly include ensuring your purchasing department and decision-makers are fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead, and have a plan to clear any hurdles that may arise.

As such, they will need to keep the following issues in mind throughout the holiday season planning process:

1) You need to forecast need as accurately as possible

In general, your procurement department likely does a good job of managing purchases and planning, but the holidays are hardly a time when general rules apply, according to Supply & Demand Chain Executive. Consequently, it's vital to do as much homework as possible to determine hiring trends from past holiday seasons and take into account which items you may order, if any, are going to be in particularly high demand.

Procurement becomes a lot more complicated during the holiday season.Procurement becomes a lot more complicated during the holiday season.

2) Start your conversations with suppliers and carriers now

Once you have a good idea of what your holiday procurement needs are going to look like, it's time to start talking to the companies that supply the items you buy, as well as the shippers that carry those products from Point A to Point B, Supply & Demand Chain Executive recommended. This way, you can see what efforts will be feasible and get a better picture of everything you can do to keep things running smoothly throughout.

3) Identify potential weak points in your supply chain

In the talks with shippers and suppliers, you will likely get a pretty clear picture of aspects of your procurement efforts that should be fairly easy, and those where you might encounter difficulties, according to Zycus. If you know the potential problems in advance, it becomes easier to craft backup plans so that, when problems arise, you can quickly pivot to another reliable option for success.

4) Keep careful records

Whenever you make plans for what you will do in a given situation, it's important to put them into writing, and the same is true of taking notes about the discussions you have with shippers and suppliers, Zycus said. That way, if someone doesn't hold up their end of the bargain or it becomes critical to find a new path forward, there's no ambiguity about how to proceed.

5) Plan for shipping problems, including weather

The overarching theme for the holiday season in the logistics industry is "expect the unexpected," which means you should never rest on your laurels and think everything will go according to plan — and that may be particularly true for shipping, according to EC Sourcing Group. After all, trucks will be packed to the gills, highways jammed with motorists, weather delays and more, all of which might mean your orders don't arrive on time. You need to have plans to deal with these issues, as well as shortages from suppliers, to fully deal with the ups and downs of the season.

While the holiday shopping season is still a few months away, many companies in the logistics sector haven't yet begun their hiring efforts to account for the extra demand. That may lead them to play catch-up or hire workers who aren't among the best in their region. However, if you start planning now and roll out these efforts in the near future, there's still plenty that can be done.

The fact of the matter is that competition for talent at this time of year is likely to be fierce, according to IQ Talent Partners. Even as many are out of work and it may be easier to find willing candidates, there is likely to be a lot of workers who are uncertain of their prospects for seasonal work, especially if it's outside their previous industries. As such, it will be vital to continue to make sure workers are being offered something quite attractive when it comes to working for your company specifically.

A lot of effort goes into effectively planning your seasonal hiring efforts.A lot of effort goes into effectively planning your seasonal hiring efforts.

Something as simple as employee discounts, signing bonuses, flexible schedules or even just the most casual dress code possible can all go a long way toward ensuring your logistics business is set up for success, the report said. The same is true of a referral bonus system for your current employees, because they know what the job takes and which of their friends and family members are likely to be the ones who can fill such positions most effectively.

The reality of the situation
At the same time as you are planning to hire a potentially large number of seasonal employees, you also have to build contingency plans, according to Talroo. The reality for many companies is they can hire 10, 50, 100 or even more workers for the holidays, but they have to operate with the understanding that some of those new employees are going to wash out. For them, it may be relatively low-stakes at the end of the day, and if they find they don't like the work or aren't suited to it, they may move on before the holidays come to an end.

When that happens, you need to have a thick file of backup candidates to tap in short order, the report said. You could also simply offer your current employees bonuses for filling the shift slots that the departing employee left open if they left abruptly.

Getting the word out
Even if your seasonal hires aren't going to start working until, say, November, it's important to start advertising your job listings sooner than later, according to LSM Guide. The more runway you give yourself to interview, hire and wait-list candidates, the better off all are going to be in nailing down their holiday work plans. That, in turn, helps set everyone up for success.

Drawing lessons from the holiday-season wins and losses you've seen in recent years could further help determine the proper strategy for dealing with how you approach this year's efforts, and set yourself up to hit all your benchmarks in the months ahead.

