De-risking F&B Procurement and Supply Chain Functions
The role of procurement is about ensuring that business operations continue like clockwork and involves understanding the current environment as well as foreseeing the potential future environments. COVID-19 has demonstrated how market changes can be challenging and the importance of reducing risk along the food and beverage supply chain. The challenge is that all businesses currently operate under the pressure of market volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Going forward, food and beverage manufacturers are likely to operate with more uncertainty and face more unexpected crises, placing an extra burden on the Procurement and Supply Chain functions.
According to a recent report Risk, Resilience and Rebalancing in Global Value Chains, “companies can now expect supply chain disruptions lasting a month or longer to occur every 3.7 years, and the most severe events take a major financial toll.” McKinsey analysts also calculated the damage associated with a severe and prolonged disruption (100 days) and used probabilities to estimate the financial impact that companies can expect over a decade. The report predicts the global food and beverage sector can, on average, expect losses equal to almost 30 per cent of one year’s profits over a decade.
To help manage the disruptions caused by the pandemic and plan for the unexpected, food and beverage manufacturers should look at a four-step strategy to de-risk procurement and supply chain functions in the wake of global vulnerabilities.
Step 1: Anticipate and plan for uncertainty
Today, the rigorous process of gathering information is being replaced with a data-driven approach. This enables real-time decision-making with businesses building AI-driven integrated data ecosystems that are underpinned by predictive analytics and can then be applied in forward planning on both strategy and performance.
Food and beverage manufacturers and distributors can also use technologies such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to accurately forecast items like demand, stock availability, supplier lead times, cost, raw ingredients and contingency stock requirements; and integrate this into their unique business model. ERP can help procurement de-risk as it provides a single integrated platform that shares all the information across all functions. This allows manufacturers to optimise inventory forecasting capabilities and improves the quality of the decision making within the organisation.
By making a direct link between supply and demand, food and beverage manufacturers and distributors can anticipate and better plan for uncertainty and ultimately improve the cash flow of the organisation.
Step 2: Embrace the limitless potential of digitalisation
With the pandemic, many manufacturers now realise the true potential of digital transformation in the procurement process.
Digitalisation can assist strategic sourcing to become more predictive, transactional procurement more automated, and supplier relationship management more proactive. Digital procurement solutions are enabling the future by providing access to previously unavailable insights or bringing order to massive (but unstructured) data sets, ultimately driving more complex analysis and better supplier strategies, enabling more efficient operations.
Step 3: Enable end-to-end supply chain visibility
World crises have resulted in procurement teams scrambling for alternative and locally based suppliers to ensure that they can still fulfil existing orders and continue to produce with new orders. End-to-end supply chain visibility is therefore a necessity to ensure procurement accuracy and resilience. Such advanced insights are needed to improve customer service, reduce costs and mitigate interruptions that will affect supplier inventory levels and product delivery. With customers demanding better service, embedded AI capabilities provide real-time intelligence, actionable insights and recommendations that reduce disruption time from days to hours, improving customer service in line with expectations.
Step 4: Focus on building a robust procurement model
There are no standard business models to help food and beverage manufacturers manage what we are currently facing. This pandemic has exposed the fragility and thin margins on which many businesses run. Highly indebted companies, working from lean inventory, supported by just-in-time supply chains, and staffed by short-term contractors are suffering the longer-term impact of market unpredictability.
Food and beverage manufacturers and distributors need to identify their own business model that will suit their business and consider how to reengineer their supply chains to reduce risk through design, factoring in increased complexity and uncertainty as to the new normal. In future, effective supply chain management will be all about agility and finding the perfect balance between just-in-time processes and just-in-case scenarios, while reducing risk as much as possible.
Global crises are an inevitable factor of life. By planning for the unknown, implementing the right technology for end-to-end supplier visibility and building a robust procurement model, food and beverage manufacturers and distributors can de-risk procurement and supply chain functions and enable resilience in an uncertain world.
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”