global sourcing and procurement

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  • Why is it important for firms to focus on global procurement and sourcing?
  • What are ways firms can be more efficient through improved global procurement and sourcing?
  • How should firms go about making the decision whether or not to outsource?

Jacobs, F.R. & Chase, R.B. (2014). Operations and supply chain management (14th ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Explain what strategic sourcing is.


Strategic sourcing is the development and management of supplier relationships to acquire goods and services in a way that aids in achieving the needs of the business. In the past the term sourcing was just another term for purchasing, a corporate function that financially was important but strategically was not the center of attention. Today, as a result of globalization and inexpensive communications technology, the basis for competition is changing. A firm is no longer constrained by the capabilities it owns; what matters is its ability to make the most of available capabilities, whether they are owned by the firm or not. Outsourcing is so sophisticated that even core functions such as engineering, research and development, manufacturing, information technology, and marketing can be moved outside the firm.

Strategic sourcing

The development and management of supplier relationships to acquire goods and services in a way that aids in achieving the needs of a business.

Sourcing activities can vary greatly and depend on the item being purchased. Exhibit 16.1 maps different processes for sourcing or purchasing an item. The term sourcing implies a more complex process suitable for products that are strategically important. Purchasing processes that span from a simple “spot” or one-time purchase to a long-term strategic alliance are depicted on the diagram. The diagram positions a purchasing process according to the specificity of the item, contract duration, and intensity of transaction costs.



exhibit 16.1 The Sourcing/Purchasing Design Matrix



Specificity refers to how common the item is and, in a relative sense, how many substitutes might be available. For example, blank DVD disks are commonly available from many different vendors and would have low specificity. A custom-made envelope that is padded and specially shaped to contain a specific item that is to be shipped would be an example of a high-specificity item.

Commonly available products can be purchased using a relatively simple process. For low-volume and inexpensive items purchased during the regular routine of work, a firm may order from an online catalog. Often, these online catalogs are customized for a customer. Special user identifications can be set up to authorize a customer’s employees to purchase certain groups of items with limits on how much they can spend. Other items require a more complex process.

A request for proposal (RFP) is commonly used for purchasing items that are more complex or expensive and where there may be a number of potential vendors. A detailed information packet describing what is to be purchased is prepared and distributed to potential vendors. The vendor then responds with a detailed proposal of how the company intends to meet the terms of the RFP. A request for bid or reverse auction is similar in terms of the information packet needed. A major difference is how the bid price is negotiated. In the RFP, the bid is included in the proposal, whereas in a request for bid or reverse auction, vendors actually bid on the item in real time and often using Internet software.

Vendor managed inventory is when a customer actually allows the supplier to manage the inventory policy of an item or group of items for them. In this case the supplier is given the freedom to replenish the item as it sees fit. Typically, there are some constraints related to the maximum that the customer is willing to carry, required service levels, and other billing transaction processes. Selecting the proper process depends on minimizing the balance between the supplier’s delivered costs of the item over a period of time, say a year, and the customer’s costs of managing the inventory. This is discussed later in the chapter in the context of the “total cost of ownership” for a purchased item.

Vendor managed inventory

When a customer allows the supplier to manage the inventory policy of an item or group of items.



The Bull whip Effect

Marshall Fisher1 argues that in many cases there are adversarial relations between supply chain partners as well as dysfunctional industry practices such as a reliance on price promotions. Consider the common food industry practice of offering price promotions every January on a product. Retailers respond to the price cut by stocking up, in some cases buying a year’s supply—a practice the industry calls forward buying. Nobody wins in the deal. Retailers have to pay to carry the year’s supply, and the shipment bulge adds cost throughout the supplier’s system. For example, the supplier’s plants must go on overtime starting in October to meet the bulge. Even the vendors that supply the manufacturing plants are affected because they must quickly react to the large surge in raw material requirements.

