Monday, June 15, 2009

Bo Knew

Bo Andersson's departure from GM last Friday may have had more to do with a shortage of what we procurement nerds call "addressable spend" than a shortage of bright ideas. The auto maker's former procurement head would have shouldered much of the responsibility for turning GM into a profitable operation post-Chapter 11 and with fewer tools at his disposal than MacGyver on a bad day Bo may have realized the impossibility of his task. Let's look at the numbers based on GM's 2008 financials and you'll feel Bo's pain:

Firstly, Andersson would have had two spend bases to work with to create the savings necessary to return GM's operating income to positive territory - purchased content in Cost of Goods Sold and indirect spend in SG&A. Let's do some super-rough calcs to figure out how much Bo would have had to work his magic on:

Cost of Goods = $150.6B, so assuming about 70% purchased content this corresponds to a direct materials spend of about $106B

SG&A = $14.2B, and assuming about 70% of the SG&A is indirect spend with only half of this being addressable results in an addressable indirect spend of about $5B

So let's say total spend under Andersson's management would have been in the range of $110B. How much savings could he have theoretically extracted from this total spend base? Well if he did really well and got 8% in direct and 15% in indirect that would be a total savings of $8B in direct and $1B for a total of $9B savings.

Well that's pretty good, right? The $8B savings in direct would wipe out GM's 2008 negative gross profit of $1.4B and contribute greatly towards reducing SG&A (together with non-purchasing savings) and helping achieve at least positive EBITDA if not quite positive net income.

Ah, but wait..... there's just one little matter. In reality Andersson would NOT have had the full $106B of direct materials to work with. Why? Because the restrictions placed on him under the Chapter 11 operating model now agreed between the UAW and the Obama Administration would have prevented Andersson from being able to execute the full range of potential sourcing strategies he would need to capture 8% savings over the complete direct spend base. This operating model requires UAW approval of sourcing decisions that would impact %outsourced assembly, %domestic vs. %off-shore content, and other various criteria. Net net, a whole range of world-class sourcing strategies that would have given Bo a fair shot at delivering game-changing cost savings to GM were stolen from his toolkit.

In reality the genuinely addressable direct spend base that Andersson would have had to work with would have been, oh, maybe 25% of the $106B. I'm just guessing here, and might still be on the high side. This is the part of GM's direct materials spend that for whatever reason has been able to enjoy the benefits of global sourcing, major sub-assembly outsourcing and other best practice supply strategies. And guess what, his ability to extract incremental savings in this spend areas would almost certainly be LESS since, by definition, many best practices are already in place. Realistically he would have achieved a maximum of about 5% further savings on this 25% of the total spend, or only about $1B. Hardly enough to erase GM's 2008 negative gross profit.

If there's a motto here (and of course there is) it's that.....ultimately.....a procurement team can only be as good as the addressable spend they are allowed to have and the levers they are allowed to pull. Otherwise even the world's most talented sourcing and procurement professionals will feel like white water rafters approaching the falls with only teaspoons in their hands for paddles.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pick Your Battles, My Young Sourcerer!

Andrew Tsang recently started an excellent discussion "Aligning Ad Agency and Procurement Incentives" over on LinkedIn in the Strategic Sourcing & Procurement Group. Andrew proposes that advertising is a high potential area for creating value through strategic sourcing if marketing and procurement could find a way to reconcile their apparently opposing objectives around cost reduction and revenue enhancement. I absolutely agree with Andrew.

Having provided strategic sourcing services to several clients in the marketing category I'd say one of my personal lessons learned is that there are good places and bad places to start when approaching this particular area. For example, striding into the creative area armed with a fistful of RFP templates and value-based SLA metrics is an experience that usually does not end well. One area I have found in my experience to be a sensible starting point, however, is the media buy - particularly print ads in newspapers and magazines. And I'm talking the media BUY, not the planning. Tell a marketing department that you can take their existing media buy plan for the next quarter (down to the geographic markets, specific newspaper vendors, ad specs and quantities) and help them execute that media buy at 15-20% lower cost (this is actually very possible with the state of the ad market today) then you have a chance to deliver an early win that will allow you to build a long term relationship. You haven't challenged marketing's territory around creative strategy or even advertising planning - you've helped them do what they want to do at a lower cost. Now, you may have to play hardball with an incumbent media buying agency or even bring another agency or two into the mix for the client to consider but this is nothing compared to the vertical uphill battle of even suggesting that you may be trying to tinker with the creative process.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Let's Get Critical

Hundreds perhaps thousands of auto suppliers are right now hoping they are going to make it on to GM and Chrysler's list of critical suppliers. These are suppliers deemed by the auto manufacturers as "critical" to their continuing operations as they continue through and eventually exit Chapter 11. Any company entering Chapter 11 is of course provided protection from its creditors. Most of these creditors are suppliers of goods and services, everything from major subassemblies to office supplies. How it usually goes down is that the biggest suppliers who are owed the most dollars are assigned "critical" status and get paid most of their outstanding invoices at the originally presented payment terms. For GM and Chrysler this means the Tier One suppliers. Lower tier suppliers who don't make it on to the the OEM's list of critical suppliers will not be so lucky. Their payment will generally be extended 30 days or more beyond their originally presented terms or in many cases will be told their payment is "pending". The other shoe to drop for these lower tier suppliers is that their lines of credit will immediately be frozen, meaning that they are unable to make payroll or buy parts from their own vendors.

Hmmm. Those supply risk management gurus among you are already sensing where I am going here aren't you? It will not at all surprise this blogger if we hear about supply outages and quality problems in the months ahead from the new, "streamlined" post-Chapter 11 GM and Chrysler organizations. In protecting the "critical list" suppliers it's very likely that many of the lower tier suppliers will themselves have flatlined and left gaps in the auto supplier chain that will need to be backstopped by alternative sources that will take time to identify and qualify. And even then there may be teething problems in quality and service levels as the new lower tier vendors (many of whom I suspect will be offshore) are onboarded.

So as not to seem totally doom and gloom, this can all be managed. But there will need to be a plan. A plan that starts up front with a holistic set of criteria for defining what a "critical" supplier is over and above it's status as a tier one and it's annual revenues from Hoovers. Factors such as a lower tier supplier's impact on upper tier supply chain performance. Secondly a plan for recognizing that many lower tier domestic auto suppliers will unfortunately fail and that there will need to be early and proactive planning for replacing many of these with new (and in many cases offshore ) vendors. This means sourcing new vendors able to meet product and process specifications, and implementing global supply chain strategies capable of delivering required service levels at lowest total cost of ownership.