Cost Reduction and Avoidance

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Cost Reduction and Avoidance
Best Practice Principles of Corporate Procurement



In 2006, CAPS released a critical issues report entitled Defining Cost Reduction and Avoidance that is definitely worth a (second) read. In this report, they note seven major points that really need to be stressed:

  • critical to the sourcing professional’s mission of reducing costs and delivering savings is the proper categorization of the various types of cost reduction and their application to the company’s operating budgets and profit and loss measures;
  • cost reductions come in two different categories: “hard” cost savings and “soft” cost avoidance;
  • a great deal of supply management’s efforts results in cost avoidance, yet this category is more intangible than cost savings;
  • even though many people might find it easy to discount cost avoidance as “phantom” or lesser savings to the company, these are “real” savings nonetheless and, despite the challenge, these savings must be properly quantified;
  • flexible and comprehensive IT systems are crucial, as they are the medium that will provide the visibility needed to accurately assess costs and expenditures;
  • metrics to track cost savings and cost avoidance should be standardized throughout the company, should be clearly defined, and should be available to all personnel; and
  • the key to success is to create a proper incentive structure for supply management personnel.

This wiki is going to elaborate further on each of these points, using core material from the CAPS study as a foundation. It will also delve deep into some types of metrics that could be used to measure savings and reductions, indicate some general strategies that could be used to identify opportunities for cost reduction, and describe how one could structure a fair and comprehensive incentive-based compensation plan based on these metrics that could be used to drive success in the sourcing organization.

Seven Major Facets

This section discusses the seven major facets of cost reduction and avoidance identified in the introduction in detail.

Proper Categorization is Critical

Remember the old adage - “what can’t be measured, can’t be managed”. Every member of the sourcing team needs to measure, using standardized metrics, her cost reduction efforts, but before metrics can be applied, the data needs to be normalized. This involves properly categorizing each type of cost reduction. Thus, the first step is to define each type of cost reduction and how it relates, directly or indirectly, to the company’s budgets and / or profit and loss measures. Some categories will be obvious, such as material cost reduction or freight reduction, some will be less obvious, such as decreases in process cycle times.

Cost Reductions may be “Hard” or “Soft”

“Hard” cost savings, understood as tangible bottom line reductions, are easily defined as/characterized by:

  • year-on-year saving over the constant volume of purchased product/service,
  • actions that can be traced directly to the P&L,
  • direct reduction of expense or a change in process/technology/policy that directly reduces expenses,
  • process improvements that result in real and measurable cost or asset reductions,
  • examination of existing products or services, contractual agreements, or processes to determine potential changes that reduce cost, and
  • net reductions in prices paid for items procured when compared to prices in place for the prior 12 months or a change to lower cost alternatives.

On the other hand, “soft” cost avoidance is much more difficult to define. Suggested definitions include:

  • avoidance is a cost reduction that does not lower the cost of products/services when compared against historical results, but rather minimizes or avoids entirely the negative impact to the bottom line that a price increase would have caused,
  • when there is an increase in output/capacity without increasing resource expenditure, in general, the cost avoidance savings are the amount that would have been spent to handle the increased volume/output, and
  • avoidances include process improvements that do not immediately reduce cost or assets but provide benefits through improved process efficiency, employee productivity, improved customer satisfaction, improved competitiveness, etc.; over time, cost avoidance often becomes cost savings.

Cost Avoidance is More Intangible

Some examples of cost avoidance that are given include:

  • resisting or delaying a supplier’s price increase,
  • purchase price that is lower than the original quoted price,
  • value of additional services at no cost, e.g. free training,
  • long-term contracts with price-protection provisions, and
  • introduction of a new product or part number requiring a new material purchase; spend is lower, but savings classified as avoidance due to a lack of historical comparison.

