Winnipeg-based Price Industries prides itself on being able to supply commercial air distribution products to North America and beyond.
And that’s not all. While standard delivery time is three weeks, the 70-year-old privately held company offers a premium service that guarantees shipment of urgently needed products within two days across North America.
“That makes the supply chain – my job – very challenging because I can’t stock 100 per cent of everything that any customer might order,” says Kelly Singleton, Price’s purchasing manager.
“We have many variations of products and offerings to suit each of our customer’s unique requirements. The goal is always to deliver the perfect order while providing exceptional customer service.”
That pride and confidence reflects how far supply chain management has progressed at Price. In less than a decade, it has evolved from a narrow purchasing function to one that touches many other parts of the company, such as receiving, shipping and inventory control.
“We began working as a cohesive team,” she says. “We had conversations that we’d never had before.”
Ms. Singleton recalls that when the company hired its first supply chain manager, she came in and said that Price’s BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) would be cost savings of $2.5-million over a two-year period.
“We all looked at her and thought: ‘You’re crazy! That’s never going to happen.’”
As things turned out, the target was reached well before the second year was over and was far exceeded by the end of that period.
Price had previously done most of its business with a limited pool of preferred suppliers. The new supply chain manager introduced competitive requests for proposals (RFPs), requiring its suppliers to improve their overall value proposition.
The company also began inviting suppliers on plant tours, resulting in many more ideas for improvement. One pointed out that Price was ordering boxes of filters stacked two high, while other customers packaged them three high.
“The freight savings on that alone were phenomenal, because we were no longer shipping air,” Ms. Singleton notes.
Another valuable innovation has been supplier reviews, including key performance indicators.
“We’re now checking their performance and holding them accountable, something we’d never done before,” she adds.
The review process has the extra advantage of bringing together experts from various parts of the company, such as engineering, accounting, inventory control and production. The teams discuss issues ranging from suppliers’ technical support and capacity for growth, to the adequacy of their shipping documents.
Such initiatives have raised the profile of supply management within the company. The team reports to the vice president of operations, Paul Remillard, and has added a director of strategic partnerships who has a direct line to Price’s president, Joe Cyr.
Ms. Singleton has two words of advice for other companies seeking to expand their supply-management expertise:
Invest in training and education: “You’re not going to get staff to be innovative, forward-thinking and strategic if they don’t have the education.”
Hire the right people: “Once you find them, you better hang on to them because they can make or break your supply chain.”
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