Procurement anno 2021: troubled faces and a coffee IV

With global production problems due to lockdowns, a container ship blocking the Suez Canal in March and the recent closure of some Chinese ports, buyers anno 2021 are not to be envied. They are also increasingly easy to recognize by their troubled and coffee-infused faces. All the more impressive that, at least at Selmers, they manage to keep everyone satisfied. How do they do that?

Caught in the middle

Buyers are traditionally caught in the middle. Suleyman Ozdemir, Purchaser at Selmers, is no exception to that rule. On the one hand buyers have demanding colleagues in sales and production, while on the other they are faced with the challenge to maintain a good relationship with suppliers and ensure that they meet their obligations. Says Suleyman: “Since sales are going well nowadays, I am busier anyway. On top of that, the extra work certainly isn’t a matter of making some calls on term contracts, but of hefty negotiations, constant puzzling and being extremely creative instead.”

Components and construction material

As engineers and manufacturers of customized solutions for very complex, and often one-off challenges, this creativity is ingrained in our DNA. The same goes for our suppliers with whom we work very closely to do the job. According to Suleyman, the supply problems apply to both plug&play components and construction material. “In our case construction materials are products that still have to undergo one or more treatments at the supplier. As such these products represent the biggest challenge for us. In general, suppliers are spoilt for choice here and that is exactly how they act in practice. In order to maximize their volume, they currently give priority to relatively ‘easy’ products.”

Looking for alternatives

“For example, we make certain steel cabins from wear-resistant materials. Because of this extra processing, and therefore more time needed, the production of these products does not have equal priority with suppliers. Being adamant and resourceful by nature we started looking for an alternative to manganese. We are lucky to have the advantage of being a multidisciplinary company with plenty of creativity, both technical and conceptual. Together with our engineers, we succeeded in finding a material with similar properties and better availability.”

Decisive action

“As a result, we were not only able to reduce the delivery time, but the price increase as well. When you’re involved in comprehensive and very complex projects that are completed years after the original quotation, unexpected scope adaptions or external factors may emerge along the way which may have a tremendous impact on the price increase.” Sometimes situations simply call for downright decisive action. For example, Suleyman recently drove spontaneously to a supplier on Saturday to have several orders outsourced to another supplier in order to minimize delays and avoid undesirable overtime in our supplier’s factory at the same time.

Backup plan

All in all, it takes a lot of skill and effort on the buyers’ part to keep everyone happy. Fortunately, all that puzzling, diplomatic activity and those troubled faces have not been in vain. All the more so because we now have a backup plan for any future calamity.

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