Quantifying Cost Avoidance is Challenging

Some of the challenges faced by a company as they seek to properly assess cost reduction include:

  • cancellation of net savings due to an increase in the business unit’s cost structure,
  • supply management’s role in the cost savings allocation decision,
  • chronology of supply management’s involvement and the need for budget cuts,
  • visibility, in terms of systems, people, and metrics,
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) concept for purchases items/services,
  • multi-year issues in cost savings, and
  • creating a proper incentive structure for supply management personnel.

Flexible IT Systems are Required

Systems, understood as both IT infrastructure and company policies, need to be in place to allow managers to get a realistic handle on what costs actually are, what areas might benefit from cost reduction efforts, and how company policies are designed to track and execute these savings. Also, processes for executing and tracking cost reduction projects should be in place and available to all personnel.

Metrics need to be Standardized across the Company

The establishment of clear metrics and definitions helps avoid the accusations of “fuzzy math” or the arguments over what amount has been saved by a particular initiative. (Side note: despite common usage, fuzzy math is actually well defined and has solid foundations in centuries-old set theory and calculus, but, as per the implication in the CAPS paper, generally not the best choice for financial metrics.)

The Key to Success is a Proper Incentive Structure

Like all employees, a supply manager will engage in behaviors rewarded by the company. This will create a problem if cost avoidance or cost reduction efforts beyond hard savings do not count toward a supply manager’s compensation and performance.

A successful company must count cost reduction as savings, clearly laying out how different cost reduction efforts count towards goals, and what their relative weighting or importance is. The share of credit that goes to supply management in cross-functional initiatives needs to be clearly defined and supply managers need to be recognized for their contribution to improvement projects with “soft” short-term benefits but “hard” long-term savings.

This can be particularly challenging in evaluating actual savings in costs other than the price of a purchased item or service. Usually items such as freight and duties are accounted for in a broadly applied "overhead" account. A supply manager who agrees to pay 5 percent more for an item in order to achieve a 5% duty savings and a 5% freight savings might actually be penalized by the performance metric system.

One idea is to provide supply managers with variable compensation as part of their incentive for meeting various savings goals. Such bonus plans are common for senior management, marketing/sales, and production. Such (uncapped) bonus plans could have an overall positive effect on the company’s overall cost reduction goals.

And all things considered, who is likely to work harder: a supply manager who makes $100K a year regardless of his performance, or a supply manager with the potential to double her salary if she hits a savings target of 5M?

Types of Cost Reduction and Avoidance

There are many types of cost reduction and avoidance in addition that need to be recognized as valid cost savings. This section presents some examples of cost reduction that can contribute significantly to the organization’s bottom line.

Negotiated Discounts against Material Cost Increases

If the products being sourced are primarily made from a commodity whose average market price or index has increased significantly since the last sourcing cycle, and a buyer manages to negotiate a price that increases less than the increase in underlying material costs since the last sourcing event, this is a valid cost avoidance.

For example, if a buyer was sourcing gold-plated circuitry, with gold roughly $649/oz, and the last time the buyer sourced the circuitry gold was roughly $590/oz, and gold makes up 25% of the cost of production of the gold-plated circuitry, then the buyer should expect the cost of the product to increase by at least 2.5% (on a unit basis). If the cost increase is less than 1%, then the buyer has obtained a cost reduction by way of a successful sourcing event. The formula to measure this type of cost avoidance is:

( (new raw material cost – old raw material cost) / (old raw material cost) * (material percentage of cost) – (actual percentage increase) ) * (total cost of buy)

For our example, if the buyer was buying 10M worth of gold-plated circuitry:

( (649-590) / 590 * 0.25 – 0.01 ) * 10M = 150,000


If a buyer manages to find another product that performs the same function, or is able to collaborate with a supplier to produce a functionally equivalent specification that is more economical to produce, then the buyer has obtained a cost reduction on behalf of the organization. Substitution cost avoidances are very easy to calculate.

