Following one of the most difficult periods the world has encountered, with heightened health risks and disruption to our supply chains and technologies, many lessons have been learnt during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the effects remain visible today, such as further shortages of labour, a global shortage of food supply, and risks to businesses that make a tremendous difference to the daily lives of consumers around the world.
Throughout the pandemic, we saw many supply chain organisations come together to support those in need of precious resources, personal protective equipment and medical equipment, to cope with the dramatic increase in hospitalisations over the most traumatic period of the outbreak. The pandemic also put procurement in the spotlight as a fundamental function of the supply chain. But each company had its role to play, whether it involved investment in medical care and providing aid or physically delivering the goods—as they were doing so previously. Only now that restrictions ease across most countries can we see the long-lasting effects of Covid-19.
It’s time for businesses to prepare for inevitable changes. Technology has played a significant role in saving lives over the past couple of years and will continue to do so. With the digital era now upon us, it’s imperative for businesses to adopt a technological change to manage supplier relationships, mitigate risks of cyber attack, encourage seamless and lucrative procurement processes, and ensure that commerce continues in a sustainable manner.
Day one - Communications, artificial intelligence and women in technology
Many of the discussions on day one of Procurement & Supply Chain Live were centred around sustainability, improving ESG visibility and managing carbon emissions in Scopes one, two and three, while developing more efficient procurement practices.
Accelerating the digital journey
As the Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Procurement Company, Ninian Wilson has spent more than 12 years with the group, working in procurement. Wilson explained how Vodafone has benefitted from digitisation to improve the contractual process and has sparked visibility across the business. Vodafone has also noticed the importance of bringing sustainability indicators into procurement processes.
“If digitisation is the trend of our times, the second one is around sustainability. In the second half of last, we announced that we would be incorporating sustainability targets into all our tender options. Our sustainability comes under three pillars, and those are digitising society, inclusion, and the planet. If you look at a tender document from Vodafone, if it’s a high risk of health safety, it’s 10% of the tender weighting, around inclusion it’s 5% and around the planet, it’s 5%. So, around 20% of the weighting is around sustainability.”
Driving procurement change with ESG investment
Robert Copeland talks about the six areas in which he has worked to improve procurement, highlighting that organisations are capable of managing ESG practices for a minute percentage of their budgets—with G4S spending around 0.001% of its procurement budget on solutions for ESG transparency. Also, on the subject of sustainability, Copeland explains the reason behind the company’s widespread support of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) as the firm takes pride in its reliability and innovative capabilities.“SMEs are fantastic incubators of innovation. They’re agile, they’re creative,” says Copeland.
“Oftentimes they are lacking funding. But, the majority of companies we have signed up with are SMEs. They are also far more willing to work with us, far more willing to adapt and modify the systems and the tools that become relevant to us.”
Heightened work-from-home procurement risks
One of the major digital risks that procurement leaders have encountered over the past 18 months is cybersecurity. Particularly, the security of devices during the pandemic as the majority of businesses were forced to adapt to remote working. Charlotte DeBrandt, Global Head of Procurement for Amazon, provided valuable insights into potential criminal entry points, which became more exposed as workforces were dispersed.
“It has opened up doors. Everyone had to go digital over a short amount of time and not many organisations were prepared. Not many even had a risk organisation within their companies and not many even knew what to do or how to go about, especially if they didn’t have the budget available. I think it has opened up a lot of doors for criminals to enter, to try and get data in an illegal way. It has increased the creativity of criminals,” DeBrandt says.
Day two - Technology and AI applications
The second day of Procurement & Supply Chain Live was centred around technology and the implications of using artificial intelligence and machine learning in procurement. David Loseby, Chief Procurement Officer at Barkers held a talk about the fascinating topic of cognitive diversity, which is the inclusion of various working individuals who have varying styles of observation and problem-solving. Loseby illustrated that cognitive diversity within a procurement organisation is capable of reducing risk by 30% and providing 20% more innovation within teams.
Procurement decisions through digital ecosystems
Digital ecosystems can be found in most areas of business, as well as our daily lives, but there are still companies that remain very much in the manual era of working. Carl Thompson, Senior Source to Pay Presales Consultant at Medius—a sponsor of the event, brought this up as an important area of innovation, highlighting some of the key stages of digital transformation, where things can go wrong, and how these lessons can be applied to procurement and supply chain.
Before the session, Thompson spoke about the importance of face-to-face events and how in-person networking has been very beneficial. “I’ve only recently just started going to see clients on-site and have face-to-face meetings. You don’t realise until it’s gone what benefit that has,” says Thompson. “The level of engagement that you get when you see people’s eyes and responses, the body language signals that people give you, that you just miss or don’t see because people switch their cameras off or they go on mute. All those little audio queues you just miss. So for me, this is brilliant and so is going back to face-to-face.”
Global Disruption Panel
On the agenda for the Global Disruption Panel was a high-level discussion about risk and resilience in the supply chain industry. Previous speakers, David Wylie, Chief Procurement Officer at Thames Water, and Ruji Mahmud, Head of Procurement at Johnson Matthey, joined Scott Birch on stage, along with Sheldon Mydat, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Suppeco. The talk took a deep dive into the risks within the supply chain, the issues that businesses are currently faced with, and how these translate down the value chain.
To find out how to register for the Procurement & Supply Chain LIVE recording and watch the complete three-day event on-demand, go to www.supplychaindigital.com.
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