Do you recall as a young child, the occasions when your parents or guardians had the courage to take you grocery shopping with them at the weekend?
I recall it as being the most basic, yet most crucial lesson ever, in purchasing and supply chain management. I remember walking down the aisle of the store with all those shiny wrappers positioned within my line of sight. All those brand names that etched into my head via television adverts, between episodes of Scooby Doo and The A-Team. I saw the labels, I recognised the brands and a cheaper version was not an option for me. If there was a new product introduced and even if it did the same thing, I was not interested. So, into the trolley went my recognised product, from the reliable supplier, the right quality, the right quantity, at the right time. I didn’t care about the price and I was at the source.
Two hours later, we would be at goods inwards (our front door). One of my jobs was to unload the bags onto the kitchen table and put the goods away. As I hurried to empty the lot, I was keen to empty the bag that had my product (or one of them). It was not unusual for me to hear the theme tune of Cheers or Batman and off I would run, into the sitting room, to commandeer the remote control. By this point the shiny wrapper a distant memory. Little did I know then, that the purchase I craved, was never made, it never reached the check-out. Why you might ask? The shiny wrapper was removed from the trolley and put back on the shelf!
Grown-ups know, or least they should know, the difference between what is needed and what is wanted. As requesting managers, professionals must know that the shiny wrapper principle is as relevant in the commercial environment, as it is when applied by the parent or the guardian in the store, the money must be treated the same; as if it is your own.
Only what is needed for your business to operate effectively and efficiently should ever go into your trolley. But whether that happens or not is down to how your company’s procurement and supply chain process. It also depends on if you have the correct controls in place. Only you know how your company can be rated in this regard.
The shiny wrapper principle gives us food for thought. The leaving certificate programme now includes subjects such as Japanese, in addition to many science and technical options. Is there a place for a subject relating to purchasing and supply chain management at second level? I know that some may argue that the topic is touched on in perhaps civics, business studies or economics. I suggest that purchasing and managing your finances should be thought on its own. It is an important topic that will affect all students for the rest of their lives. Yet people leave school without these basic skills.
Irrespective of which career any student elects to pursue after their leaving certificate, Every single one of them will inevitably engage in some degree of purchasing and materials management. Despite this, a significant proportion of them are ill-equipped, to face the commercial environment, armed with the necessary skills to enable them to buy what is needed as opposed to what is wanted. At the very least, this should be piloted as part of a transition year programme. Something to consider.