The impact of these types of practices has been studied at companies such as Procter & Gamble. Exhibit 16.2 shows typical order patterns faced by each node in a supply chain that consists of a manufacturer, a distributor, a wholesaler, and a retailer. In this case, the demand is for disposable baby diapers. The retailer’s orders to the wholesaler display greater variability than the end-consumer sales; the wholesaler’s orders to the manufacturer show even more oscillations; and, finally, the manufacturer’s orders to its suppliers are the most volatile. This phenomenon of variability magnification as we move from the customer to the producer in the supply chain is often referred to as the bullwhip effect. The effect indicates a lack of

Bullwhip effect

The variability in demand is magnified as we move from the customer to the producer in the supply chain.


synchronization among supply chain members. Even a slight change in consumer sales ripples backward in the form of magnified oscillations upstream, resembling the result of a flick of a bullwhip handle. Because the supply patterns do not match the demand patterns, inventory accumulates at various stages, and shortages and delays occur at others. This bullwhip effect has been observed by many firms in numerous industries, including Campbell Soup and Procter & Gamble in consumer products; Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Motorola in electronics; General Motors in automobiles; and Eli Lilly in pharmaceuticals.

images KEY IDEA

Any practice that smooths the flow of material to the customer helps manufacturing and reduces inventory..

Campbell Soup has a program called continuous replenishment that typifies what many manufacturers are doing to smooth the flow of materials through their supply chain. Here is how the program works. Campbell establishes electronic data interchange (EDI) links with retailers and offers an “everyday low price” that eliminates discounts. Every morning, retailers electronically inform the company of their demand for all Campbell products and of the level of inventories in their distribution centers. Campbell uses that information to forecast future demand and to determine which products require replenishment based on upper and lower inventory limits previously established with each supplier. Trucks leave the Campbell shipping plant that afternoon and arrive at the retailers’ distribution centers with the required replenishments the same day. Using this system, Campbell can cut the retailers’ inventories, which under the old system averaged four weeks of supply, to about two weeks of supply.

This solves some problems for Campbell Soup, but what are the advantages for the retailer? Most retailers figure that the cost to carry the inventory of a given product for a year equals at least 25 percent of what they paid for the product. A two-week inventory reduction represents a cost savings equal to nearly 1 percent of sales. The average retailer’s profits equal about 2 percent of sales, so this saving is enough to increase profits by 50 percent. Because the retailer makes more money on Campbell products delivered through continuous replenishment, it has an incentive to carry a broader line of them and to give them more shelf space. Campbell Soup found that after it introduced the program, sales of its products grew twice as fast through participating retailers as they did through other retailers.

exhibit 16.2 Increasing Variability of Orders Up the Supply Chain





Supply Chain Uncertainty Framework

Fisher has developed a framework to help managers understand the nature of demand for their products and then devise the supply chain that can best satisfy that demand. Many aspects of a product’s demand are important—for example, product life cycle, demand predictability, product variety, and market standards for lead times and service. Fisher has found that products can be categorized as either primarily functional or primarily innovative. Because each category requires a distinctly different kind of supply chain, the root cause of supply chain problems is a mismatch between the type of product and type of supply chain.

Functional products include the staples that people buy in a wide range of retail outlets, such as grocery stores and gas stations. Because such products satisfy basic needs, which do not change much over time, they have stable, predictable demand and long life cycles. But their stability invites competition, which often leads to low profit margins. Specific criteria suggested by Fisher for identifying functional products include the following: product life cycle of more than two years, contribution margin of 5 to 20 percent, only 10 to 20 product variations, an average forecast error at time of production of only 10 percent, and a lead time for make-to-order products of six months to one year.

Functional products

Staples that people buy in a wide range of retail outlets, such as grocery stores and gas stations.

To avoid low margins, many companies introduce innovations in fashion or technology to give customers an additional reason to buy their products. Fashionable clothes and personal computers are good examples. Although innovation can enable a company to achieve higher profit margins, the very newness of the innovative products makes demand for them unpredictable. These innovative products typically have a life cycle of just a few months. Imitators quickly erode the competitive advantage that innovative products enjoy, and companies are forced to introduce a steady stream of newer innovations. The short life cycles and the great variety typical of these products further increase unpredictability. Exhibit 16.3 summarizes the differences between functional and innovative products.

