On October 15, the 2014 edition of the "Indirect Purchasing" forum, organized by Business International and sponsored by IFABER, was held in Milan.
The day served as an opportunity for discussion between professionals representing various business functions from companies of differing sizes, with diverse business models, strategies and competitive dynamics, and hosted a broad and practical exchange on the subject of Indirect Procurement Management.
The subject of the debate was the ongoing changes in the management of non-core procurement, in light of the fact that in recent years, companies have been devoting increased attention to margins and costs, requiring indirect purchase managers to marry technical, economic, financial and relational skills to manage this category of expenditure with a critical and multi-disciplinary approach.
Indeed, indirect purchases represent a strategic tool which can increase the competitiveness of a company through higher cost savings. These savings are obtained during negotiations with the supplier, but this is not the only source; "the unwavering commitment of all stakeholders in the company and the involvement of the purchasing function is absolutely crucial, right from the earliest stages during which purchasing needs are established," stated Sergio Donalisio (Global Procurement Director, Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici) during the debate.
The debate then continued, addressing an issue relating to both direct and indirect processes, namely the importance given to internal and external collaboration. Indeed, within purchasing departments, "technical skills are no longer enough; success is only achieved if we involve suppliers and internal clients in the decision-making processes, and we must also pay attention to the number of suppliers we are working with, due to the fact that innovation in procurement relies on selecting the best partners to work with", affirmed Marco La Martina (Global-Sourcing Category Manager Indirect Spend, Comer Industries). Finally, based on his professional experience, Marco La Martina noted the importance of "taking a serious approach to managing the relationship with internal clients - this relationship is dependent on us knowing how to listen, understand and govern the purchase process in the interests of all stakeholders." According to Marco La Martina, introducing innovation into the procurement process also means taking on the challenge of being able to support the supplier throughout the current economic-financial conditions, especially during these years of economic downturn. For example, reducing the supplier's payment terms creates value and ensures continuity of the goods/services purchased, because the success of the supplier is a prerequisite to the success of the buyer.
The forum ended on a discussion on the complexity of the process and how to identify and manage potential opportunities to reduce this. Maurizio Guatteo (Indirect Purchasing Manager for Decathlon) spoke on this issue, recounting his experience in a major company such as Decathlon, where a simple automated tool for booking/managing company travel was introduced with a view to streamlining processes and keeping travel costs under control. The tool has simplified the business travel booking for internal users, helping the Purchasing team to monitor travel costs in real time and ultimately ensure compliance with the limits and thresholds imposed by the company spending policy, through a fully automated process.