Schneider Electric’s factory in Vaudreuil, France, was unveiled last year as a showcase for the latest industrial technologies © AFP/Getty Images
Schneider Electric’s factory in Vaudreuil, France, was unveiled last year as a showcase for the latest industrial technologies © AFP/Getty Images

Supply chain is 'weapon to conquer new markets'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
26 July 2019

Supply chain management can be a “weapon to conquer new markets”, according to Schneider Electric’s supply chain boss in Europe.

Stephane Poittevin, global supply chain Europe senior vice president at Schneider Electric, said the function was a growth enabler that could be used to differentiate from the competition.

Poittevin was speaking to SM after Schneider Electric moved up two places to number three in Gartner’s latest European supply chain ranking. It is currently number 11 in the global ranking.

“This ranking is a great honour for us but it’s a never-ending story,” he said.

“Always look at supply chain as an enabler of growth. Supply chain can be a good weapon to conquer new markets and to differentiate from the competition.”

Schneider, a provider of electrical products and services with annual sales of €25.7bn, has 200 manufacturing plants in 46 countries and 98 distribution centres. Procurement spend represents 50% of sales and the company works with 50,000 suppliers, including just over 10,000 production suppliers.

Poittevin said the firm’s supply chain strategy was fundamentally based on a just-in-time model but it was currently going through what’s known as the Tailored Sustainable Connected 4.0 digital transformation, launched in 2017. This is an end-to-end strategy covering manufacturing, delivery, strategy and planning, with “everything powered by digital technology”. This includes internet of things and artificial intelligence. In June Schneider’s smart factory in Indonesia was recognised as an Advanced 4th Industrial Revolution Lighthouse by the World Economic Forum, the third Schneider site to receive this accolade. Schneider said the factory had reported a 44% reduction in machine downtime in one year.

Poittevin said the company had a team dedicated to testing new technologies. These are then deployed in one site for evaluation. “When we validate benefits we roll it out,” he said.

He added: “Supply chain is an end-to-end process. It has to be managed globally. It has to be digital. Digital is a great tool to step up efficiency in the supply chain.”

A global procurement organisation defines strategy, which is then operated locally by regional teams. Category managers draw up a global strategy for their commodity, with suppliers operating either globally or locally. Category strategy is also fed into the R&D process by a dedicated procurement group.

Poittevin said when onboarding new suppliers quality always comes first. “The price comes after quality and service level. Competitiveness is always a discussion but we can’t engage in a competitiveness discussion with our partner if we do not have the right level of quality.”

He said it was essential to invest in suppliers. “If you want to have the right partner you need to invest with those partners. We spend time to understand their process, to help them, to share our resources to be more efficient in a global end-to-end supply chain.”

Poittevin said Schneider had a target to have 80% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and to have zero waste to landfill at 200 sites.

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