As a business in the supply chain, you may find that your staffing needs are consistently in flux. There may be some times when you don't have a lot for a huge workforce to do, and others (such as the holiday season) when you need to bring on a lot of new employees in a short period of time. When the latter arrives, though, you should strive to make all the right hires to ensure you can operate as efficiently as possible.

How do you know when you're bringing aboard the best possible workers? The following tips should help:

1) Get referrals

The simplest way to find great new hires is to ask your current employees if they know anyone they would recommend for the job, according to Staff Management. The reason why is simple: They know what it takes to do the job, and wouldn't want to work alongside anyone who might not meet your company's standards — especially because it could risk their own reputation.

2) Start far out from when you need more staff

Generally speaking, you should have a pretty good idea of when your staffing needs tend to rise, and that means you can more effectively plan for that hiring period, Staff Management noted. The farther out you start your process from the day by which you need to have all your workers in place, the better off you will be when it comes to making sure you have not just enough people, but the right people.

Finding the right warehouse workers can be simpler.Finding the right warehouse workers can be simpler.

3) Pay better

A simple way to attract better workers is to offer stronger pay and higher-quality benefits, according to Cyzerg. That way, you will not only make sure you can attract talent on an as-needed basis, but also keep the best workers from every crop of new hires when you want to.

4) Trust your new hires with added flexibility

Along similar lines to strong salaries and benefits packages, it's also a good idea to include perks such as scheduling flexibility, Cyzerg added. In many cases, it can be perfectly acceptable for someone to come in an hour early so they can leave an hour later, or set their own schedule, as long as they're still meeting all their work requirements. Workers will value that option.

5) Make your listings more specific to what you need

If you find that your past hires haven't always worked out despite the fact that they looked good on paper, you might want to consider honing your public job listings, according to Recruit Shop. That way, there's no ambiguity about what you're looking for, and would-be hires can calibrate their interest accordingly.

6) Know the signs of potential problems

If your hiring efforts aren't getting the results you're hoping for, it may be time to reevaluate what you're looking at in candidates and why you're welcoming them aboard, Recruit Shop warned. That kind of introspection could help you understand why there may be red flags you're missing in your previous processes.

Office Amenities Shouldn’t Break the Bank

From a talent retention and recruitment standpoint many organizations have found themselves investing heavily in perks and amenities catered to employee satisfaction.  In addition, companies that rely on client facing interactions often find themselves offering similar perks to their guests and visitors. The purpose of this blog is to provide insight and guidance on how organizations can offer a strong menu of offerings to employees and guests that can boost morale while protecting your bottom line.

Breakroom Essentials 

Just about every office space in the country offers simple amenities such as coffee and water.  In fact, hot coffee and a water cooler for employees is just about as consistent as pen and paper in today’s day and age.  However, many employers simply accept this expense with very little market intelligence and true understanding of the costs and additional benefits associated with these perks.  Historically offices tend to delegate this task to HR or a front of house receptionist to simply order and restock product once inventory starts to decline.  If you’re a large-scale corporation with numerous facilities across the country this practice could be creating quite a sizable dent from an annual expense standpoint.  

The saying “power in numbers” especially holds true within this unique category.  The ability to understand the total value of these small incremental purchases, location-by-location within your company portfolio over the course of a full calendar year can be staggering once fully realized.  More often than not this category is simply treated as a sunken cost in many organizations, when in all actuality there is a lot of flexibility and cost savings opportunity once your purchasing power is realized and out to bid with suitable providers.

When it comes to identifying suitable providers to bid on this opportunity the first key metric to understand is the coverage area and range required to service this category.  The end goal is to hopefully identify a single source capable of providing competitive pricing while also servicing and delivering to your entire portfolio.  Utilizing one supplier capable of satisfying this need enables a streamlined category management and communication process while also opening the door for product standardization company-wide for even greater discounts.

Product consolidation is the next critical piece when it comes to successfully managing this category.  Historically product selection is rogue across the board with brand preferences varying by location.  Leveraging your total annual spend within a select group of standardized products across your entire portfolio will immediately establish strong discounts when compared to the unit price you were originally acquiring similar products at.

Supplier Consolidation Leading to Expansion of Amenities 

If your organization successfully consolidates this category to one awarded supplier, a world of additional value add opportunities and additional perks will be made available to your employees.  In particular, national providers such as Aramark or Sodexo may offer additional services to high volume locations with amenities such as cafes staffed with baristas capable of providing beverages and fresh food options.  

