Balancing Procurement's Biggest Priorities in the Fast Lane

No matter the industry, Sourcing Heroes need to be adept at identifying and balancing procurement’s priorities to make the biggest impact.

By Mackenzie Oakley | January 25, 2024

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In the high-octane world of hypercar manufacturing, where precision meets innovation, sourcing heroes like Robert Čačković must navigate a complex landscape of challenges and opportunities.

In a recent episode of The Sourcing Hero podcast, we spoke with Robert about his career journey from consumer goods to the fast-paced automotive industry with Croatian company Bugatti Rimac. He shared his perspective on how to successfully manage suppliers and stakeholders in highly complex sourcing environments, and how the lessons he has learned along the way are informing his MBA research into improving procurement processes in the automotive industry. 

Balancing procurement's priorities

Robert’s professional journey is a testament to adaptability and the relentless pursuit of knowledge and growth. From his early days purchasing for a Croatian meatpacking plant, where he learned to be “fast, resourceful, and proactive” in the face of volatile demand and constant delays, to his current role at the forefront of automotive innovation, Robert has navigated the a dizzying range of complexities. He has managed sheet metal processing for German carmakers, witnessed the transformation of Bugatti from startup to global player, and now he is tackling the challenges of procurement with post-secondary research.

“The greatest benefit that I got from that was actually a broader way of thinking and approach on how to do procurement because the basics of how companies are doing procurement these days are already well-known,” said Robert. “But actually collecting new ideas and implementing them in your everyday work makes a great difference.”  

Continuous learning and adaptation is key when it comes to optimizing procurement processes in a way that leads to better outcomes for the business.

Continuous learning and adaptation

These experiences, he says, inspired him to get a Master’s degree with a focus on procurement, so he can uncover new ideas and ways of doing things that will lead to optimized processes and outcomes for the business.

“Working in procurement, I like the process and how you’re always exposed to various process optimizations and constant changes … my MBA showed me that there isn’t always one right way to do something or overcome certain process bottlenecks. There are a variety of solutions that can be applied in getting the final result that you want in the end.”

Robert’s wide-range of experiences in procurement and sourcing has given him a unique perspective on the trends and challenges facing the global supply chain today. Out of all of the innovations and changes transforming procurement, AI, he says, is top of mind. 

“Currently, what interests me most is AI and its implementation in procurement,” said Robert. “I think this will certainly simplify our everyday work and make the majority of these tedious procurement tasks that we need to do daily much quicker and more functional.”

How emerging technologies like AI or large language models like ChatGPT are implemented in everyday operations, he says, “is still a question that’s open for discussion.”

Priorities for the automotive industry - and beyond

One of the ways Robert is hoping to help shape that discussion and bring value to the procurement community is through his Master’s level research project on improving procurement processes in the automotive industry. 

“One of the main drivers behind why I wanted to get some fresh optimization ideas and incorporate them into my Master’s thesis was actually to investigate what is necessary to make a process leaner and more robust,” he said. This requires a balanced approach to prioritizing cost without ignoring risk. And, mitigating risk, says Robert, is the most crucial thing procurement can do to ensure long-term ROI and a successful strategic vision for the business.

The only way that can happen is by prioritizing and building strong relationships with suppliers – a process that can certainly be supported by technology but never replaced by it.

Valuable suppliers = strategic partners

Viewing your most valuable suppliers as true strategic partners in the business is the first step, says Robert. These are the suppliers who have the greatest impact on the business or ongoing projects. In his experience, to achieve the best outcomes with these critical suppliers, procurement has to be intentional and proactive in relationship management, meeting with suppliers (even second- and third-tier) and internal stakeholders on a regular basis to align on goals, share feedback, and collaborate on ways to innovate and improve.

This approach to relationship building and stakeholder management, says Robert, is a key driver of sourcing success, particularly in fast-paced, complex environments. 

“It requires a lot of adaptability, productivity, and a wide range of managing various tasks and stakeholders simultaneously in order to then achieve the final result that you want to achieve in the end,” he said.

For more from Robert, listen to his full episode of The Sourcing Hero here:

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