(original product cost – new product cost) * quantity

For example, if engineering thought the organization needed a Widget Grinder 10000 that cost $1M, but the buyer was able to determine that the Widget Grinder 8000 that could be obtained for a mere 750K would more than suffice, then the buyer saved the organization:

( 100000 – 750000 ) * 1 = 250,000

Waived Fees

This form of cost avoidance is quite self-explanatory. For example, if a supplier normally charges an installation fee for a new piece of equipment, but the buyer is able to negotiate free installation, than this would be an example of cost avoidance of the waived fee variety. Another example would be free training or services. However, this is one example where the cost avoidance is not equal to what the vendor quotes, but what the market average for the service is. Thus, if two days of installation time was included in a purchase, and the average rate for that service from a third party vendor is 2000 / day, then the buyer saved the organization 4000.

Inventory Reduction

This occurs when the buyer comes up with a strategy to reduce the inventory that the organization needs to hold at any given time. Since all inventory is associated with a carrying cost, inventory reduction often represents significant cost savings to an organization over time. Inventory can be reduced when a buyer finds a supplier who can handle a shorter lead time or when inventory is turned over to a vendor who specializes in inventory management (Vendor Managed Inventory).

In this situation, the cost avoidance is calculated as:

(number of units of inventory removed * carrying cost per time period)

Process Improvement

Processes consume overhead, and overhead costs money. Thus, any significant process improvement could represent a significant cost avoidance to an organization. However, unlike the other types of cost avoidance, process improvement cost reductions can be a bit tricky to evaluate. The key is to look at the average number of units of product or work produced per day, week, or month prior to the improvement and the number of units of product or work produced per day, week, or month after the improvement and calculate a percentage improvement. If 40 units were produced a day before the improvement and 50 units were produced a day after, then the process improvement was 25%. Then, the cost reduction can be calculated as this percentage of the overall overhead cost attributed to the process since the process is now more effective. Thus, if the cost per day before was 10,000, then the cost avoidance is 2500 since it would take 12,500 to produce as many units under the old system of production. Mathematically,

(current number of units – old number of units) * operating cost

Challenges in Capturing Cost Reductions & Avoidances

This wiki summarizes five of the challenges presented in the CAPS report “Defining Cost Reduction and Avoidance”. In the next section, it will define some starting points that can be used to build hard metrics that can be used to quantify overall success.

“Cancellation” of Net Savings

“Cancellation” of net savings can occur as the result of an overall increase in the business unit’s cost structure. Sourcing should not be held accountable for cost increases outside their control, such as increased demand (which generates higher spend) or increased operating costs in overhead or salaries solely under the control of the appropriate unit manager.

Furthermore, savings should be calculated on a per-unit basis relative to historical costs, market baselines, or otherwise expected spend levels, depending on the context of the project.

For example:

(i) Lets start with the example in the CAPS report where a buyer is sourcing an existing product and the buyer expects a cost reduction. Last year widgets cost $2 each and production required 10 units. This year, the buyer negotiated the cost down to $1.50, but production ended up ordering 12. If one looks at raw numbers, last year production spent $20 and this year production spends $18, a difference of $2. But this does not represent the true savings of $6, since production saved $0.50 per unit on each of the 12 units they bought.

(ii) If the buyer is sourcing a new product, chances are the buyer could still be saving the company money no matter how much the product costs per unit. Measure the cost avoidance using the average unit price in the market place, as obtained from a respected market analysis firm or other third party source. (Do not use initial supplier bids since the argument could be made that the suppliers bid high in the expectation of a reverse auction or other sourcing event designed to ultimately lower their quoted costs.)

