If you’re not sure technology is forcing businesses to reimagine everything ‒ including procurement ‒ these highlights from a roundtable hosted by Karen Master, vice president of Communications, at the recent SAP Ariba Live event, will convince you otherwise.
NatureSweet Reduces Buyer Workload 30 Percent
As the largest fresh produce grower in North America, NatureSweet’s culture is built on the transformation of people’s lives. Matt Volker, vice president of Supply Chain at NatureSweet, explained why his company selected SAP Ariba Snap to support its meteoric growth rate and strategic sourcing vision.
“Innovation is core to what we do every day, from high tech greenhouses to how we invest in our associates. We selected SAP Ariba because we wanted to move fast at scale,” he said. “We’ve automated processes to not only move away from a transactional procurement team, but also collaborate more efficiently with our supplier network, from sourcing orders to payments.”
After going live with SAP Ariba in 14 weeks, Volker said NatureSweet has reduced its buyer group workload by about 30 percent. The shift away from tactical transactions has allowed the team to become more strategic, notably in expanding global sourcing opportunities.
“We were able to shift our A players out of the procurement team to strategic sourcing to identify new growers,” said Volker. “That’s allowed us to take advantage of existing high tech greenhouses and acreage to grow our products, and at the same time, expand our supplier network into new markets, fostering economic development in areas that need it, especially Mexico.”
NatureSweet selected @SAPAriba to move fast at scale
Procurement on Brink of Unprecedented Change
Drawing from the findings of an SAP white paper entitled “Procurement 2025,” Julie Gerdeman, vice president of the Digital Transformation Organization at SAP Ariba, said procurement is reimagining everything from technology and resource allocation to people’s skill sets.
“We’ll be using intelligent, self-learning systems able to create much more highly personalized, consumer-like experience,” she said. “Companies have always want to do well financially. They’re now finding they can do well by doing good in the world. Procurement owns that sustainable supply chain, becoming the steward of corporate reputation and brand perception.”
In the hyperconnected ecosystem, Gerdeman said data was the new currency, with procurement using real-time insights, predictive analytics, AI, and blockchain to change the game with unparalleled speed and agility. She saw procurement itself transforming, demanding people with skills in corporate strategy, as well as data science.
Inside SAP’s Strategic Procurement Strategy
Case in point was roundtable expert Marcell Vollmer, chief digital officer for SAP Ariba, whose personal journey to strategic business advisor mirrored the transformation of procurement at SAP. Vollmer had been incubating organizational transformation projects when he was tapped to transform SAP’s procurement processes.
“Even though SAP had access to SAP Ariba solutions, everyone wasn’t already using it,” said Vollmer. “We automated 50 percent of our non-automated purchase orders and invoices, integrated it with our ERP systems, and freed up people for more strategic tasks. The experience of people ordering something internally was as easy as shopping on Amazon.”
Vollmer eventually joined SAP Ariba as chief procurement officer, then morphed into chief digital officer. “The future of procurement is strategic procurement, ensuring that you have a sustainable supply chain,” he said. “This is a totally new business model partnering with our line of business groups. We had to become collaboration managers, focusing on value-added activities to deliver on highly strategic tasks that contribute to the margin.”
Tech Makes Procurement Smarter
Shivani Govil, vice president of AI and Cognitive Products at SAP Ariba, continued the discussion, providing examples of how technology can automate simple, repetitive tasks for casual users, such as frequently asked questions. For procurement experts at the other end of the spectrum in more complex areas like contract negotiations, technology supports better decision-making by providing context from hidden insights and patterns in the data.
“You can stop people from having to chase orders or track down invoices, and free up their time to do higher-value activities like planning your sourcing strategy,” said Govil. “On a daily basis, AI is going to augment your workforce, making them work smarter. For example, if you have a category owner responsible for sourcing items, and through aggregated data and information they become aware that a price is dropping, they know it’s time to run a sourcing event to get better pricing.”
Looking ahead, Govil asked the people in the room to imagine procurement’s future when instead of ordering parts from suppliers, they procure a design and produce goods on a local 3D printer when the business needs it. Referring to a space age cartoon from the last century, she said, “The Jetsons are here today.”
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