If properly negotiated and discussed with your national provider at the time of contracting, you may be to obtain these perks at no additional cost to your company which would establish a win-win for all parties involved.  Your awarded national provider would establish a small revenue stream within your organization while employees have the added perk of a full-service café just steps from their desk.  This drastically improved food and beverage service offering helps instill strong morale for employees while also establishing greater productivity with food and beverage options housed inside your facility.

In summary, food and beverage amenities provided to your employees are a crucial yet often overlooked expense within many organizations.  If this category is properly managed and effectively consolidated the reward of a strong culture and boost in employee morale can be realized while also managing to obtain significant cost savings.


Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, there have been many items that have gone through a shortage.  The initial items that were difficult to come by were paper goods like toilet paper and cleaning products such as Lysol.  As time has progressed, these hot commodity items have changed.  With schools resuming, whether it be in person, online, or a hybrid of both, laptops and tablets are the latest items that are nearly impossible to come by.  School districts all over the United States, as well as other countries are experiencing shortages of these devices.


Lenovo, HP, and Dell have told school districts they have a shortage of about five million laptops.  The delays started in the spring and have only intensified with the continued demand.  Schools that have placed orders months ago have either received part of their orders or are still waiting for their orders to be fulfilled.  Many schools had delivery dates prior to the start of the school year, however their delivery dates keep getting pushed back without a definite date of arrival.  The Denver Public Schools district ordered 12,500 Chromebooks back in April and May and are still waiting on the delivery on these devices.  The state of California noted that their school districts are waiting on roughly 300,000 computers and schools in Alabama are waiting on 33,000 computers.  With the shortage continuing and school back in session, many districts are scrambling to fill the gaps.


A school district in Buffalo, NY is waiting on the delivery on 10,000 iPads.  To cope with the devices not being delivered, teachers are printing packets for the students who do not have access to a computer or tablet.  They are doing this with the hopes that students without a device can keep up with students who do have a device.  In Duval, Florida teachers are noticing a gap between students who have access to a device and those that do not.  Teachers whose students lack access to a device and are doing a hybrid of learning, are failing classes due to their inability to log on on days they are remote learning. 


In Newport Connecticut, the director of technology at one of their schools said how they just ran out of devices.  The school developed a five-year plan in which it would be able to provide all their students with technological devices.  Once Covid-19 hit, they had to condense this five-year plan into a five month plan.  Although the school ordered about 22,000 Chromebooks, they still get about 60-100 requests for devices a day. 


The shift towards remote learning due to Covid-19 has had a large impact on technological devices.  The demand is skyrocketing and the access to parts and devices is declining.  While schools are waiting on the delivery of their shipments, they have organized laptop and tablet donations.  They have also asked students who received a device from the school to return it if they have a household or personal device they can use for school.  The districts are then redistributing these devices to students who do not have access to one.  As time progresses, schools hope to overcome this obstacle and be able to give each student their own device, closing the technological and academic gap.

While the novel coronavirus is still a problem across the U.S. — and one that's not likely to go away anytime soon — some aspects of the business world are returning to normal slowly but surely. Based on recent industry data, that certainly includes the logistics industry. After a definitive fallow period around the start of the outbreak nationwide, demand for warehousing space is once again surging, portending big things for the sector in the months and years ahead.

A big part of the reason for this, of course, is more people are staying home and thus ordering from online merchants who need more space to meet demand, according to The Financial Times. The e-commerce titan Amazon has, in recent months, signed leases for some 35 million square feet of additional warehouses in locations from coast to coast, and that seems to be a sign of the times.

Consumer habits have shifted — perhaps permanently — as a result of the lockdowns, such that it's expected online sales in the U.S. will approach $20 billion annually within the next few years, the report said. As such, some industry estimates show that demand for warehousing space will hit 333 million square feet by the end of 2022.

Warehousing space is in increasingly high demand nationwide.Warehousing space is in increasingly high demand nationwide.

What's at stake?
The fact of the matter is that years-long trends are converging for the industry at a time when the space to actually fulfill needs may be somewhat limited, according to Business Insider. Because of how companies have increasingly offered low-cost or free shipping with quick turnaround times, the need for additional space closer to population centers is on the rise. Moreover, just-in-time inventory strategies have become common, but that leaves companies vulnerable to unexpected shifts in demand and the like.

