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Unprecedented times call for unconventional ideas

With the restrictions slowly being lifted in NSW and Australia, organisations are facing a new reality. One in which Covid-19 has severely disrupted entire industries and exposed the resilience of its supply chains – or the lack thereof. From here, the road to recovery will be slow, and undoubtably bumpy, but at the same time, full of opportunity. 

In an environment like this, what can you do now over and above fixing the short-term supply chain issues? What is the call for action for Procurement? Ideally something that sets you up for longer term success while being cost neutral. One idea is the application of the shared economy concept to B2B.

The shared economy

The basic idea behind the shared economy is to increase the utilisation of your idle assets. You let someone else “use” your car when you are not using it; you rent out your apartment when you are traveling overseas (ah, those good old days!). In the B2C space companies have grown to household names by offering ride shares, cycles, or workspace as you go. The disruptor that made this happen is the convenience of the platform that enables the seamless C2C and B2C peer-to-peer transaction. The online platform brings parties together, provides an instant feedback loop, manages, and secures the transaction and acts as the clearing house. 

You can easily bring this concept over to a business world, where the potential opportunities are limitless. Think space, facilities, logistics and operations. Office premises are not 100% utilised, desks remained empty, meeting rooms vacant, kitchens unused, parking spots free, production lines idle, and warehouse shelves empty. Covid-19 acts as a catalyst, ruthlessly highlighting the inefficiencies that exist. 

So, why has this not taken off yet? 

In my opinion the two main reasons for this lie within an organisation itself. The first one is the inability to easily and accurately forecast demand and make space securely available to others. Most organisations simply do not have the means to predict demand for desk space, meeting rooms, facilities, etc. for next month, next week, or this afternoon. Even if they could, internal regulations around EH&S, security, data privacy etc. would be too difficult to overcome to make it available to others. 

The second reason is even more challenging to overcome: the mindset. Too often employees are overly protective of their company and almost schizophrenic about what would happen if they collaborated with another company, let alone a competitor. 

Buying together

What does not work on a larger scale, can work on a smaller one; and this is where my thinking is heading.

Organisations can collaborate and share assets and resources to make better use of them; Almost like a buying consortium where two or more organisations bundle their respective demand and go out to market together to increase buying power and achieve savings to the bottom line. 

The key to success would be the commitment from the participants and finding a partner you can (a.) trust and (b.) who is equally willing to invest in the relationship to make it work. 

Pragmatic, risk free, no fuss solutions have a right to exist. Look around your offices, your facilities and plant, and think about what you could share with another company or even your competitor. 

Think creatively, reach out to your network and start sharing the new normal. 

Aleks Strasek is the Director of Pollen Procurement.


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