The Challenging State of Procurement & Supply Chain

By Mackenzie Oakley | September 8, 2022

After a nearly two-year hiatus, conferences and in-person events are starting to take place in the procurement and supply chain industries. There may even be a tinge of urgency in the air as professionals make their way to these events to nurture personal relationships, take part in meaningful discussions, and get down to business.

At the same time, procurement and supply chain folks are dealing with a very unique set of circumstances impacting the industries. In a recent episode of The Sourcing Hero podcast, Kelly Barner sat down with Fairmarkit’s Tarek Alaruri and Greg Tennyson to discuss the current state of procurement and supply chain, and how we can circumvent the challenges we’re facing.

The current state of procurement and supply chain

Along with the excitement of in-person meetings and conferences is the feeling of, ‘Well, what do I do now?’ amongst sourcing professionals as certain challenges are making supply chain a particularly interesting place to be these days. These include:
  • Certain retailers are dealing with an over-supply with too much inventory on their shelves
  • Demand for oil and gas keeps rising, with limited production
  • Record inflation numbers
  • The Great Resignation
All of these factors working together have produced an environment that many within the procurement and supply chain fields have never experienced before. It’s forcing people to pause and figure out what their next steps will be.

How to navigate procurement and supply chain callenges

In episode 76, Alaruri and Tennyson both offer up great suggestions as to how to navigate the current state of procurement and supply chain.

Be innovative

According to Alaruri, how your team thinks and behaves is key to working through current challenges. A single leader can only focus on so much so it’s up to them to encourage their teams to be innovative.

“You have to have people that are thinking in a very regionally-specific area of how you handle these challenges and how are they suited to the challenges because the challenge in Germany is going to be very different than a challenge in North America,” he says.

“Organizations are having to figure out how to adjust [to] this as well. A large part of manufacturing and supply from China is on and off lines with their zero-COVID policies. You’re seeing first-hand people having to adopt not only new ways of manufacturing, new ways of logistics and importing, and then also some companies like Peloton that have way too many bikes and are dealing with the bullwhip effect.

Reexamine company processes and policies

Alaruri suggests looking at company processes and assessing whether or not they still “work” for your business in today’s environment. Ask about engaging the C-suite to make the necessary changes, and figure out what tools you need to implement (software, other technology, etc.) to be successful.

Stay informed

There are many different ways to get our information these days and staying educated is crucial – but be weary of information overload at the same time.

“I listen to podcasts. I try to read news. I set up a lot of Google Alerts. That’s everything at a macro level,” says Alaruri. “Then I try to always stay in tune to a lot of our customers’ businesses – whether it’s Walgreen’s, AT&T – you name it. I’m always trying to stay close to how they’re operating and how they’re trying to seek improvements.”

Tennyson advises that how you consume information needs to match your learning style. Reading and listening to a podcast are great options, but you may also find the best information in uncommon places.  

“Believe it or not,” Tennyson says, “I attend conferences and the hallway conversations at a conference are the best source of information. Talking to your peers, understanding what their challenges are, and how they’re confront them.”

Challenges bring out the best

Despite the challenges the world is facing, Alaruri celebrates the fact that we’re getting better at what we do. “The way we operate as a business, the way we manage people, the way we incorporate diversity of thought, diversity of cultures into our business, it’s just getting better and better,” he says.

“I see people that encompass that sourcing heroism – not only in the work that they do, but the work outside. For me, it’s a really positive thing that excites me every day when I go to work.”

For more insight, listen to the full episode here:

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