Because many logistics firms have to effectively be all things to all people in today's environment, they require more space than ever — as much as three times more than retailers, the report said. However, it's worth noting that retailers are also trying to get into the warehousing game at a higher rate these days; shutdowns and slowdowns have forced them to close brick-and-mortar locations, but these companies largely still exist and have loyal customer bases. As such, they need their own warehouses to keep up with demand.

Rising costs
As with anything else in business, when demand for something rises, so too do prices, and that's certainly been observed in the world of industrial real estate, according to Globe St. Indeed, rents for such spaces in the second quarter set new records in just about every major market nationwide as companies moved to claim space at levels comparable to pre-pandemic rates. Demand is growing so quickly that some companies may look to convert large retail spaces into warehouses.

With all this in mind, it's critical for any logistics manager to at least consider what their companies' growth strategy will look like in both the short and long term. Knowing far in advance how you will need to evolve to continually meet your goals will help you craft the perfect roadmap to do so.

Many companies in the supply chain have made steps to modernize some aspects of their operations in recent years, but in a lot of ways, they may still be doing the same basic things they did years ago. For that reason, purchasing managers in particular may want to examine their internal procurement processes and see if there are any changes they can make to modernize their efforts. Doing so could increase efficiency and, in the long run, save enough money to provide a complete return on investment.

The first thing purchasing managers need to understand about this issue is that even if they aren't making efforts to modernize their processes in some way, the competition almost certainly is, according to VNDLY. Typically, such efforts will start with adoption of a new, modern software platform that allows them to track and manage things like inventory, shipments and more on an ongoing basis, in as close to real time as possible. Many organizations currently use legacy software that has been customized time and again to meet their companies' needs, but now handle so much data that the programs have become unwieldy and unreliable.

The future is now for your procurement department.The future is now for your procurement department.

However, with modern operations, data in one department will typically be less siloed-off from the rest of the company, and it becomes easier for purchasing managers to monitor needs based on budget and operational requirements, the report said. That means all potential stakeholders need to have a say in figuring out what course modernization will take.

What's at stake
Companies that want to make sure they can do more to smooth all their processes and both internal and external communications would be wise to get buy-in from their supply chain partners, but that's not always easy, according to PYMNTS. The obvious advantages of high-tech adoption is that it speeds every aspect of procurement, but you also need to be able to complete the financial aspects of sales with an all-digital approach as well.

As many as 3 in 5 companies specializing in business-to-business transactions don't even have a website of their own, so the idea of everyone simultaneously becoming a high-tech, engaged partner is likely far-fetched (at least initially), the report said. But if even a small number of organizations can demonstrate the value of adoption, the pressure to adopt may build to a critical mass.

How high-tech is too-high-tech?
Given the slow build toward adoption of even basic modern software, going well beyond your current capabilities may not seem to be in the cards any time soon. However, as the blockchain becomes a big point of focus, interest in such technology may be on the rise, according to a recent Deloitte survey. Across the U.S., more than 3 in 5 companies say they plan to make at least $1 million in investments toward blockchain adoption over the next 12 years, potentially giving them even more insight into their purchasing strategies and shipping networks.

Of course, that kind of involvement isn't for everyone and it's important for your business to strategize carefully about whatever steps you take toward a more modern procurement process.

While things are starting to shift back to the "old normal" in some parts of the U.S., it's more than fair to say that the novel coronavirus pandemic fundamentally altered consumers' shopping habits. Although companies have been trending toward more online ordering in recent years to begin with, the lockdowns nationwide seem to have only accelerated the preference to shy away from brick-and-mortar stores.

That, in turn, raises an interesting question for companies in the logistics sector: Should they prioritize their direct-to-consumer shipping efforts over their B2B side? A recent survey retail industry survey from enVista paints the picture nicely, according to DC Velocity. About 1 in 3 retailers say they are trying to strike a better balance between in-store shopping and B2C e-commerce demand, and about the same number say they want to improve planning and forecasting for demand, or improve efficiency overall.

Going B2C would be a big shift for many businesses, but a potentially lucrative one.Going B2C would be a big shift for many businesses, but a potentially lucrative one.