(iii) If the products being sourced are primarily made from a commodity whose average market price or index has increased significantly since the last sourcing cycle, measure the cost avoidance relative to the percentage increase. For example, if a buyer was sourcing gold-plated circuitry, with gold roughly $650/oz, and the last time the buyer sourced the circuitry gold was roughly $590/oz, then the buyer should expect the cost of the product to increase by at least 10% of the raw material cost (on a unit basis). If the cost increase is less than 10% of the raw material cost, then the buyer has obtained a cost reduction by way of a successful sourcing event. (The CAPS report indicates that a buyer could base cost avoidance on a proposed supplier price increase, but like initial bids, this is a nebulous number. Market indexes are “hard” and can be agreed upon as impartial by all parties.)

Supply Management’s Role in the Allocation Decision

If the team is cross-functional, then a decision needs to be made up front, by an appropriate manager, with respect to how much of the cost savings will be attributed to supply management and how much to the other business unit(s). This could be an even split, or a weighted split dependent on who is taking the lead and how the work is expected to be split among the team members. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but all parties involved should agree that the split is “fair” before the project gets underway.


Visibility here refers to the systems, people, and metrics. The agreed-upon metrics and the data that the cost avoidance metrics are calculated on need to be accessible to the entire organization so that there are no challenges as to their accuracy and validity.

TCO concept for purchases items/services

TCO is a hard calculation. It includes all the direct cost components that go into the landed cost calculation (unit cost, freight, interim storage, tariffs, etc.), storage costs, and processing costs.

Probably the easiest way to approach this calculation in cost reduction metrics is to base the cost on landed costs and then factor in adjustments for any additional costs that are above or below average.

For example, if a buyer was sourcing a food product and only one option is frozen, then the storage costs for all items but the frozen item will essentially be the same, with the frozen item costing more due to increased energy costs of using a freezer over a fridge, and only the landed cost for the frozen item needs to be adjusted. If the buyer worked for a chemical manufacturer, and all but one option can be used as-is without refinement, then the processing costs for all but the option that requires refinement will be essentially the same, and only the landed cost for the product that requires a refinement phase will need to be adjusted. Similarly, when computing savings, a buyer needs to adjust for differences in incurred costs between respective time periods.

It could be argued that this is not a proper TCO, but when it comes to calculating savings, mathematically speaking, it is only the differences in cost between last year’s buy and this years buy that matters and this simple approach is sufficiently accurate for TCO calculation purposes.

Multi-Year Issues

Sometimes the savings from switching to a new product or new supplier will not be realized until the second or third year of a contract, due to up-front costs associated with new equipment or investments. However, it is important that supply and spend managers be rewarded each and every year for their contribution to this savings initiative.

Although one may think that one may not be able to accurately calculate savings from such an endeavor until the contract ends, since investment costs have to be amortized, if investment costs are equally amortized over a fixed period, then an organization could adopt a calculation that realized savings each and every year. (And if losses occurred in the first year, they could be carried over and then the sourcing team could be rewarded as soon as hard savings were realized.)

For example, let’s consider the scenario where a 3 year contract was signed for gadgets with a new supplier who promised, based on demand estimates of 1000, 1500, and 2000, all the gadgets the organization needed at $7 each, compared to the $10 the organization is spending now with the current gadget supplier. However, switching requires an upgrade of the production process, and this is going to cost $5,100 up front.

At a contract level, the buyer expects to save $8,400 since instead of spending $45,000 for 4500 units, the buyer is in fact spending only $31,500 plus $5,100, or $36,600. If, in fact, the actual demands were 900, 1600, and 2200, then the actual savings could be calculated on a unit basis using an amortized fixed cost of $1,700 a year as follows:

Year 1: (10 * 900) - (7 * 900 + 1700) = 9000 - ( 6300 + 1700) = 1000

Year 2: (10 * 1600) - (7 * 1600 + 1700) = 16000 - ( 11200 + 1700) = 3100

Year 3: (10 * 2200) - (7 * 2200 + 1700) = 22000 - ( 15400 + 1700) = 4900

or: (old contract cost) - (new contract cost + amortized cost)

Alternatively, the organization could estimate total savings up front, amortize savings for the year, and then correct in future years using actual demands vs. projected demands. As long as the calculation is sound and agreed upon up front, it doesn’t really matter as long as the sourcing professional is fairly acknowledged for the contributions she makes.

