Enable supply chain networks to bring in innovation

posted by Katie Jacobs
27 June 2018

Procurement professionals should focus on enabling connections and building networks within their supply chains in order to maximise innovation, according to the procurement lead at Dubai’s Expo 2020.

Richard McGuire, vice president – procurement at Expo 2020, was speaking at the CIPS Middle East Conference in Dubai.

Expo 2020 is an exhibition that will showcase cutting-edge innovations from around the globe in a 1,083-acre site that is currently under construction in the desert between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

It has also launched an innovation programme, Expo Live, to fund and accelerate projects that improve lives. With a $100m budget, McGuire said Expo Live has already funded 70 projects in 42 countries, giving people up to $100,000 to develop their ideas.

McGuire revealed that Expo 2020 had recently launched a beta platform that enables companies throughout its supply chain to talk to each other and bid for work, not only with Expo 2020, but also with each other, by posting opportunities. The platform will be formally launched later this year.

He said while traditional ERP solutions tended to be “one-way trade platforms”, this platform aimed to create networks of companies who could then collaborate, leading to more innovation.

“It’s trying to unlock things and enable businesses to connect with each other, spot opportunities, post opportunities and network,” he said. “A connected, networked supply chain can really contribute to enhancing growth. The real challenge is about connecting your supply chain to deliver opportunities and introducing businesses to each other.”

The procurement team also offers a “business concierge” service, connecting individual suppliers to each other.

“Innovation is out there; the challenge is how to identify it, drive it into the business and deliver innovation,” McGuire said. “Where should we look for it? How do we make our business visible to the innovators? We have the opportunity to be a shop front for innovation, but it doesn't just happen. We have to research and find those innovations. They don’t always come looking for us.”

He added that procurement should act as a broker between the outside world and the business, rather than aiming to deliver the innovation. “Procurement might not be the right people to deliver the innovation – other colleagues might be better placed to carry it forward in the business,” he said.

“Procurement is sometimes an enabler rather than a driver. We are in a unique position to act as an interface between the supply chain and the business. We are strategically placed to bring ideas in.”

When bringing ideas in, there needs to be process in place for developing them, he advised. “Innovation will go nowhere without a robust implementation plan, and allow for road blocks along the way.”

There must also be metrics for measuring success, beyond the financial. “Take a rounded approach, with different benefits beyond profit,” McGuire said, adding that a focus on the triple bottom line of people, profit and planet was crucial.

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