Along similar lines, a previous enVista survey found that about two-thirds of consumers want improved visibility into inventory online, and nearly as many wanted to have the ability to buy items from anywhere and ship them anywhere, the report said. Fewer than half of respondents felt it was important to be able to pick up an online order from a physical location.

Temporary or permanent?
One thing any business has to consider under the current conditions is whether the changes they make to their operations will only last as long as the lockdowns do, or whether some or all of those new processes will be permanently incorporated into how they do business, according to Supply Chain Brain. There may be plenty of things your company can adopt — such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve internal processes — that would have plenty of practical applications after the pandemic is over, but others — such as increased staffing levels — that might not be as necessary.

Less broadly, among the big things companies may have to consider at this time is whether shipping smaller quantities of your items to individuals, rather than huge orders to single entities, is feasible in the long run, the report said. There may be plenty of avenues to make this possible, and you will need to investigate them to determine whether a B2C approach works for your unique business.

Getting it done
In many cases, companies may be able to complete B2C shipping at scale, but it will require fundamental rethinking of not just their strategies, but their entire offerings, according to enVista. For instance, some companies that specialized in B2B have begun offering smaller-batch products with far less wiggle room for changing or customizing orders, meaning they don't have to spend time in the warehouse picking and packing every order just-so, and can still seamlessly send a greater number of packages to more people.

Of course, every company is different and their paths to building a parallel B2C operation will be unique. But what remains a common issue is that everyone will have to drill down and strategize carefully before rolling out any changes to their offerings.

For many companies in the logistics field, the industry requires them to have a broad and diversified supply chain to procure everything they need to operate. However, especially in a post-coronavirus world, that's often easier said than done, and many businesses are trying to find new strategies to make sure purchasing remains an easy process.

While you aren't likely to suffer a once-in-a-century disruption again any time soon, the following steps should help your company build a more reliable, resilient supply chain:

1) Find new partners

Perhaps the easiest way to make sure your supply chain can withstand any disruption, regardless of size, is to diversify it so that you can rely on more suppliers when problems arise, according to Strategic Sourceror. Simply knowing that you can easily pivot from one partner to another when and if you need to makes it much simpler to proceed with whatever your current plans may be.

2) Keep waste to a minimum

The name of the game is efficiency in just about any business, but in the supply chain, it should be your entire organization's watch word, Strategic Sourceror advised. The more you can do to ensure every process you have in place runs smoothly and at the lowest cost possible, the better off you will be in both good and turbulent times.

It's critical to understand every aspect of your supply chain.It's critical to understand every aspect of your supply chain.

3) Make sure you keep up compliance

Even as you partner with suppliers — potentially in a number of different countries — you need to make sure that all appropriate rules and regulations are being followed to the letter, according to G2. Finding more areas of efficiency does not mean you should cut corners, and putting at least one or two people in charge of compliance (including hiring a separate compliance officer) is always a good idea to ensure all aspects of what you do are held in check.

4) Know your risk factors

At the same time you are trying to be cognizant of the ins and outs of regulatory controls, you also need to make sure you have a holistic picture of your supply chain and can consistently identify emergent issues that might knock you off course, G2 said. When you are able to use data and consistent communication with your partners to recognize problematic patterns before they even arise, you'll be able to weather any storm.

5) Strategize as far in advance as you can

Along similar lines to recognizing issues in advance, you should also map out your purchasing strategies weeks or months before you actually take any action, so that you can tweak what you need to, as necessary, according to IndustryWeek. That way, you always have your eyes on the prize and won't be deterred unless absolutely necessary.

6) Work on your contingency plans

With that having been said, the coronavirus pandemic certainly highlighted that you can't plan for every eventuality, IndustryWeek added. Instead, you should have multiple plans in place that account for as many potential hurdles as you can think of, so that you always have a fallback plan when normal procurement strategies aren't feasible.

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 Employee Training, you can check it out here.

This week, we will look at the 6th and final way 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.

Optimize, Organize, and Design

When companies expand over time, it’s easy to just add on piecemeal to handle that growth. Those adjustments may work in the moment but as growth continues and operations begin to change or shift, how many times are those added processes and procedures revisited? An organization may not want to look at ways to become more efficient or effective because what they have in place still works. Those companies are in jeopardy of quickly falling behind the competition. However, if a growing company is willing to peel back the layers of the onion periodically and look at ways to optimize, organize, and design their entire operation as growth occurs, it becomes much easier to make adjustments along the way.

