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DAY ONE: Opening Session — Leadership in Difficult Times: An Explosion of Ideas

Posted 05-04-2009 at 12:22 AM by 94th Annual
The 94th Annual International Supply Management Conference & Educational Exhibit began this afternoon with a Q&A panel discussion among some of supply management’s leading professionals. Moderated by Jami Coop, CPSM, C.P.M., procurement manager, labels and miscellaneous packaging, enterprise procurement for ConAgra Foods Inc., the panelists included Shelley Stewart, Jr., senior vice president of operational excellence and chief procurement officer at Tyco; Lisa Martin, C.P.M., senior vice president, worldwide procurement at Pfizer Inc.; R. David Nelson, C.P.M., A.P.P., senior partner at Fenix Group International; and Christina De Luca, chief procurement officer, refining and marketing for BP p.l.c.

The discussion focused on several questions, most notably:
• How do we manage suppliers in today’s volatile environment?
Martin explained that segmenting suppliers to identify those most critical to the business is imperative because there are not enough resources to monitor every supplier. Those resources should include proactive rather than reactive tools to better anticipate potential supplier volatility.

• How does communication play a role internally and externally?
Stewart says organizations should be soliciting ideas from their suppliers to help drive the business and eliminate cost. While prior efforts to reduce cost may not have included the supply base, everyone is experiencing economic strife and suppliers should not be overlooked for innovative ideas. The same holds true for internal customers. Seeking input and perspective from another business unit can yield valuable results.

• What advice is there for emerging supply management leaders?
Nelson advises tomorrow’s supply management leaders to develop positive internal customer relationships. Ensure that your support is communicated to the customer and the organization. Building these relationships now and maintaining them will help garner support when you most need it. It will also establish credibility that could lead to a seat at the table during major organizational decision-making.

• What resources should you consider when developing your career?
De Luca explains that supply management professionals must control their own career development. Do not rely on company training dollars as your sole source for professional growth. There are many low-cost educational opportunities available through ISM that can provide a broad range of skills development. Taking advantage of these training and educational opportunities will help differentiate you from your peers.

• Is there evidence of reverse globalization?
Stewart views it more as rationalization of the supply base. As opposed to a few years ago when companies were quickly establishing a presence in China and India, organizations today are evaluating what makes sense from an efficiency and business model perspective. This doesn’t mean companies are pulling back globally, but simply examining the supply alternatives that align with their sourcing initiative — whether that’s in the United States, China, Mexico or elsewhere.

Other comments included:
• While company culture can influence whether supply management is seated at the executive table, understanding the nature of the business and what is instrumental to the bottom line will earn your spot. Also, building business relationships enhances your credibility as does believing that we deserve a seat.

• Supplier relationships are based on shared rewards when times are good and business support when times are difficult. And always have a relationship with more than one supplier contact to ensure continuity if one person leaves the supplier relationship.

With many insightful comments from the Opening Keynote session, ISM’s 94th Annual International Supply Management Conference is off to a great start!
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