Four Powers Of Supply Chain And Procurement Superheroes

Florian Seebauer

Summer is over and fall is settling into the northern hemisphere. The weather is getting chilly; the foliage shows gorgeous colors, and holidays featuring plenty of yummy food are coming up. Autumn is my favorite season, and it is also a great time to catch up on the latest entertainment series.

Fiction series with superhero characters are on top of my list. How are superheroes relevant to supply chains and direct procurement?

For starters, superhero powers will be needed to overcome the challenges we’re seeing in the headlines of the global news. Here are a few examples: climate change, pollution, trade wars, government corruption, political polarization, religious conflicts, the migrant crisis, and the social media crisis. I could continue, but the list would likely turn into an overexerted and unbelievable story plot.

In this blog, I will highlight some of the superpowers procurement and supply chain professionals can use to battle some of the challenges listed above – while also mitigating risk, accelerating time to market, and improving supply chain responsiveness.

Earth protection superpower

Sustainable procurement helps to ensure that the products and services a business is buying are as sustainable as possible, produced with the lowest possible impact on the environment and in the most responsible and ethical way. This effort is multiplied by leveraging a sustainable supply chain with CSR responsible suppliers.

It starts by scouting, onboarding, qualifying, and segmenting the sustainable suppliers and ensuring that the relevant certifications are available. Furthermore, the improvement potential in the supply base needs to be understood and measurable.

Additionally, the supply base needs to be proactively monitored to minimize your ongoing exposure to reputational, compliance, financial, sustainability, and operational risks.

The rubber hits the road when approved, preferred sustainable suppliers are automatically considered in sourcing, contracting, and procurement processes and receive a bonus due to their sustainable business practices.

Apple is a great example. The company has been powered by 100% renewable energy sources since April 2018 and has doubled the number of suppliers currently using 100% renewable energy for its manufacturing processes.

SAP Ariba conducted a study with Reputation Institute covering 10,000 consumers, which showed that 53% of millennials would be willing to pay more for brands that build more visibility into their purchasing practices. An impressive 80% of consumers in emerging markets would be willing to pay a premium for products from an industry that actively works to reduce its environmental footprint.

The triple bottom line

The future for business is the triple bottom line, and sustainable procurement is a superpower that can help achieve it.

Lightspeed superpower

Trade wars with rising tariffs are the new reality. This requires companies to gain fast visibility into affected products, components, suppliers, and regions. This information needs to be understood and considered in sourcing and awarding. In some cases, supply chains might need to be adjusted and new suppliers brought onboard quickly for companies to avoid additional costs and retain the first-mover advantage.

Collaboration superpower

The Avengers and the Justice League prove that a group of superheroes is stronger and more powerful than a single superhero. Likewise, companies need to compete as a global network and be able to connect and collaborate between various business partners, such as component suppliers, raw material suppliers, contract manufacturers, logistics providers, etc. They need to be able to engage early with their network in the new product design phase to find the right superpower in their supplier base and bring it into their product. Visibility across the supply chain is essential and can be achieved by sharing forecast, order, component consumption, inventory, and logistics insights.

Mind-reading superpower

Finally, visibility into experiences related to your brand, your products, and your customers is essentials for early detection and mitigation of a social media crisis. The most successful companies don’t just react to problems as they occur; they try to predict and mitigate those problems before they happen. Experience management is the process of monitoring every interaction experience with your company in order to spot opportunities for improvement.

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Florian Seebauer

About Florian Seebauer

Florian Seebauer is Senior Director of SAP Ariba Solutions for Direct Spend at SAP. Drawing on his 20-year experience in strategic sourcing, procurement, and supply chains and passion for helping organizations improve direct spend, Florian is responsible for the go-to-market strategy of SAP Ariba Strategic Sourcing Suite and SAP Ariba Supply Chain Collaboration solutions.