Manufacturers that plan, manage, and control their materials management and purchasing functions can significantly improve cash flow, profits, and customer satisfaction. A strategic purchasing plan can achieve these results. Establishing an effective strategic purchasing plan requires a manufacturer to undertake a five-step process of developing goals for improvement and monitoring its progress
1. Business Performance Measurement
The first step in developing a strategic purchasing plan is to establish and evaluate the company’s materials management performance measurements and identify areas of potential improvement; for example, inventory turns and payable days as they relate to measurements of cash flow.
For every purchased product or service there is an opportunity for improvement in areas such as price, quality, service, delivery, consignment, and supplier-value added. Profit improvement goals should be established to reflect what is possible and not what is easily attained. Most organizations can expect to achieve a 20 to 60 percent improvement for each performance measurement,
depending on the particular goal, the creativity utilized, and the company’s commitment. It is important that current performance levels and goals for improvement are communicated to employees. In addition, suppliers should be advised of goals that affect them. A good way to communicate these goals is to design a business performance measurement matrix
2. Organizational Strengths
Once the manufacturer has identified the areas it wants to improve, it must assess its organizational strengths to determine which assets will be needed to achieve those goals. Assets useful in strategic purchasing include material requirements planning software (MRP), business forecasting/budgeting methods, floor plans that promote timely communications, business teams, and cycle time compression.
One of the most important strengths a company has is its personnel. Every organization has employees who not only understand the need for improvement but can also convert goals into reality. Employees that can accept responsibility for project leadership and completion should be recruited to serve on cross-functional business teams that will pave the way for the rest of the company. To get all employees involved in the improvement process, a manufacturer should implement a closed-loop management system that provides feedback to employees, encourages the setting of goals, and emphasizes the measurement of progress as it is made. This system can organize, train, and mobilize all employees with a focus on improvement.
Above all, the crucial element for success in any strategic purchasing plan is management’s commitment to the process. A philosophical commitment is not enough-management must be ready to fully participate in the strategic purchasing plan. All employees will be asked to change the way they view the business and to develop a discipline of continuous improvement, and unless
management actively participates and demonstrates its commitment, that change will not occur.
3. Supplier Integration
Suppliers are the single greatest underutilized business resource. Most manufacturers fail to see suppliers as an extension of their organization and don’t share information with them. A company’s suppliers share in its success and can be willing and valuable participants in the strategic purchasing plan.
Suppliers are experts in their particular businesses and have knowledge and expertise that can be valuable to the company seeking improvement. The manufacturer should inform current suppliers of the company’s strategic purchasing plan, including the magnitude of improvement that is expected, and seek their input. It’s also a good idea to contact suppliers that might want to increase their level of business with the company and give them the opportunity to participate.
Suppliers can contribute to a manufacturer’s success in several ways:
• Assist in the forecasting of high dollar and long lead time purchases.
• supplier may commit to stocking materials
• improved on-time delivery
• reduced setup charges
• reduced transportation costs (e.g., emergency delivery)
• Identify areas of excessive specifications and other areas of high costs and provide input on lead time reduction.
• Aid in new product introduction.
• More accurate introduction lead times, estimated costs, and design/costs/specification relationships
• Reduced time-to-market cycle
4. Strategy for Improvement
After investing considerable time and effort into identifying goals and assessing its organizational strengths, a manufacturer must devise an implementation strategy that will foster the success of the strategic purchasing plan so that its efforts will not be wasted. A good method of ensuring success is to begin the improvement process with the “low hanging fruit”-that is, choose a goal that is sure to
be attained as the first step in the plan. When that goal is attained, it will gain momentum for the plan and inspire confidence among employees. It will also discredit any “doubting Thomases.”
5. Measure the Results
To ensure success, a method of measuring progress toward goals must be established. Measurement is important because it creates discipline and a routine of improvement. It identifies those teams and employees who may require help and provides an opportunity to recognize and reward achievement. To support the momentum and enthusiasm necessary for success, incremental progress should be conveyed to employees.
A successful strategic purchasing plan is the result of a business that understands the magnitude of change required, has the conviction to commit to the change process, and utilizes the tools an concepts of organized and controlled change management. As a result, the manufacturer will become financially stronger and more responsive to the market place, resulting in a larger market share.