Innovative products

Products such as fashionable clothes and personal computers that typically have a life cycle of just a few months.

Hau Lee2 expands on Fisher’s ideas by focusing on the “supply” side of the supply chain. While Fisher has captured important demand characteristics, Lee points out that there are uncertainties revolving around the supply side that are equally important drivers for the right supply chain strategy.

exhibit 16.3 Demand and Supply Uncertainty Characteristics


Lee defines a stable supply process as one where the manufacturing process and the underlying technology are mature and the supply base is well established. In contrast, an evolving supply process is where the manufacturing process and the underlying technology are still under early development and are rapidly changing. As a result the supply base may be limited in both size and experience. In a stable supply process, manufacturing complexity tends to be low or manageable. Stable manufacturing processes tend to be highly automated, and


long-term supply contracts are prevalent. In an evolving supply process, the manufacturing process requires a lot of fine-tuning and is often subject to breakdowns and uncertain yields.

exhibit 16.4 Hau Lee’s Uncertainty Framework—Examples and Types of Supply Chain Needed


images KEY IDEA

Supply and demand uncertainly drive the design of a supply chain.

The supply base may not be reliable, as the suppliers themselves are going through process innovations. Exhibit 16.3 summarizes some of the differences between stable and evolving supply processes.

Lee argues that while functional products tend to have a more mature and stable supply process, that is not always the case. For example, the annual demand for electricity and other utility products in a locality tends to be stable and predictable, but the supply of hydroelectric power, which relies on rainfall in a region, can be erratic year by year. Some food products also have a very stable demand, but the supply (both quantity and quality) of the products depends on yearly weather conditions. Similarly, there are also innovative products with a stable supply process. Fashion apparel products have a short selling season and their demand is highly unpredictable. However, the supply process is very stable, with a reliable supply base and a mature manufacturing process technology. Exhibit 16.4 gives some examples of products that have different demand and supply uncertainties.

According to Lee, it is more challenging to operate a supply chain that is in the right column of Exhibit 16.4 than in the left column, and similarly it is more challenging to operate a supply chain that is in the lower row of Exhibit 16.4 than in the upper row. Before setting up a supply chain strategy, it is necessary to understand the sources of the underlying uncertainties and explore ways to reduce these uncertainties. If it is possible to move the uncertainty characteristics of the product from the right column to the left or from the lower row to the upper, then the supply chain performance will improve.

Lee characterizes four types of supply chain strategies as shown in Exhibit 16.4. Information technologies play an important role in shaping such strategies.

•Efficient supply chains. These are supply chains that utilize strategies aimed at creating the highest levels of cost efficiency. For such efficiencies to be achieved, non–value added activities should be eliminated, scale economies should be pursued, optimization techniques should be deployed to get the best capacity utilization in production and distribution, and information linkages should be established to ensure the most efficient, accurate, and cost-effective transmission of information across the supply chain.

•Risk-hedging supply chains. These are supply chains that utilize strategies aimed at pooling and sharing resources in a supply chain so that the risks in supply disruption can be shared. A single entity in a supply chain can be vulnerable to supply disruptions, but if there is more than one supply source or if alternative supply resources are available, then the risk of disruption is reduced. A company may, for example, increase the safety stock of its key component to hedge against the risk of supply disruption, and by sharing the safety stock with other companies that also need this key component, the cost of maintaining this safety stock can be shared. This type of strategy is common in retailing, where different retail stores or dealerships share inventory. Information technology is important for the success of these strategies since real-time information on Low(Functional Products) High (Innovative Products)


inventory and demand allows the most cost- effective management and transshipment of goods between partners sharing the inventory.

•Responsive supply chains. These are supply chains that utilize strategies aimed at being responsive and flexible to the changing and diverse needs of the customers. To be responsive, companies use build-to-order and mass customization processes as a means to meet the specific requirements of customers.

