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“Now I understand why you need procurement”

Commodity Dashboard

One of our fathers had just been watching the UK news . The UK transport minister had just seen a £33 million out of court settlement to Euro Star because a tender process had gone a tad wrong.

The penny had dropped; a career in procurement was suddenly vindicated as the consequences of not doing a proper job was being broadcast to the nation.

It is actually quite difficult to present the issues which led to the pay out seem true rather than made up, as they are so farcical. It was a near £14 million pound contract awarded to Seabourne Freight to move medical supplies, by sea, that had a couple of snags;

  • The firm had no real trading history
  • And had not ran a ferry service before
  • Its terms and conditions referred to website food orders
  • And they had no ships

And so they found legal action on their door step from Euro Star over the was the contract was awarded.

Now we are sure that there were reasons why the 4 points above were ignored/overlooked (there must be right?) but the point remains that even on lesser oversights, running a procurement process properly is actually quite important.

Even our dads know this now.

Running a procurement project? Have a look here

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Remember to tell your supply chain that you are engaged with them.

Read any paper or article on supply chain management and one key factor returns time after time :

How engaged you are with your supply chain?

Let’s look at Best Practise

This is our summary of best practise in the industry: The idea is a very simple one; in order to get the best out of your supplier to move as close to the bottom right on this matrix; green and green!

Supplier Engagement Best Practise diagram
Supplier engagement matrix. Get to the bottom right!

We have not read an academic study that disagrees with the concept and research bodies such as Gallup Supplier Engagement concludes that there are real benefits to be had where engagement is proactively driven, including;

  • Higher quality
  • Improved forecasting and planning
  • Improved product development
  • Greater supplier support
  • Lower costs – both transactional and price per piece overall

We are all agreed then – we follow best practise!

Seeing as we have this unanimously agreed, clearly every supply chain function follows these engagement guidelines!

Well, not quite.

Here are 3 factors that stand in our way:


It takes considerable effort and time to proactively drive engagement and dependant on the size of the supply chain function it will certainly never be practical to adopt this for all suppliers. The hard bit is to identify which one(s) are “worth” the effort – either through volume of orders, strategic importance, or quite frankly how well you get on with the supplier. So engagement happens in pockets with isolated suppliers.

2.Too few gains

As with all theoretical models, real life will always throw in a few curve-balls that break the consensus. In the past we have worked with suppliers who deliver a great product at a great price which completely fitted our business. Processes were automated, human intervention rare and issues numbers were through the floor. Simply put, it just didn’t seem we could do much more to drive performance and certainly the effort we would put in was never going to materialise in corresponding benefits.

3.Convinced they are already doing it

Someone from a supply chain function might look at the top left tangent and immediately think along the lines of “we may not be world class but at least we are better than that”. We’ve worked with supply chain managers and consultants from different sectors who on the question of engagement are all convinced that whilst there is always room for improvement, they ARE engaged with their supply chain.

But we do measure engagement!

The biggest challenge we would have to this is to understand how this engagement is measured; nine times out of ten it is by the criteria of the buyer, NOT the supplier. In other words it’s a one dimensional assessment which does nothing to further any engagement or relationship.

…and we do communicate!

Supply teams have argued that there is frequent exchanging of information, Management Information and service levels met, but these feel more of a contractual requirement and any meeting to discuss these WILL progress the relationship but by increments not leaps and bounds.

An easy first step to enlightenment

Tell your suppliers you want to engage better with them.

You might be trying, but they won’t notice unless you talk to them.

Discuss, together, how you might do this to best effect for both parties.

In an ideal world – bake it in from the start:

We’ve seen first hand companies and their strategic supplier launch joint ventures in a new territory with a board member from either side join the others board. This ensures that strategy, ambition and delivery was jointly conceived and the benefits (and profits) gained were shared equally.

Aspirational? Certainly. Always achievable? Certainly not.

But getting as close to this ideal as suits your company in terms of outlook, structure and resource is well worth the effort.

Don’t necessarily ask yourself what the cost benefits will be for this effort, rather what the price of not engaging might be.

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How to run a Website Design Tender

Step-by-step Website Design Tender template: provides a formal invitation to tender & supplier selection approach, covering ITT, RFI, RFP.

Need to find a supplier to design and build your website?  How do you ensure that you get enough information up front to make the best choice?

Website design tender template pack - RFI, RFP, ITT

We’ve recently created a website design tender template pack to take the complication out of the process with a simple explanation for all of the acronyms.


What is an ITT (invitation to tender)? What is an RFI (request for information)? What is an RFP (request for proposal)?  The request for information and request for proposal templates set out all of the questions you need to ask a website agency or freelancer which you can tailor to suit your requirements.

When you’ve finally got a selection of interested parties, all ready to show off their prices and skills, how do you decide?  This is when an evaluation criteria template will come in handy – these are professional prompts to guide you to the best and fairest choice.

Download the Website Design Tender Template pack here.