This story was told about a CFO, but it will serve us well as we talk about procurement this week. It seems as though a certain paper company hired a new CFO from outside our industry. Attending his first budget meeting, the annual budget was being reviewed. This is a large company, the line item for machine clothing was well over 8 digits. Pounding his fist on the table, he said, "This is outrageous. Why are we spending so much on employee uniforms?" He didn't last long.
As I said, this story was about a CFO, but it could easily have been about the purchasing or procurement departments in many mills. The folks involved are so caught up in the paperwork (real paper or the electronic kind) that they have little time to learn what they are buying. It seems like they don't know an all-thread rod from a deculator.
I agree that procurement folks need to spend time each year learning about the latest in legal, logistics and liability issues affecting their function. However, I would argue it is just as important for them to learn about what they are buying. And I don't want purchasing agents that sit in supplier presentations and act bored or spend time looking at their phones; I want them ramrod straight, taking notes and occasionally asking questions.
Purchasing could be so much more helpful if they knew the marketplace and understood current market conditions in each sector. Is your mill in an area where there are a limited number of machine shops and currently they are all busy with the refinery turnaround ten miles down the road? You shouldn't have to tell your purchasing department about this--they should be telling you and furthermore, they should have alternate shops set up at a distance and all the logistics worked out with them.
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I know I am dreaming, and, to relieve you purchasing departments from my pet peeve, I'll be quick to add that management, in nearly every case I have ever seen, understaffs the procurement function. This leaves them with no time other than to fill out the forms and get things from wherever they can the best they can.
Of course, paper machines are not supposed to break down at 3 a.m. on Sunday mornings, but they do. The hapless operations staff calls the maintenance and engineering staffs. What do they do? Get on the phones. If operations is lucky, these other two groups have home or cell phone numbers for the people who need to get out of bed and start the wheels turning to get the machine back online. Often they don't. To my way of thinking, this should not be the maintenance or engineering functions' responsibilities--procurement should have this covered.
Further, in my dream world of the ideal paper mill, way in advance the procurement department would come to operations, maintenance and engineering and ask the question--what can go wrong at 3 a.m. Sunday morning? Then armed with this data, they would already have all the likely helpful candidates lined up, a phone call or a text away. In my 49 years' experience, I have never seen this happen.
Perhaps your mill and its enlightened leadership can lead the way. If I can help, please let me know. You have plenty of ways to reach me if you have been paying attention.
For safety this week, we know how to reach health and safety resources 24/7. Or at least we should. You just might want to set your alarm for 3 a.m. Sunday morning and test them out.
Be safe and we will talk next week.