Procurement and supply chain during a crisis: Stronger together

April 20, 2020

If there is one thing you get used to when you work in procurement, it is that no one outside of the field has any idea what we do for a living. As a result, terminology gets thrown around where it doesn’t necessarily belong. Maybe this sounds familiar:

“Procurement?” someone might say. “Isn’t that the same as supply chain?”

“Well, sort of,” you answer patiently (for the millionth time). “But only parts of the supply chain. We’re focused on the suppliers, products and services, and contracts, but not necessarily how those products physically arrive on location. That’s the logistics part of supply chain.”

“Oh,” they reply. “So what does procurement do again?”

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the spotlight shone on supply chains. From the food supply chain to the retail supply chain to the toilet paper supply chain, people are starting to understand that it takes a lot of different organizations working together to make that chain, and if a product isn’t available, you can’t buy it.

From procurement’s perspective, recent stockouts might mean that the contract you hold in your hands (or preferably in your CLM platform) is effectively useless. The interconnectedness between supply chain and procurement is critical, especially during these unprecedented times. The very best minds in both procurement and supply chain will be needed to carry our countries and communities through the crisis.

On Wednesday, April 29th at 11 am ET/8 am PT, I’ll be joined by an all-female, powerhouse panel to talk about the different advantages procurement and supply chain bring to the table and why we are stronger together:

  • Productivity: While procurement is focused on interfacing with suppliers, and making sure a remote workforce has the supplies, platforms, and connectivity they need, our supply chain colleagues are ensuring that operational facilities can get the materials and third-party services they need to continue delivering to customers. The two come together when an existing supplier can’t deliver or a new source of supply is needed. Procurement can work to identify and pre-qualify new suppliers, while supply chain provides insight and highlights risks from the front lines.
  • Innovation: There is nothing like a crisis to bring out the creativity in an organization. When standard options are not available, procurement and supply chain need to work together to pinpoint precise requirements so that alternatives can be investigated. The results of such an effort will be vastly improved when suppliers are involved as well. Their product/service expertise and broad market knowledge offer a wealth of information. Procurement and supply chain will need to collaborate to ensure that innovative solutions work in practice as well as on paper and that in the rush to find a stopgap, undue risks are not accepted.
  • Evolution: While most of us are living day to day right now, at some point we will return to some variation of ‘normal.’ When that happens, we will have plenty of opportunities to learn from this experience and identify what worked and what didn’t—hopefully without judgment. As much as procurement and supply chain have differences, we also have a lot in common. The more we can work together, strengthening enterprise capabilities and expanding the ROI from external products and services, the better off both functions will be.

Roles in procurement and supply chain are not the same, and no pandemic is going to change that. On the other hand, we represent two sides of the same coin: procurement the selection, management, and contracting of the suppliers that physically interact with and move goods to and from our operational locations. Our supply chain colleagues can benefit from a better understanding of our processes just as we can benefit from access to their front-line perspective. Working together, we are in fact today’s most crucial coalition.

Join me along with Jill Robbins, Senior Director of Global Indirect Procurement at Elanco, and Erin McFarlane, Head of Strategy at Fairmarkit, on April 29th as we talk about the opportunities for growth and strength that will no doubt emerge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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