Harvard Business Review
Purchasing Must Become Supply Management
The stable way of business life many corporate purchasing departments enjoy has been increasingly imperiled. Threats of resource depletion and raw materials scarcity, political turbulence and government intervention in supply markets, intensified competition, and accelerating technological change have ended the days of no surprises. As dozens of companies have already learned, supply and demand patterns can be upset virtually overnight. How can a company guard against disastrous sup-
ply interruptions and cope with the changing economics and new opportunities brought on by new technologies? What capabilities will a profitable international business need to sustain itself in the face of strong protectionist pressures? Almost every kind of manufacturer will have to answer these questions. Some companies have already responded to the growing pressures. For example: o Finding that purchasing outlays had increased in less than one year from 40% to 70% of the cost of goods sold, one European office-equipment manufacturer began to rely more heavily on American and Japanese suppliers, revise its materials planning system to reduce in-process inventories, and require its divisions to add people with electronics and foreign language skills to their purchasing staffs. o Through contracts that include long-term shipping charters and run to 1988 with suppliers in countries as distant as Brazil, the Japanese steel industry has secured an 18% cost advantage over its chief U.S. and European competitors. o Hoechst (the German petrochemical giant) has established ties to Kuwait and DuPont recently acquired Conoco as part of their new acquisition strategies. This reflects a long-term approach to supply security that other chemical companies like Dow Chemical in the United States and BASF...