•Agile supply chains. These are supply chains that utilize strategies aimed at being responsive and flexible to customer needs, while the risks of supply shortages or disruptions are hedged by pooling inventory and other capacity resources. These supply chains essentially have strategies in place that combine the strengths of “hedged” and “responsive” supply chains. They are agile because they have the ability to be responsive to the changing, diverse, and unpredictable demands of customers on the front end, while minimizing the backend risks of supply disruptions.

Demand and supply uncertainty is a good framework for understanding supply chain strategy. Innovative products with unpredictable demand and an evolving supply process face a major challenge. Because of shorter and shorter product life cycles, the pressure for dynamically adjusting and adopting a company’s supply chain strategy is great. In the following section, we explore the concepts of outsourcing, green sourcing, and total cost of ownership. These are important tools for coping with demand and supply uncertainty.


Explain why companies outsource processes.


Outsourcing is the act of moving some of a firm’s internal activities and decision responsibility to outside providers. The terms of the agreement are established in a contract. Outsourcing goes beyond the more common purchasing and consulting contracts because not only are the activities transferred, but also resources that make the activities occur, including people, facilities, equipment, technology, and other assets, are transferred. The responsibilities for making decisions over certain elements of the activities are transferred as well. Taking complete responsibility for this is a specialty of contract manufacturers such as Flextronics.3


Moving some of a firm’s internal activities and decision responsibility to outside providers.



exhibit 16.5 Reasons to Outsource and the Resulting Benefits


The reasons why a company decides to outsource can vary greatly. Exhibit 16.5 lists examples of reasons to outsource and the accompanying benefits. Outsourcing allows a firm to focus on activities that represent its core competencies. Thus, the company can create a competitive advantage while reducing cost. An entire function may be outsourced, or some


elements of an activity may be outsourced, with the rest kept in-house. For example, some of the elements of information technology may be strategic, some may be critical, and some may be performed less expensively by a third party. Identifying a function as a potential outsourcing target, and then breaking that function into its components, allows decision makers to determine which activities are strategic or critical and should remain in-house and which can be outsourced like commodities. As an example, outsourcing the logistics function will be discussed.

Logistics Outsourcing

There has been dramatic growth in outsourcing in the logistics area. Logistics is a term that refers to the management functions that support the complete cycle of material flow: from the purchase and internal control of production materials; to the planning and control of work-in-process; to the purchasing, shipping, and distribution of the finished product. The emphasis on lean inventory means there is less room for error in deliveries. Trucking companies such as Ryder have started adding the logistics aspect to their businesses—changing from merely moving goods from point A to point B, to managing all or part of all shipments over a longer period, typically three years, and replacing the shipper’s employees with their own. Logistics companies now have complex computer tracking technology that reduces the risk in transportation and allows the logistics company to add more value to the firm than it could if the function were performed in-house. Third-party logistics providers track freight using electronic data interchange technology and a satellite system to tell customers exactly where its drivers are and when deliveries will be made. Such technology is critical in some environments where the delivery window may be only 30 minutes long.


Management functions that support the complete cycle of material flow: from the purchase and internal control of production materials; to the planning and control of work-in-process; to the purchasing, shipping, and distribution of the finished product.

FedEx has one of the most advanced systems available for tracking items being sent through its services. The system is available to all customers over the Internet. It tells the exact status of each item currently being carried by the company. Information on the exact time a package is picked up, when it is transferred between hubs in the company’s network, and when it is delivered is available on the system. You can access this system at the FedEx website ( Select your country on the initial screen and then select “Track Shipments” in the Track box in the lower part of the page. Of course, you will need the actual tracking number for an item currently in the system to get information. FedEx has integrated its tracking system with many of its customers’ in-house information systems.

Another example of innovative outsourcing in logistics involves Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett- Packard turned over its inbound raw materials warehousing in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Roadway Logistics. Roadway’s 140 employees operate the warehouse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, coordinating the delivery of parts to the warehouse and managing storage. Hewlett-Packard’s 250 employees were transferred to other company activities. Hewlett- Packard reports savings of 10 percent in warehousing operating costs.

