Imagine ordering food from a restaurant that does not have a menu. It’s difficult, right? You don’t know what it offers, and will end up ordering the same thing not knowing that other choices are available. In order to know the restaurant’s full offerings, you could ask the waiter what food choices are available. He can verbally recite a long list of food and drink items that you might not even remember. It is likely that you might not know what you want at the end of it.
I work in supply chain department and specifically in the procurement group of one of the biggest quick-service restaurants globally. In procurement, we “shop” for several items and services strategically.
In each requirement, more than ensuring we get the lowest total cost of ownership, we undertake vendor management to ensure that we build better relationships with our partners, and consequently shop more efficiently. We partner with reputable suppliers through an accreditation process.
In each “shopping” requirement, our team can search and ask suppliers if they have a certain item that we need, but enquiring from multiple suppliers could take up a lot of time and effort. Also, we might be limiting our selves to the frequent suppliers we use, even if we have an extensive list of accredited suppliers.
What if we had a “menu” containing a list of suppliers and the products and services that they offer? This “menu” could be a database, from which any employee of the company can search for an item that needs to be procured (ex. Laptop, aircon, IT hardware, creative agencies etc.). The menu would then filter the relevant suppliers that can offer the company’s specific requirement.
I worked with my team to develop a “menu” for our company which we call the “Vendor Master List.” Three concepts were vital in creating an effective vendor master list. The first is usability. When a product is usable the user can effectively, efficiently and satisfactorily perform his or her intended activity. We had an existing vendor list, but it did not have the products and services each suppliers offer; hence, it was not usable. Our team identified the information that were vital to make the tool effective, efficient and satisfactory when being used.
Since we curated the information we want to be seen, we could have just easily provided access and use the tool but we formalized the use through training. In implementing any new products or tool, it is wrong to assume users can figure it out by themselves. Training is essential to properly communicate to users the objective and functionalities of the new tool or product so that users can optimize its use. Training could also lead to future improvements, as the users are given the voice to ask questions or provide suggestions. Providing access without proper training will not guarantee effective use of the vendor master list.
Our experience proved that a business tool or technical solution can be maximized if the human elements are seriously taken into consideration. Beyond supply chain and procurement, technical solutions should serve as an enabler for organizations to connect and build relationships with other organizations.
As the CIO of Nortel would say “Companies don’t compete, Supply chains compete.” An effective and user-friendly menu does not only make the procurement process more efficient, but also improves supplier relations, ensuring that we deliver the right product to our customers at the right time. In supply chain, internal customers, end-customers, and suppliers are all partners, with whom we should build relationships to create equal opportunity for growth and success.
Karla Jayne A. Rivera is a Contracting and Procurement Manager at Golden Arches Development Corporation (McDonald’s Philippines). She will graduate from De La Salle University, with a Master of Business Administration degree in February 2020. She welcomes comments [email protected] The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.