Defining Cost Avoidance

The CAPS report provided a number of definitions for cost avoidance, which can be succinctly summarized into a common definition as follows:

Cost avoidance is a cost reduction that results from a spend that is lower then the spend that would have otherwise been required if the cost avoidance exercise had not been undertaken.

This accounts for the situations where spend is higher due to higher demand but overall cost per unit is lower, where up-front investments reduce overall spend in one or more categories over a multi-year initiative, and where a process improvement or product replacement resulted in a lower operating cost or cost per unit compared to what the company would have spent had the company not improved the process or replaced the product.

(Note that the cost reduction enabled by a process is easily calculable by comparing the average operating cost for a fixed period before the process change with the average operating cost for a fixed period after the process change, and everything that has been mentioned is measurable and calculable.)

Thus, if the organization adopts this open definition of cost avoidance, and maintains a document of common examples and their associated metrics, which is updated each time a new type of project is encountered that could result in a cost avoidance, the organization can fully quantify the “hard” and “soft” savings delivered by the sourcing team to the management team.

By doing this, the organization will have clearly defined cost reduction efforts, tied them to savings, defined their relative importance, and defined the share of the credit that will go to supply management in a cross-functional initiative. The organization will also have avoided the problem where the team over concentrates on finding “hard” dollar savings, which is a serious problem if raw material and energy costs keep rising significantly and the largest savings potential is in the “soft” savings realized by long-term process and product improvements.

After all, there is no cost savings in a perfect sourcing world. In a perfect sourcing world, every supplier is getting all of their raw materials at the lowest market price, creating their products using the lowest cost production process possible, storing them using the lowest cost inventory option, shipping their products out at the lowest cost, and pricing their products at a low profit margin. The buying organization has optimized it’s demand planning, inventory management, and distribution network. Furthermore, the buying organization has figured out the optimal award and obtained supply from the right suppliers at the lowest price possible. Raw material and labor costs are stable, and rise at the inflation index. In this perfect sourcing world situation, there is absolutely no possibility for cost savings. However, there is lots of room for savings leakage and unexpected costs. For example, if invoices are not verified, the supply could over bill and the organization could overpay. If deliveries are not tracked and made to the right location at the right time, there could be inventory overruns or stock outs which could cost the organization. If plans are not in place to handle predictable supply chain disruptions a hurricane could effectively wipe out an entire product line.

Strategies for Identifying Cost Reduction Opportunities

A previous section covered a number of types of cost reduction and avoidance opportunities that could be significant to an organization and for which a buyer could get benefit for. In a large organization, there are usually a large number of opportunities for cost reduction and avoidance and knowing where they may lie is the key to finding them. This section will identify some general and specific strategies that can be used to identify cost reduction opportunities that could prove quite valuable to the business.

Analyze the Supply Chain for Cost Reduction

The reality is that unless an organization is best in class, and the harsh reality is that only a few companies can be best in class, then the organizational supply chain is hemorrhaging cash. And in all likelihood, lots of cash. Where? Everywhere!

Take a simplified PC supply chain for example. Raw materials are mined and shipped to a processing plant where they are refined and shipped to base part manufacturers. These base parts (such as chips, wires, etc.) are then shipped to component manufacturers who produce circuit boards, hard drives, cables, etc. These base components are then shipped to an assembly plant where the PC is assembled. From the assembly plant it is shipped to a central distribution center where it is then shipped to either a regional distribution center, store, or consumer’s home, depending on the sophistication of the distribution center.

Furthermore, the specifics of the supply chain depends on the suppliers the organization chooses to buy from, the carriers the organization chooses to handle its transportation requirements, and the consumer markets the organization chooses to sell to.