One of the drawbacks to outsourcing is the layoffs that often result. Even in cases where the outsourcing partner hires former employees, they are often hired back at lower wages with fewer benefits. Outsourcing is perceived by many unions as an effort to circumvent union contracts.



Framework for Supplier Relationships

In theory, outsourcing is a no-brainer. Companies can unload noncore activities, shed balance sheet assets, and boost their return on capital by using third-party service providers. But in reality, things are more complicated. “It’s really hard to figure out what’s core and what’s noncore today,” says Jane Linder, senior research fellow and associate director of Accenture’s Institute for Strategic Change in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “When you take another look tomorrow, things may have changed. On September 9, 2001, airport security workers were noncore; on September 12, 2001, they were core to the federal government’s ability to provide security to the nation. It happens every day in companies as well.”4

Exhibit 16.6 is a useful framework to help managers make appropriate choices for the structure of supplier relationships. The decision goes beyond the notion that “core competencies” should be maintained under the direct control of management of the firm and that other


activities should be outsourced. In this framework, a continuum that ranges from vertical integration to arm’s-length relationships forms the basis for the decision.

exhibit 16.6 A Framework for Structuring Supplier Relationships


Source: Robert Hayes, Gary Pisano, David Upton, and Steven Wheelwright, Operations Strategy and Technology: Pursuing the Competitive Edge (New

An activity can be evaluated using the following characteristics: required coordination, strategic control, and intellectual property. Required coordination refers to how difficult it is to ensure that the activity will integrate well with the overall process. Uncertain activities that require much back-and-forth exchange of information should not be outsourced whereas activities that are well understood and highly standardized can easily move to business partners who specialize in the activity. Strategic control refers to the degree of loss that would be incurred if the relationship with the partner were severed. There could be many types of losses that would be important to consider including specialized facilities, knowledge of major customer relationships, and investment in research and development. A final consideration is the potential loss of intellectual property through the partnership.

images KEY IDEA

Companies usually outsource standard activities when they are not part of the “core competency” of the firm..

Intel is an excellent example of a company that recognized the importance of this type of decision framework in the mid-1980s. During the early 1980s, Intel found itself being squeezed out of the market for the memory chips that it had invented by Japanese competitors such as Hitachi, Fujitsu, and NEC. These companies had developed stronger capabilities to develop and rapidly scale up complex semiconductor manufacturing processes. It was clear by 1985 that a major Intel competency was its ability to design complex integrated circuits, not in manufacturing or developing processes for more standardized chips. As a result, faced with growing financial losses, Intel was forced to exit the memory chip market.

Learning a lesson from the memory market, Intel shifted its focus to the market for microprocessors, which it had invented in the late 1960s. To keep from repeating the mistake with memory chips, Intel felt it was essential to develop strong capabilities in process development and manufacturing. A pure “core competency” strategy would have suggested that Intel focus on the design of microprocessors and use outside partners to manufacture them. Given the close connection between semiconductor product development and process development, however, relying on outside parties for manufacturing would likely have created costs in terms of longer development lead times. Over the late-1980s Intel invested heavily in building world-class capabilities in process development and manufacturing. These capabilities are one of the chief reasons it has been able to maintain approximately 90 percent of the personal computer microprocessor market, despite the ability of competitors like AMD to “clone” Intel designs relatively quickly. Expanding its capabilities beyond its original core capability of product design has been a critical ingredient in Intel’s sustained success.



Capability Sourcing at 7-Eleven

The term capability sourcing was coined to refer to the way companies focus on the things they do best and outsource other functions to key partners. The idea is that owning capabilities may not be as important as having control of those capabilities. This allows many additional capabilities to be outsourced. Companies are under intense pressure to improve revenue and margins because of increased competition. An area where this has been particularly intense is the convenience store industry, where 7-Eleven is a major player.

Before 1991, 7-Eleven was one of the most vertically integrated convenience store chains. When it is vertically integrated, a firm controls most of the activities in its supply chain. In the case of 7-Eleven, the firm owned its

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