Cutting Costs in Your Company by Spending More to Achieve Operational Efficiency in your Supply Chain

I saw an article in Business Week last week about Sony bringing in Executive Deputy President Yutaka Nakagawa, a proven cost-cutter, to reduce Sony's supply chain costs.  Over the next two years, the company is aiming to halve the number of its parts and materials manufacturers and reduce purchasing costs by 20% this fiscal year.  Sony is hoping to achieve lower costs by buying larger volumes from fewer suppliers.  If the cuts can return the company from what is expected to be its second consecutive year of losses, newly created working capital can be dedicated towards new innovation and product launches.  However, as the Businessweek article points out, if the cuts result in being single sourced when/if demand spikes or quality defects arise, Sony could find itself in a precarious position.  

This reminds me of an article in, found via Sourcing Innovation, explaining that Cost Reduction Efforts Require More Focus than Sacrifice.  The article's gist harks back to some of my rantings on the importance of strategy in sourcing and long term success.  The article cites a recent survey of private companies by PricewaterhouseCoopers which notes that companies are focusing on reducing costs in discretionary spending such as travel and entertainment, as well as streamlining operations, workforce reductions, and employee compensation.  In many ways, these might be regarded as short-term cost reductions that help financial statements quickly, and in the sphere of public companies, make Wall Street step back from the ledge and decide to live.  The article goes on to point out:

Another piece of research from the Corporate Executive Board, supports this thinking, saying companies need to focus more on reducing cost of goods sold and less on SG&A. "While most CFOs are quick to cut overhead (SG&A) to achieve cost-reduction goals, the companies that are able to maintain cost reductions over the long term spend more on SG&A as a leveraged way to help the business drive operational efficiency and reduce cost of goods sold," the CEB report says. In fact, it says on average, the better cost-cutting companies report cost of goods sold being about 49% of sales vs. 62.8% for average companies. However, the best cost-cutters have slightly higher SG&A.

Let's review that again: "the companies that are able to maintain cost reductions over the long term spend more on SG&A (Selling, General, and Admin expenses) as a leveraged way to help drive operational efficiency and reduce cost of goods sold".  

Michael Lamoureux, of SourcingInnovation, puts it best in his explanation:

You see, when you cut travel, you cut the ability for your people to make, and maintain, relationships. When you cut entertainment, which is typically a very small budget to begin with, you increase stress, which decreases productivity. When you streamline operations, things start to slip through the cracks. Then when you cut workforce, you cut capability, key processes get skipped entirely, critical sourcing events just don't happen, and you keep sourcing off of expensive ever-green contracts and spot-buying at high prices. When you cut training, your staff's skills get even more outdated and your cost reduction efforts miss the mark. And when you cut compensation, your best employees feel unappreciated and trampled on, stop giving 100%, and start looking for their next job.

As the article says, you have much better opportunities, including:

    * transaction processing
    * supplier management
    * health care benefits
    * IT assets (hardware and software)
    * logistics 

Investing in your people to implement good cost controls and look for ways to achieve operational efficiencies, rather than simply going after the quick and easy slashing of fixed costs, results in your people finding ways to lower the cost of goods for the long term.  This is one major method that smart companies use to destroy the competition over the long haul.

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