20 July 2006 | Paul Snell
European buying regulations are holding back leading-edge procurement, according to participants at a round table on strategic supplier management.
Paula Howard, associate partner, procurement transformation at Atos Consulting, which hosted the event in London last month, said: "Some EU rules may not be appropriate to leading-edge procurement."
Strategic supplier management requires buyers and suppliers to integrate their businesses to provide value for money for buyers and bigger margins for suppliers. But participants said competition rules can limit such arrangements.
Les Sigrist, director logistics procurement (support) at the Defence Logistics Organisation, said he wants the opportunity to trial partnering arrangements.
"For key strategic suppliers, applying traditional competition to all components of the relationship may not always be appropriate," he said.
Participants also agreed buyers themselves sometimes formed a barrier. Kath Harmeston, partner, procurement transformation at Atos, said: "People are scared of doing things in a different way. They get used to following a specific process."
Barbara Cotton, group head of purchasing, goods-not-for-resale at Boots, said the solution was to change the attitude of buyers.
"We should create a culture that tests the rules and set up a framework that encourages such behaviours," she said.
She added that buyers needed training to take on a more strategic role that involves liaising with colleagues and suppliers.
Tom Hall, principal consultant at Atos, agreed: "Procurement teams need a new set of skills to enable them to perform a broader role."
"This will enable procurement to gravitate more towards the core of the business."