Specific Example: Reorganize the Warehouse

Deciding how to design a warehouse layout is a step of vital importance—it can make or break the productivity, safety, and overall success of a warehouse. The layout of your warehouse needs to maximize available space, allow for limited travel time, provide easy access to product, and create a safe work environment. While it can be challenging to design a layout that fits all needs, proper analysis of business objectives and practices, as well as a dedication to safety and a cultivation of productive procedures, can help you come up with a design that is optimal for success.

From receiving to storing to shipping, the layout and flow of your warehouse will determine in large part how well your business operates.

Following are 5 warehouse organization tips to get your warehouse in order and improve the speed and efficiency of your employees:

1. Re-evaluate your warehouse layout design

  • Keep the following design elements in mind when planning (or updating) your warehouse layout:
  • Flow – meaning the uninterrupted movement of materials, people, and traffic within your building
  • Accessibility – meaning every product and all products on pallets should be accessible by everyone, usually without the need to move one product to get to another
  • Space – meaning the maximum warehouse space you can afford, taking into consideration storage, stock, offices, working areas, empty pallet storage, battery charging, etc.

2. Use warehouse racking organization

Warehouse racking organization is a method of storing your inventory vertically instead of horizontally, such as on pallet racks. This is a cost-effective way to maximize your warehouse space if you carry a lot of inventory or if you have a small warehouse and can’t afford to buy more space.

3. Use ABC Analysis to set up warehouse inventory

ABC Analysis of inventory is a method of sorting your inventory into three categories according to how well they sell and how much they cost to hold:

  • A-Items – best-selling items that don’t take up all your warehouse space or cost
  • B-Items – mid-range items that sell regularly but may cost more than A-items to hold
  • C-Items – the rest of your inventory that makes up the bulk of your inventory costs while contributing the least to your bottom line

4. Label warehouse inventory

Your employees shouldn’t have to rely on memory when searching for items in your warehouse. Every SKU in your inventory should be clearly labeled for easy identification.

Keep your labeling consistent for every item (i.e., always label the bottom right corner of boxes) and include all the necessary information on every label, such as:

  • Product name
  • SKU
  • Color
  • Size
  • Date

5. Make receiving inventory easy

Receiving inventory effectively is one of the key warehouse management tips because it sets the tone for the rest of your warehouse and inventory processes.

Here are a few ways you can improve inventory receiving:

  • Optimize your receiving space by providing the proper tools and enough space to allow your employees to sort and store incoming inventory.
  • Keep your receiving space clean and organized by removing clutter and putting every tool away after using it.
  • Track inventory in real-time by implementing a perpetual inventory system, in order to reduce miscounts, missing inventory, and incorrect shipments.
  • Monitor quality control by hiring a quality control manager to watch for mistakes, point out problematic procedures, and reduce the instances of inventory damage.
  • Unload received inventory quickly and safely by using the appropriate machines (i.e., forklifts and conveyor belts) and following clear safety procedures.
  • Avoid shipping the wrong items to your customers by verifying the goods received using metrics, such as the description of goods, product code, batch tracking number, etc.

A well-run and well-organized warehouse is a critical function within a company’s sourcing and procurement management efforts. While there is a direct relationship between procurement and supply chain management, the two functions are not interchangeable.

Procurement is the process of getting the goods and materials your company needs, while supply chain management is the process of transforming those goods into products and distributing them to customers as efficiently as possible. Warehouse operations are often where these two practices cross paths, so this pivotal business operation requires the most efficient and well-run systems.

Series Conclusion

It’s easy to become complacent in the way your company does business. If the company is turning a profit, employees are perceived to be happy, and suppliers and clients are limited in their complaints, then why spend the time to self-evaluate and make potentially disruptive changes? Times will change. Industry will change. The world will change. Preparing your company to have the structure in place to withstand economic downturns or extreme cases like global pandemics will allow for a quicker rebound when those crises are over. More importantly, a company’s ability to find ways to improve and evolve, no matter what the global economy indicates, will be a critical measure for your company’s future.

If you would like to download a free white paper from the Corcentric website where all 6 parts of this series of blogs are organized into one single document, please visit our library here.

