Best Practices in Supply Management Journal

54th Edition, March/April 2012

Articles In This Issue
"It's Only Money?!? Ethical Behavior in Procurement"
"Integrating Six Sigma into the Supply Chain"

SPS News, Founder Appearances, & Career Opportunities


The most-recent issue of Supply Chain Management Review Magazine features an article written by Mark Trowbridge titled Preparing for a Winning Negotiation


Mark will  present a three day workshop titled Advanced Procurement Negotiations & Contracting at the (5 Star) JW Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lampur on March 26 - 28  Find out more at Malaysia Event Link

For the 2nd consecutive year, Mark Trowbridge wrote one of ISM eSide Supply Management's 10 most-read articles.  Click to visit ISM article site.

Job Opportunities:  We are currently helping clients fill the following SCM career opportunities.  Please contact Strategic Procurement Solutions through our website if interested...

-  Senior Sourcing Manager, Information Technology & Business Process Outsourcing, Service Sector, Raleigh, North Carolina.  Base Salary Between $85K and $95K, Excellent Bonus and Benefits Package.  Relocation Negotiable.


Onshore Wells Category Manager, Oil & Gas Sector, Texas.  Permanent Hire Position, Base Salary Between $115K and $125K, Excellent Benefits and Bonus Package.  Relocation Negotiable. 


- Procurement Technology Leader, Oil & Gas Sector., Alaska. Permanent Hire Position, Base Salary Between $115K and $135K, Excellent Benefits and Bonus Package. Relocation Negotiable. 


- Materials Manager (with Responsibility for Procurement & Inventory), Mining Sector, Arizona. Permanent Hire Position, Base Salary Between $85K and $110K, Excellent Benefits and Bonus Package. Relocation Negotiable.   


































































This electronic journal is now distributed bi-monthly to nearly 11,000 Supply Management Professionals around the globe.  Click on the "Join our Mailing List" button if you would would like to receive without charge, and feel free to forward to your SCM colleagues!  In return, just keep SPS in mind if your organization ever needs top quality Supply Management Consulting, Employee Skills Testing, Training, P2P Efficiency Reviews, Cost Reduction or Staff Augmentation Services.



"It's Only Money?!? - Ethical Behavior in Procurement" - by Mark Trowbridge - Principal, CPSM, C.P.M., MCIPS 

A recent scandal in the food industry exposed alleged bribery of purchasing managers (involving a supplier named SW Foods and a representative broker) for several leading food industry companies. Last week, the Washington Post reported that Frederick Scott Salyer of SW Foods has plead guilty to malfeasance that may have touched well-known companies such as Frito-Lay, Heinz, Kraft Foods, McCormick, Safeway, and ConAgra. A federal lawsuit alleged that bribes were paid to buyers from some of the aforementioned firms; and these individuals awarded millions of dollars in business to SW Foods and also kept market prices artificially high for their customers.


What's especially sad is that all of these buying organizations have well-earned reputations for excellence in procurement. But unethical choices by a handful of procurement employees have darkened each firm's doorstep.


This scandal is just the latest in an ongoing string of unethical behaviors in the supply management world. Although most procurement professionals do adhere to strict ethical standards, our profession is marred by the occasional few who do not. 


Strategic Procurement Solutions' founders often lead seminars for procurement groups around the world, teaching on the topic of ethics in procurement (in fact I'm writing this article while changing planes in Hong Kong returning home from speaking at a procurement conference). One of several insightful quotations that appears in our training materials was written in the 1700's by author Suzanne Necker. She observed, "Money does not change men; it unmasks them."



Is it time that procurement leaders need to raise the ethics bar further in our profession? Those seeking to enter the procurement profession should hold themselves to a higher level of propriety on all aspects of their responsibility, no matter what the financial value. Only by maintaining integrity in every aspect of our personal careers can we be certain we will not fall victim to temptation.


If a procurement professional can't properly care for their employer's assets when a little responsibility is given to them, it is unlikely that they can be trusted with a large level of expenditure. Biblical writer Luke wrote, "If you have not been faithful with money, who will trust you with true riches?"


Let's all make sure that our behavior not only is ethical, but also sets the clear appearance of being ethical, at all times. Refusing to accept gifts and gratuities, avoidance of conflicts of interest, handling of confidential information with integrity...these should be hallmarks of a procurement professionals' work life.


For more information about our Online Supply Management Skills Testing or Onsite Training Workshops, please email us at


 About the Author - Mark Trowbridge, CPSM, C.P.M., MCIPS is one of Strategic Procurement Solutions founders. His 27 years in procurement leadership began in the Manufacturing, Airline, and Financial Services sectors...culminating in a role leading three-quarters of the strategic sourcing activities, and all of the contracts management responsibilities, of Bank of America (then, the USA's third most-profitable company). During his last two years with Bank of America, Mark's areas of responsiblities delivered a Quarter Billion Dollars in cost reductions. During the last dozen years, Mr. Trowbridge has worked in the consulting field with many leading corporate and governmental clients. His business travels have taken him throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Malaysia. He is a frequent author on supply management topcs, with articles appearing in publications like Supply Chain Management Review, Inside Supply Management, eSide Supply Management, and Strategic Procurement Solutions' own Best Practices in Supply Management Journal. 