From this example, the following fundamental sources of cost can be derived:

  • Labor (inc. raw material collection, processing, & subsequent part and component handling)
  • Parts (inc. design, component raw materials, & built in production operations)
  • Operations (inc. part production, handling, & overhead)
  • Transportation (inc. raw materials, parts, components, & finished product)
  • Buying (who the organization buys from, where, & when)
  • Selling (who the organization sells to, where, & when)

However, from a savings viewpoint, not all of these are equally important, since only some of these will be hemorrhaging cash in the supply chain, despite the absolute value on the cash flow statements. Furthermore, not all of these sources of cost are under your purview. In particular, labor and selling, if being done right, will not be hemorrhaging cash, and even if they are, procurement only has limited purview anyway. Moreover,

  • Labor is more or less defined by market rates. Moreover, companies that pay more for more productive people often have a higher ROI per person than those that pay less.
  • Selling is marketing, materials, and labor. The first is generally not under your purview, and again the issue is not cost, but results; the second is covered by buying; and the third was just discussed.

Thus, from a supply chain perspective, the fundamental sources of cost in an organization that are likely ripe with cost reduction opportunities are:

  • Parts
  • Operations
  • Transportation
  • Buying

So how does a buyer identify associated cost reduction opportunities? Simple. The buyer applies tried and true sourcing and procurement methodologies and technologies to each of these areas, analyzes the results, and extracts the most likely opportunities. Specifically, the buyer can apply the following methodologies and technologies. (Note that this is not meant to be a complete list, but simply a good starting point.)

  • Parts: Design for Supply, Enterprise Cost Management
  • Operations: Manufacturing Intelligence, Supplier Management
  • Transportation: Distribution Network Design, Consolidated Shipments
  • Buying: Strategic Sourcing, Spend Analysis, Award Decision Optimization

Since most of these methodologies and technologies are going to be discussed in future wikis, they will not be discussed in detail herein. The goal is to educate a buyer on why they are important and how they can be used to find cost reduction and avoidance opportunities to benefit the enterprise.

Tackle the Four F’s of Cost Avoidance

Although analyzing the supply chain as discussed in the previous section is a great start, there are cost reduction opportunities beyond the physical aspects of the supply chain, which the preceding section focused on. Just like there are four areas where the right technologies, methodologies, and strategies will save a lot of money (cost reduction), there are four areas where the right technologies, methodologies, and strategies will help an organization avoid spending money in the first place. They are the four business F’s of cost avoidance:

  • Failure
  • Facility
  • Focus
  • Finance


According to Aberdeen’s Global Supply, Visibility, and Performance Benchmark Report released in the fall of 2006, the average company has had an average of two major supply chain disruptions per year and industry average and laggard companies are only able to meet customer-requested ship dates 40% of the time. Every time something goes wrong, it not only costs the organization revenue (lost sales, etc.), but it costs the organization cash as it usually requires expensive action to fix. Thus, an organization that could prevent failure could prevent costly expenditures and revenue loss that, when combined, could easily break six, seven, and even eight digits.

How does a buyer prevent failure? Manage suppliers and manage risks. (For more detail, see the forthcoming wikis on these topics.) Do this by investing in visibility, supplier enablement, and risk mitigation strategies. Of course, unlike most of the cost reduction opportunities and measurements that have already been defined in this wiki, this type of cost avoidance is not easily measurable. However, considering that preventing disruption insures that negotiated savings and reductions are realized, it’s worth the effort – no point identifying ten million dollars of cost reductions just to have a supply chain disruption wipe them all out. After all, most organizations compensate a buyer on realized reductions and savings, not negotiated.


Facility can be defined as readiness or ease due to skill, aptitude, or practice. In other words, facility defines an organization’s level of productivity. As hinted at in the section on types of cost reduction and avoidance, improved productivity is a valid form of cost reduction, and one that is easily measured. Maximizing productivity allows each organizational resource to do more, effectively lowering the overall cost of each product or service offered. There are many ways to improve productivity, but three that are generally applicable to most organizations are collaboration, e-Procurement, and Procure-To-Pay systems. Collaboration systems allow remote groups to work together more effectively and e-Procurement and PtP systems greatly simplify the actual ordering and payment processes, allowing more time to be spent on the development of strategies to reduce and avoid costs.


