- Explain why sourcing and procurement activities are an important part of supply chain management.
- Describe the reasons why the use of outsourcing and offshoring has grown.
- Explain some of the drawbacks companies face when they outsource their activities.
Sourcing is the process of evaluating and hiring individual businesses to supply goods and services to your business. Procurement is the process of actually purchasing those goods and services. Sourcing and procurement have become a bigger part of a supply manager’s job in recent years, in part because businesses keep becoming more specialized. Just like Ford’s workers became more efficient by performing specialized tasks, so, too have companies.
Ford Motor Company no longer produces its own tires for its cars. It buys them from tire producers like Michelin and Goodyear. It’s still possible to “own” your supply chain, though. The diamond company DeBeers owns its own mines, distributorships, and retail diamond stores. The problem is that it’s very costly to own multiple types of companies and difficult to run them all well, too.
Firms look up and down their supply chains and outside them to see which companies can add the most value to their products at the least cost. If a firm can find a company that can add more value than it can to a function, it will often outsource the task to that company. After all, why do something yourself if someone else can do it better or more cost effectively?
Rather than their own fleets of trucks, ships, and airplanes, most companies outsource at least some of their transportation tasks to shippers such as Roadway and FedEx. Other companies hire freight forwarders to help them. You can think of freight forwarders as travel agents for freight. 1 Their duties include negotiating rates for shipments and booking space for them on transportation vehicles and in warehouses. A freight forwarder also combines small loads from various shippers into larger loads that can be shipped by more economically. However, it doesn’t own its own transportation equipment or warehouses.
Other companies go a step further and outsource their entire order processing and shipping departments to third-party logistics (3PLs) firms. FedEx Supply Chain Services and UPS Supply Chain Solutions (which are divisions of FedEx and UPS, respectively) are examples of 3PLs. A 3PL is one-stop shipping solution for a company that wants to focus on other aspects of its business. Firms that receive and ship products internationally often hire 3PLs so they don’t have to deal with the headaches of transporting products abroad and completing import and export paperwork for them.