Beyond cost reduction, sustainability and negotiation skills—MARCH/APRIL 2012 PRINT EDITION

Relationships and recruiting emerge during PMAC’s Thought Leaders Forum as the next big SCM priorities

April 9, 2012

Late last year, PMAC hosted an invitation-only Thought Leaders Forum in Toronto. This facilitated session featured executives from various sectors of the Canadian supply chain management community, as well as selected leading academics in the field, who met for this day-long event to discuss issues, problems and solutions to challenges in corporate procurement and supply chain processes.

Events like this are important to PMAC as they contribute directly to our mission of building leadership in supply chain management and support our vision of becoming the recognized authority for the profession. The information collected during this session provides insight into the actions of industry leaders as they tackle today’s challenges and prepare for tomorrow’s emerging issues.

Familiar supply chain topics were discussed during the day, such as: negotiations with suppliers, costs, sustainability and supplier diversity, the procurement department’s place within a company’s corporate culture, hiring staff, client relationships, etc. Throughout the discussions, three key themes emerged: building relationships internally, building them externally and recruiting talent.

Building relationships internally
Those in attendance agreed that supply chain professionals need to raise the profile of what they do internally, and highlight both what they do and how well they do it. No longer is it good enough to be good at your job and expect your organization to appreciate your contribution. But, be careful not to cross the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate self-promotion.

Establishing increased visibility is one way to help build valuable internal relationships. One best practice discussed was the creation of a “procurement leadership council” comprised of procurement professionals and representatives from other areas of the company who meet regularly to discuss and increase knowledge about the specific contribution supply chain professionals make within the company. This idea was very popular with our attendees who felt it would work in their respective companies.

Building relationships externally
In the past, companies worked to deal in large volume with a limited number of suppliers in the hopes that volume orders could achieve dramatic cost savings, and that deeper relationships with suppliers could be established if there were fewer to deal with. In today’s global marketplace, sole sourcing is potentially dangerous. This was seen last year when the earthquake and tsunami in Japan disrupted supply to North American auto plants, forcing the temporary closure of production lines.

Our participants felt that relationship building could be achieved without the risk that comes with sole-source relationships. Communication and interaction through scorecards and incentives were felt to be more helpful in relationship building, according to our attendees. It was felt that by creating metrics for suppliers, and sharing the methodology of the measurement, relationships can be firmed up around the key performance indicators that matter to the buyers.

Recruiting talent
One universal challenge identified during the Thought Leaders Forum was that of recruiting talent. The rapidly evolving nature of supply chain management is making it difficult to find employees with the skills necessary to manage ever-changing and increasingly complex portfolios.

Procurement is no longer simply about processing orders and negotiating deals for supplies. In recent years, PMAC itself has had to come to terms with changes in the marketplace. PMAC’s introduction in 2010 of the Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP) designation was, in part, driven by the recognized need, which our participants acknowledged, to integrate procurement, logistics and operations functions.

Complicating the recruiting process, participants reported that some sectors in particular, such as government, have experienced difficulty recruiting young employees into the field.
Participants suggested broadening outreach strategies to combat the challenges of recruitment. While no one approach was universally applicable to all, engaging in university and college co-op programs, new immigrant work programs and internships were suggested to help build relationships with new hires. The use of social media to attract young prospective employees to their industry was also identified as a potentially useful strategy.

This is just a snapshot of some of the intriguing thoughts and solutions that were shared during the PMAC Thought Leaders Forum. For your benefit, PMAC has published a whitepaper based on the results of this important session. A complimentary full copy of this informative document is available at:

I would like to thank all the supply chain leaders who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in our Thought Leaders Forum. Finally, I would like to thank the event sponsors Deloitte and SAP. Without their generous support events like this would not be possible.       b2b