Get to the coal face, says NATS supply chain chief

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
9 February 2018

Understanding all aspects of the business is crucial to making a success of your procurement career, a CIPS event was told.

Tim Bullock, supply chain director at air traffic management provider NATS, said it was important to get to the “coal face”, giving an example of how he washed out buses in a previous role at Stagecoach.

“If you haven’t mopped out buses on a Saturday night in Newcastle as a graduate trainee, how do you understand what a business is all about?” he said.

“You may be part of a procurement function but you are part of a business. If you can’t talk to that business it doesn’t matter how good your procurement professionalism is.”

Speaking at a CIPS Best in Procurement event, he added: “Learn what it’s like to be at the coal face.”

Bullock said NATS had an external spend of £250m and delivered savings of £14.9m in 2017-18. The organisation has 1,200 suppliers, with 80% of spend with 20 suppliers.

He gave the example of the computer screens used in control centres, which each cost £12,000. “There are generally 400 of these in a control centre,” he said. “Think how much you could save if you replaced that with a standard screen for £800.”

Bullock, who took NATS from CIPS gold standard to platinum, said any transformation depended on high-level backing.

“You can’t do these transformations because you think it’s right,” he said. “You have to do it with the backing of the business leadership and it’s what the business needs.”

Bullock said you are “only as good as your last trick” and it was important to earn your place at the top table by reducing focus on short-term savings and putting “more focus on outcomes and business value”.

“What’s important to your business, and how are you going to support and extend the supply chain to support it?” he said.

Bullock’s work earned him CIPS Procurement and Supply Chain Professional of the Year in the SM Awards. Entries for 2018 are now open.

“I am passionate about collaboration and how you drive relationships,” he said. “It has been an important part of our journey.”

 Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.

CIPS Knowledge
Find out more with CIPS Knowledge:
  • best practice insights
  • guidance
  • tools and templates