Why procurement pros should be proud ‘vendor defenders’

While it’s true that cost reduction, strategic sourcing and category management, among other functions, are…...

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While it’s true that cost reduction, strategic sourcing and category management, among other functions, are part of the procurement professional’s routine, a procurement professional-turned-academic urges practitioners to also become ‘vendor defenders’ in their organisations. Writing in Supply Chain Dive, Richard Weissman explains that the term arose during an acrimonious daily production meeting at the high-tech manufacturing firm where he worked as the manager of commercial purchasing. Weissman had often noticed that the meetings were prone to vilifying those not in attendance, seeking to apportion blame for delays or faults in ill-tempered ways. 

As a procurement professional, Weissman didn’t engage in these pyrotechnics, seeing his role as getting insights into forthcoming issues that could impact his department and, by extension, to represent the voiceless supplier community as part of his supply relationship management duties. In one meeting, a furious attendee paid him an unintended compliment by bellowing: “You are nothing but a vendor defender!” Weissman thanked him and smiled, happy to accept the epithet, as he believes that procurement pros have a professional obligation to represent the positions of suppliers who may appear to be underperforming, rather than to allocate blame. The aim is to fix problems, not make accusations.

While being prepared to be tough on non-performers, Weissman believes that procurement pros should point out when suppliers are being held to impossible delivery standards. Companies need to maintain realistic lead times if they want optimal enterprise resource planning (ERP) accuracy. Also, they should stand against the tendency to expedite, de-expedite, and cancel as a result of automated scheduling changes, which create havoc with suppliers’ production processes.

Finally, procurement pros should be the voice for prompt payments to suppliers, who shouldn’t be blamed for stopping shipments if they haven’t received their due. As Weissman says: “While it may be easy to blame the supplier, it is far more important to identify and fix the root cause issues, even if it makes us uncomfortable.”

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