Two-thirds of innovation at Thales comes from suppliers

Two-thirds of innovation at aerospace company Thales comes from suppliers, an event was told.

Roque Carmona, group chief procurement officer at Thales, said his team worked more closely with tier two and three suppliers on projects to ensure they were innovating and bringing value from the beginning of the process.

“We started to go up the chain and make sure we had a procurement guy on board as long as possible,” he said. “When we create a project, when we create a bid, when we create a solution… We are making sure we challenge and propose the solution to the customers.”

Speaking at the Ivalua Now 2022 conference, Carmona said 66% of innovation for Thales customers came suppliers and Thales was completely “customer-oriented.”

Carmona went on to explain how Thales’ procurement strategy had helped them during the pandemic. “What I thought was a weakness for Thales, buying too many parts instead of systems, came out as an advantage in crisis…

“We buy the small components, so we really know our supply chain down to the very low levels. So there is a very deep tier one, tier two, tier three for us. We are able to specify and control everything from the beginning. This is what made us stronger during the crisis. It’s really not what you buy but how you buy that was important to us.”

Speaking as part of a panel, Coline Pont, CPO at hospitality company Accor, said collaboration not only with suppliers but between procurement and sales teams was key.

“If we compare what the sales team knows about the customers and what the procurement function knows about the suppliers, I think there’s kind of a gap…

“I was quite surprised to discover that we need to find a way to fill this gap. Not only with our tier one, but our tier two and three suppliers.”

Wilfried Cornet, purchasing process leader at sports retailer Decathlon, said: “If you want to innovate with the product, most of the time it’s coming from the material or the component [supplier]. So this is the way we are going, is to collaborate much more with our suppliers.”

Cornet also discussed the importance of bringing production as close as possible to end customers. “Since the beginning of our story, to produce as close as we sell is in our DNA. It’s important for us to produce in China for China, India for India, Europe for Europe….

“We are working hard not to go for reshoring or nearshoring, but for rightshoring. This is key.”

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