An Interview on Lessons from 25 years in Procurement with Peter Bolle
For this episode of the Supplier Experience Live Podcast from HICX, we welcomed Peter Bolle. Peter is a former Senior Strategic Procurement Manager at Air Canada, who, after more than 25 years at the organization, has a wealth of experience in areas including strategic sourcing, category management and supplier management.
How Procurement and Supply Chain in aviation industry changed over the years
Peter starts the interview by saying how he has been fascinated by the aviation industry since he was a young boy, eventually landing a job with Air Canada, pun intended. He worked for the airline’s procurement function for 25 years, before retiring, but the reason he was interested in it in the first place is because “…it’s not at all what you experience as a passenger,” and Peter was intrigued by what makes the industry tick behind the scenes.
Peter points out that, while “every supply chain is unique to its industry,” aviation is particularly complicated as one small piece of equipment can halt services. “We have hundreds and thousands of parts that go into an aircraft that has to be serviced. There are capital parts, there are expendable parts – and if one small piece of that is not functioning on a minimum equipment list, then the aircraft sits on the ground,” he explains.
On how Procurement has changed over the years, Peter highlights how it is nowadays much more strategic, rather than tactical, as in the past. However, what hasn’t changed, he says, are the challenges that data presents. Overall, “They’re making their way along, not without its pains and its challenges, but it’s definitely progressing from where we were 25 years ago,” he concludes.
The biggest challenges of CPOs and procurement professionals today
Although still a challenge, Peter is hopeful that Procurement is close to solving it. He believes that implementing relevant technologies and giving a mandate to Procurement to solve said challenge is a must. “As technology emerges and moves forward, it’s becoming easier to manage, easier to implement. I think we are now finally coming to the realization that we are at a time where there is value being driven through organizations, through Procurement and that a little bit more funding needs to be provided to those teams in order to effectively lead the company into a successful future,” he says.
Additionally, Peter lists ROI, available capital and access to the right people as challenges faced by most CPOs. “For the most part really, it’s about relationships – building relationships within your company and your external suppliers to really benefit from synergies and leverage efficiencies within the organization,” he adds.
For those entering the industry in 2021 or next couple of years, Peter suggests to make use of all the available learning resources, which are far more advanced than 20-30 years ago. “The biggest part of any personal skills that you can have is: listening for comprehension. Listen to the questions, listen to a conversation and take a moment to fully comprehend what’s being asked prior to responding,” he advises.
A case for innovation and improving supplier relationships
Bringing value to all stakeholders is an idea which has been on the agenda for some time, however procurement professionals are mostly constrained by their tradition of focusing on cost savings. According to Peter, “Sometimes spending an extra buck brings significantly greater value to the overall satisfaction level of a customer.” For example, the biggest value and innovation he has seen is being able to track shipments throughout their entire journey, through the whole delivery cycle.
When it comes to supplier relationships, Peter states that these have been his focus throughout his entire career, which paid off in 2004 when Air Canada filed for bankruptcy. Due to those strong, non-transactional relationships with suppliers, they were able to stay afloat, serve their customers and eventually recover their losses.
“I see it often on podcasts and discussions today that they’re talking about how we need to generate relationships with our suppliers in order to succeed. If you’re trying to generate those relationships today to succeed you’ve already failed,” he concludes.
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