This refers to the organization’s market focus and how the organization addresses the market. More specifically, it refers to organizational market and sales cost. Don’t just let marketing outsource a campaign, there’s no guarantee the agency selected is going to get anywhere near the best prices for print and media production. If the organization needs to bring in an agency to help with messaging, the it should do so, especially since it’s often a great idea, especially if the agency brought in has a keen understanding of the target audience. However, it’s critical to procurement to make sure service costs are decoupled from the print and media production costs that can be controlled. This allows procurement to determine how much is being paid for the service and to get the best price on production costs, by amalgamating campaigns and strategic sourcing required materials.


They say money talks and money walks. But they often fail to indicate that it's easily the most expensive asset an organization could have. It needs to be collected, disbursed, protected, taxed, and, more often than not, financed. And financing in particular can really cost the organization a lot of money, even when the organization is not financing it directly. The fact of the matter is thus: if anyone, anywhere in the supply chain has to borrow a lot of money to meet the demands placed upon them, they are probably paying a large financing charge, which is being rolled up into their production costs, and inflating costs throughout the supply chain. Therefore, a buyer should look into whatever can be done to assist its supplier in mitigating financing costs whenever it has the opportunity, as this could considerably reduce costs in large purchases.

In addition, disbursements can also be costly as well, especially if the organization has mavericks not buying on contract and using the absolute best price that procurement spent a considerable amount of time negotiating and securing. It’s worth having a good contract and compliance management system in place to track contracted costs, track purchases against those contracts, prevent maverick spend, and, most importantly, insure that suppliers are invoicing at negotiated rates and that accounting is not paying them when they are not, as this can quickly eat away at cost reduction efforts.

Implement Best Practices

Sometimes the easiest way for a buyer to find cost reductions is just to run though a list of best practices and see if any might be appropriate for the organization. Here’s a starting list to jump start the motor neurons.

Look at opportunities for Lean Initiatives and Six Sigma

Process improvements increase productivity which allows a company to generate more revenue with the same resources.

Look for previously untouched indirect materials and services spend categories

Chances are these categories are ripe with opportunities. They may not be the most profitable opportunities, but they are likely quick hit opportunities.

Leverage new technologies to tackle complex direct materials categories

For example, sourcing enabled PLM, collaboration, design to source, process cost models, and should cost models may all be leveragable to produce cost savings.

Embed best-in-class processes in technology to reach a larger user base

In most organizations, only a handful of individuals are aware of, and fluent in, best practice processes at any one time. However, once embedded in user-friendly technology, they can be rolled out organization wide with minimal training.

Launch an aggressive internal marketing campaign on the benefits of procurement

Drive visibility and excitement around new procurement initiatives to get everyone on board. This will have a positive effect on maverick spend, allowing more negotiated savings to be captured.

Refresh Spend Visibility at least monthly

And make sure this data is available to all stake holders at all times. Don’t have a spend visibility system? Get one! Get one now!

Take a total cost perspective on implemented savings

Furthermore, the organization should have incentives based upon the total value of implemented and captured savings.

Outsource non-core categories

Chances are that the underperforming indirect and services spend categories of one organization, are the core competency of a procurement services provider that constantly scores stellar results in these categories.

Partner with strategic suppliers

Don’t just beat a supplier up on price – work with the supplier to improve processes and quality and get a bigger bang for the organizational work.

Think and act globally

Best-in-class organizations do not think or act local. They right-source on a global scale.