"Integrating Six Sigma into the Supply Chain"- by Mark Schieffer, MBB, PhD (ABD), LEAN Six Sigma Master Black Belt  

Many world-class organizations are now experiencing the value of Six Sigma in optimizing the complex processes by which they manage the supply chain. For example, improving the procure-to-pay process (P2P) requires transforming the organization from transactional ordering into a strategic sourcing process environment. This strategic shift creates an opportunity to improve the operational processes by reducing non-value added tasks and acquisition cycle times, and by re-aligning the process to optimally-meet the internal customer and external supplier requirements.


This article will provide an overview one of the Six Sigma methodologies that can be used in improving supply chain processes, called Design For Six Sigma (DFSS). DFSS is a systematic way to structurally improve any process.


The DFSS methodology encompasses four phases: Identify, Design, Optimize and Validate.


Phase One, Identify - The focus of the Identify phase is to understand the inputs, process and outputs of a particular process. Inputs of the process are any steps which impact the process, while outputs are items the process produces. Process steps should be listed at a high level. A great 6S tool to start this phase is an IPO diagram, which lists the inputs, process steps and outputs of the process, each in its own column. Outputs can be items such as completed procurement actions, received goods, signed contracts, or completed services.


It is critical in the Identify phase that we clearly-identify what is truly important to the customer for each output. Six Sigma practitioners refer to each of these process outputs as a "Critical to Customer" (CTC). Improving a process doesn't make any difference, if that makes no difference to the organization's stakeholders and customers. CTCs are qualitative concepts such as no defects, timeliness, appropriate approvals, etc. CTC's should be listed and prioritized for each process element.


In the procurement field, we need to also consider who is our actual "customer", because we have different groups who rely upon the supply chain, including:


(i)         Our company's actual customer (or governmental agency's

constituent) who uses finished goods or services [downstream];


 (ii)      The firm's owners/shareholders who have invested in our

company's operations with expectation of a Return on Investment (ROI);


(iii)     Internal departments who utilize goods or services we acquire

from suppliers [upstream], such as manufacturing production, administration, sales, marketing, etc.; and


(iv)     Stakeholder departments who rely on the supply chain process

to efficiently perform their own roles. These might include groups like Receiving, Inventory, Accounts Payable, Logistics, Finance, and other departments which touch the supply chain.


In the supply chain, procurement leaders are sometimes guilty of ignoring CTCs and focusing just on what makes their own jobs easier. For example, selecting and implementing a finance-driven procurement system that is difficult for internal customers to use ...rather than seeking a user-friendly solution that meets the customer's needs. But a true DFSS approach will result in a process that produces higher CTC outputs...and results in higher customer satisfaction and enterprise performance.


Phase 2, Design - The initial step in the Design phase is to assign "specs" to each CTC. "Specs" are measurable boundaries around the CTCs that simply differentiate a defect from a satisfactory output. Understanding the specs are extremely important in developing the process but are often forgotten by those who claim to be Six Sigma experts. For example, if lead time was identified as a CTC, the spec may be 14 days....where <14 days is acceptable, but >14 days is not.


The second step within the design phase is to formulate the future process. A major theme in designing a process is to "Give the customer what they want, when they want it and how they want it". In other words, giving the customer the outputs and CTCs they requested, within the specs desired.  All process steps should then be classified as either "value-added", "non-value added" or "non-value added but required" (more on this in the another article).


Phase 3, Optimize - In order to produce our outputs within the "specs" our customers require, we must understand our inputs. The focus of the Optimize phase is to review the process and understand the relationship between inputs, outputs and CTCs. We can accomplish this by identifying which inputs have the highest impact on the outputs and CTCs.


A statistical tool to help with this step is a sensitivity analysis, which uses historical data to understand the variation within each input - and which input's variation has the most significant impact on the final CTC. The historical data can be plugged into the new process, and the variation on CTC's measured. This part of the analysis identifies the input(s) which can have a negative effect on the CTCs and the team can take action to reduce it's impact.


Phase 4, Validate - Once a new process has been designed and implemented, we need to manage it to ensure the desired results continue to be achieved. The Validate phase establishes proper metrics and controls so the process can be continually-monitored and adjusted to meet the customer requirements. The primary tool within the Validate phase is a control plan. A control plan is a scorecard or dashboard to monitor your key inputs, outputs and CTCs. The control plan should also serve as guide to inform process owners what to do when targets are missed.


The control plan should address such questions as, "If my process is not hitting my target (CTC is not within specs), then which inputs or process components are the cause?" In this case, we can think of inputs as "leading" indicators and outputs as "lagging" indicators. Others characteristics of the control plan are data collection method/frequency, lower and upper spec limit, target value and reaction plan.


A common failure in the Validate phase is when process owners fail to measure and continually-manage the new process into the future. Even Six Sigma experts sometimes forget that a process will degrade if not continually-managed and improved. Installation and management of "metrics that matter" is an important step in the Validate phase.


Six Sigma is a powerful tool, which has many applications that can be used in improving supply chain performance. DFSS is just one such application, and its focus upon Critical to Customer (CTC) outputs is an important principle in improving supply chain processes.


Strategic Procurement Solutions is currently-supporting several major supply chain organizations (involving staff groups between 10 and 140 persons) which are being transformed into an advanced sourcing process orientation. If you would like information about our firm's 360o Supply Management Efficiency Review, a procurement transformation project, or even support in applying LEAN Six Sigma techniques, please email


Mark Schieffer, LEAN Six Sigma Master Black Belt, PhD (ABD), MBB is one of the supply chain experts who is available through Strategic Procurement Solutions.  

Copyright 2012 - Strategic Procurement Solutions, LLC - All Rights Reserved