Innovation In Resilient Supplier Networks

Driving resiliency through action

David Cain

Day two of Innovation: In virtual event carried over the momentum from day one of the event with a variety of great speakers who touched on several important themes pertaining to procurement’s role in establishing resilience.

While we are all aware of the importance of resiliency, there can be some ambiguity as to how that concept can be translated in to plans and actions that truly strengthen supply chains and de-risk supply; those real-world actions and plans were the focal point for the speakers on day two. While there were numerous themes that came out of today’s sessions, I will focus on three takeaways that illustrate how teams can act towards being more resilient.

Strong, empathetic leadership is a must-have element

The strength of those in leadership will always be recognized as a key component of why organizations succeed, but sometimes, especially in times of crisis, strength can only get you so far. Employees want leaders who can show the necessary qualities to lead, but they also want leaders who they can relate to and they feel understand them as people as well as employees.

We opened the day with Marcos Eloi Lima, CPO at Kraft Heinz, discussing the topic of empathetic leadership and the role it has played in keeping morale high among employees at his organization. “We need to understand the key pain points our teams are facing and we need to embrace it. With the pressure of this virtual world, we have to have some time and create some time to listen to each other and address things other than work on a daily basis. Having fun with the team has been very important because we don’t have the coffee chats in the hall anymore.

While organizations look for new ways to build resilience into their supply base, they cannot neglect the most important asset they have: their people. There are a multitude of other factors to consider, but there will be no success in this area that comes without the support and determination of the people who power the organization.

The need for collaboration

Building a resilient procurement function cannot happen in a vacuum. Supplier collaborations (as well as collaborations with internal partners) are very important especially when it comes to providing insights and solutions on the journey to resilience. Many of the speakers on Day two recognized how important these relationships are and spoke about the approaches they are taking to ensure that collaborations get off on the right foot and accomplish the desired goals.

Graham Scott, VP Procurement at Jabil, said “Without supply partners we can’t build our products, so they are a core ingredient to the success of Jabil. We realized we needed to invest in those relationships to create positive mutual outcomes…We try to understand their objectives what is driving them and what is driving their team.

This recognition that supplier relationships need to be mutually beneficial is very important because if your suppliers are not working with you on a path toward supply chain resiliency then those plans are never going to become reality. As Scott explained “They (suppliers) understood what we were trying to accomplish and that there would be a benefit for them. I think over time they really began to understand that we are trying to grow this relationship and find a way to drive mutual success.

Pushing the boundaries

Several speakers on day 2 referenced ways that their organizations were looking to take their lessons learned from 2020 and build them into their plans for 2021 and beyond. The past 15 months have been tough on all aspects of business, but procurement has by and large taken these challenges as opportunities to show their full spectrum of capabilities towards resilience and other areas while also keeping their focus on how they can develop beyond todays needs to prepare for tomorrows challenges. James Tornos, Senior Director Global Procurement at Pfizer, told us “We are still very much in the learning phase and trying to take those learnings and apply them in other areas”. That kind of thinking has proven to be widespread as teams look to grow their influence inside their organizations to raise the profile of procurement.

While the events of 2020 have proved to be a driver of resilience planning, the approaches and execution of 2021 will prove whether the function has learned the right lessons or if we face a long and rocky road towards truly providing the assurance that businesses need.

I will close with a quote that I think sums up the tone of the day from Bindiya Vakil, CEO at Resilinc, “Challenge yourself to do more and I think that will be my theme for today. We’ve put risk and resilience on the back burner as a nice to have, but there is a way to do more because we’re not in the business of risk management; we’re in the business of assurance.

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