When the coronavirus first swept through China around the start of 2020, it shuttered many factories and shipping facilities in the Far East and, in many cases, crippled U.S. companies' supply chains. That led those businesses to reconsider many things about how they operate, including whether they should rely on a global supply chain at all. Now, more businesses are facing a kind of existential question: When the pandemic comes to an end, will we ever go back to previous norms?

The idea of having a global supply chain — which often requires interaction with potentially large numbers of partners to get everything you order from Points A and B to C, D, E and more — might now seem like a literal logistical nightmare. According to Supply Chain Digital, it's not out of the question to revert to old ways, and many companies already have, but the level of control at every step of the supply chain may need to increase dramatically.

It always helps to have backup plans.It always helps to have backup plans.

First things first, that will require digitization and automation of many processes that used to be handled manually, so that it's easier to share information between partners and track items as they cross borders and oceans, the report said. That also requires increased cooperation and different sourcing options, so that if partners in one part of the world cannot hold up their end of the bargain, for whatever reason, your business always has something to fall back on.

Plan for everything
While the novel coronavirus was a once-in-a-century event that provided a major shock to the system, there are all sorts of difficulties (big and small) that can crop up in even the simplest of processes, and those need to be accounted for, according to The Hackett Group. Together with your partners, as well as within your own organization, you need to sit down and think of all the potential contingencies that could arise over the course of years, and how you will respond if those incidents arise.

You will also need to understand the areas that will be your signals that something has gone awry in the first place, the report said. It's one thing to know that a problem has arisen; it's quite another to be able to figure out why, and revert to a Plan B as early as you possibly can.

Never settle
Finally, it's worth remembering that your supply chain (and the world) is ever-changing and even contingencies that have worked in the past might not cut the mustard when a new situation arises, according to Supply Chain Digest. For that reason, your approach needs to be more diversified — such as with regionalization — so that if you lose some options for a period of time, you always have somewhere else to pivot. And more to the point, you should have those contingencies tested as a just-in-case so you know they're as reliable as possible.

The more you can do to take a holistic look at how your supply chain operates and how your relationships with partners affect things, the better off your company will be when it comes to weathering any storm.

Businesses in the logistics sector are always looking for a way they can improve the efficiency of their operations by even fractions of a percentage point, so it's no surprise that they're always searching for new avenues to evaluate themselves. For many, that means the next few years will see them dive headlong into the high-tech world of data analysis, if they haven't done so already, and those investments may take a number of different forms.

For instance, nearly three-quarters of logistics firms say asset tracking and location technology, as well as wireless connection areas, are going to be vital to their companies within the next three to five years, according to a recent global industry survey from Ericsson. At the same time, roughly two-thirds said the same about adopting the blockchain, artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation.

AI holds a lot of promise in the logistics industry.

Fortunately, it seems that this is likely to become easier within the proscribed timeframe largely because mobile service providers are rolling out high-speed 5G technology that enables faster and more accessible communication between entities, the report said.

"5G will definitely help," Aljosja Beije, logistics and technology lead at a blockchain tech firm, told Ericsson. "It will be a big leap forward compared to what we can do today with 4G. It will enable us to integrate and coordinate devices so that data can flow throughout the supply chain."

Why data helps
When companies have a better handle on the information that powers their decision-making, a lot of those issues are taken out of humans' hands, according to Tank Transport. Put another way, when artificial intelligence systems have a broad array of data flowing into them, humans have to make fewer decisions manually, freeing them up to focus on other tasks that aren't as easily automated.

That doesn't mean the decisions made by an AI system don't have to be monitored, or that the platforms are foolproof — far from it, the report said. However, with machine learning, these decisions are getting better all the time, and companies just need to make sure the proper flow of information continues apace.

Speeding the supply chain
Especially when you are sharing data with your various partners in the supply chain, AI platforms can be used to increase efficiency in a number of ways, according to Material Handling & Logistics. Not only can these systems deal with tasks like ordering and monitoring; they may also be able to help companies adjust their labor distribution to match conditions, ensure on-time delivery and more.

The more data these platforms have available to them — including legacy documents such as Excel spreadsheets — the more powerful their decision-making becomes, the report said.

For all these reasons and more, companies that have yet to fully invest in data tracking and AI may want to start laying the groundwork in the near future. Doing so will help you stay on the cutting edge of your industry or, at the very least, keep you from falling behind your competitors.