Proper Incentives

This wiki has already noted that a sourcing professional is more likely to engage in behaviors rewarded by the company and that this is the basis for a serious problem if only “hard” cost savings are rewarded. Thus, it has been stated, in full agreement with the CAPS report “Defining Cost Reduction and Avoidance” that inspired this wiki, that a successful company must count cost reductions as savings. In addition, a company must clearly define recognized cost reduction efforts, tie them to goals, define their relative importance or weighting, and define the share of the credit that will go to the sourcing team in a cross-functional initiative.

Now the only question that needs to be answered is how to structure the incentive plan? As previously hinted at, there is a strong argument to be made that a sourcing professional’s compensation should include a variable compensation component based on meeting or exceeding various savings goals. These types of bonus plans are already common for senior management, marketing/sales, and production and have been shown to yield significant positive benefits when an individual’s earning potential is limited only by her own efforts. And all things considered, who is likely to work harder: a supply manager who makes $100K a year regardless of his performance, or a supply manager with the potential to double, or even triple, her salary if she hits a recognized savings target of 5M or more?

This also a good argument to be made for properly structured uncapped compensation packages. This might sound crazy to a manager, like a CFO, who’s job it is to reign in expenses, but it should be pointed out that it is not expenditures that ultimately determine a company’s success, but profit, and when procurement is involved, this depends soundly on ROI. Arguments might be made to the contrary, but clearly there is sound logic in paying a sourcing professional 500K a year if that sourcing professional is capable of generating 10M in savings that the company would not otherwise have seen. Why? Let’s say instead of $100K / yr + 4% on all recognized savings the sourcing professional had a fixed compensation structure of $100K + 20K bonus for hitting a 2.5M savings target or a 40K bonus if he hit a 5M savings target. Given that he can’t earn more then 140K, how hard is he likely to work once he hits 5M?

Back to our ROI perspective, it makes much more sense to offer him a limitless bonus plan. With the fixed plan, it costs the organization 140K but the organization saves 5M for an ROI of $4.86M. But with the variable plan, the organization spends 500K and saves 10M for an ROI of $9.5M. Maybe the first option sounds more inviting to a penny pincher like Scrooge, but what sane individual in their right mind would seriously turn down the second option with its additional $4.64M of savings?

Successful companies have known for years that the best performing sales people are those with the potential to make more than anyone else in the company. Consider that it is a well known fact that each dollar saved is worth five to ten dollars in sales revenue (with respect to its bottom line impact), doesn’t it just make sense to incentivize sourcing at least as much as sales are incentivized, especially considering what they can do? Look at HP’s first quarter results for the 2006 year - earnings went up 51% despite the fact that revenue increased only 5.5%! Why, because “procurement across the board at HP made a substantial contribution to the results”!

A Selected Bibliography

Costs: Getting to the Root Causes by James B. Ayers, November-December 2003

Defining Cost Reduction and Cost Avoidance by Bryan Ashenbaum, March 2006

Grow the Onion! Tapping Into ... Cost Management - Layers of Opportunity by Joseph L. Cavinato, June 2006

New Books: Is Your Purchasing Department Stripping Value as it Reduces Costs? by the Editorial Staff of Supply & Demand Chain Executive, March 2005

Reducing the Costs of Purchased Services: What Strategies are Available to Help Reduce the Costs of Purchased Services? by ISM, 2004

Supply Chain Cost Cutting Strategies: How Top Process Industry Performers Take Radically Different Actions by Beth Enslow of Aberdeen Group, March 2007

(The) Technology Strategies for Inventory Management Benchmark Report: How to Convert Inventory From Cost To a Competitive Advantage by Nari Viswanathan of Aberdeen Group, September 2006

Transaction Cost Analysis in Supply Chains: Theoretical Consideration and Practical Application by Stefan Seuring, October 2004

Turning Suppliers into Partners: Total Cost Management through Strategic Sourcing by Rohit Tangri, May 2006


Michael Lamoureux, PhD of Sourcing Innovation


David Bush - Iasta

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