“We need an innovation process” called out my CPO the other day, keen to make sure that we don’t stop in the search for new ideas to manage the supply chain through new risks and uncertainties.
But can you design innovation and add it to the other templates and toolkits that abound for procurement teams? Responding to the challenge, I have looked at what we could do and there are plenty of ideas on how to tackle innovation.
Schedule an hour of innovation meetings into the diary every week; use an on-line suggestion scheme to get everyone involved; get people to peer review rejected ideas for supply chains to make sure ideas have not been overlooked for fear of change; tell people to think differently; talk to the suppliers and get them involved.
All of these have their good and bad points, you have to find a method that works best for you. Talking to category managers, many still come back and say that the best ideas happen in the oddest places and real innovation cannot be forced out. But it’s also true that these moments are few and far between and the business pressures for improvements ever constant.
So how can you practically address the CPO’s question?
Category managers emphasised that a culture of strong and positive cross-functional communication allowing ideas to emerge and gain currency is important. Procurement needs to make sure it participates in the process and product improvement teams. If necessary, that means setting them up for indirect areas such as MRO to get users on board.
The best ideas are worthless of course unless they can be implemented, which is where the process and toolkits will play a vital role – the ideas, especially from suppliers, need a point at which they can “plug in” to the organisation and become real.
So I’m off to make sure we have innovation processes in our Procurement Operating Model – looks like the CPO was right (for a change!)
Nick Reeks is Director, Procurement Development for Tata Steel Group, covering procurement strategy and governance for operations in Europe, India and SE Asia. Nick has worked in the steel industry for some 21 years, split 50/50 between sales and purchasing.