Let’s use these opportunities to change procurement for the good

17 April 2020

Supply management professionals can be the heroes of the hour if we continue to work together and remain mindful of our suppliers, says Malcolm Harrison, CIPS group CEO.

I have never in my career known disruption on the scale that we are seeing – I suspect none of us have, nor could have, fully planned for this. The challenges we are all facing in our personal lives as well as our careers are unprecedented. I can’t imagine there are many business continuity plans that could cope with the levels of disruption we are experiencing right now. We must learn from these times and rethink the way our organisations and supply chains operate.

There are some themes I have observed in recent weeks that will change the face of procurement for the good. Change is not a bad thing and I just hope these changes do not come at too great a cost to our society.

Firstly is the collaboration we have seen. Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call to action on UK manufacturers to produce respirators, a group of automotive and aerospace firms, some of which are competitors, worked together to achieve this with the first devices rolling off the production line at the end of March. I hope that these co-petition opportunities and knowledge sharing continue.

Secondly, the innovation of organisations switching their offering to do their part. Burberry has switched from making trench coats to surgical gowns, New Balance has been using its materials from trainers to make face masks, and the endless food producers and wholesalers that have switched from supplying to restaurants and pubs, to making sure those who need it the most have adequate food.

Also, the speed at which what seems impossible becomes reality, as makeshift hospitals appear across the world. We’ve seen aeroplanes and trains adapted to transport patients to areas where hospitals have more capacity, and Babcock has designed and delivered pods to the air ambulance service that help transport coronavirus patients safely.

Another encouraging theme is how organisations are being more mindful about paying suppliers promptly - Morrison’s offering immediate payment for small suppliers and the UK Government encouraging open conversations to ensure suppliers have sufficient liquidity to ride the storm. Will this time perhaps encourage more transparency and an open-book approach to the way we manage our suppliers going forward, taking a case-by-case approach to payment terms and having an open dialogue about a solution that works for all parties?

At CIPS we are taking time to reflect on and alter how we operate. We already deliver training and events virtually for some members and customers, so we are looking at ways to upscale that functionality to support more of you.

We also want to make sure you are receiving all the latest CIPS news and guidance to help you weather this storm. Our knowledge team is working on tools to help and the SM Daily Bulletin will keep you up to speed with the latest stories from across the globe, so make sure you sign up to receive the emails. As events change at such pace, all our Covid-19 guidance, case studies and news is available through the homepage of the CIPS website.

Please reach out to your peers through our social channels. I have seen fantastic examples of our global community connecting buyers with suppliers, sharing ideas and advice. Now more than ever we need to support each other. Connect through our CIPS LinkedIn group or tag @CIPSNews on twitter to reach out for help.

My own pride in this profession has never been higher. As we see whole countries go into lockdown, we still need to ensure that essential goods and services reach those in need.

Agility and resilience are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic as we struggle with shortages, disrupted movement and suppliers not able to function. We have a critical role to play to ensure disruption is minimised. I hope to see more collaboration and market development from procurement teams going forward as we continue to be innovative and adaptive in our thinking.

These “hero moments” will be remembered for a long time. How organisations treat their employees, customers and suppliers will pay dividends in the future. Make sure your teams and organisations are remembered for the right reasons during these challenging times.

I hope you and your families keep safe and well.

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