Richard Guest, Procurement specialist recently spoke with Euan Stanwix, Group VP of Sourcing at Martin-Baker, about his successful Procurement career and his recent decision to join the world's leading manufacturer of ejection and crashworthy seats.
Your Procurement career has spanned a number of different sectors, how has the profession evolved over the past 25 years?
In essence I believe the function has become more visible, more global and therefore more strategic. When I started in the 1980’s it was a function that people generally fell into by accident and it was very tactical. Nowadays, partly due to a large amount of outsourcing, organisations are much more conscious of their external spend and the effect that a professional Procurement function can have not just on their bottom line but in terms of their overall performance. Procurement is also much more global, partly due to the proliferation of web-based communication and management tools. As a result, Procurement is far more strategic that it was when I started and it continues to be so. As such, there are academic and professional qualifications which can be attained and Procurement professionals are having a much greater impact on the strategic direction of organisations.
Which was the most pivotal role in your career?
The most pivotal role in terms of my overall career was probably the first role because I knew little about Procurement and decided upon it because it sounded interesting. Within a very short space of time I decided that Procurement & Supply Chain was the career I wanted to pursue. From that beginning I have tended to pursue roles which have added extra dimensions to my capabilities and also provide additional interest because the job has to be interesting as well as challenging. As such, I learned a lot of valuable manufacturing and technical skills in the automotive industry, category management skills in Novar, global sourcing with Honeywell and the Aerospace industry is now providing a new series of exciting challenges. I also took the opportunities when they were presented to do a Post-Graduate degree at Warwick University and an MPhil (research) degree at Bath University which have been invaluable when complex challenges have arisen that require a ‘big picture’ approach.
Is Procurement a truly business critical function?
I think there is no question that Procurement has a significant impact on the organisation from both a Direct Material and Indirect Services viewpoint. Organisations that recruit and develop a strong Procurement team will undoubtedly see a beneficial effect from this investment. I have been fortunate to work in organisations where Procurement has been highly valued, but we probably still have some work to do before it becomes the norm that CEO’s have a strong Procurement background and this is seen as a key path into the most senior roles within organisations.
How do you see the Procurement function changing in manufacturing over the next few years?
2016 has been an unbelievable year in terms of Geopolitical change with the Brexit vote and Donald Trump becoming President. These events can have tremendous ramifications upon organisations, particularly global ones. It is also apparent that the Earth’s climate is becoming increasingly unstable which will have an impact upon global supply chains. Against this background of uncertainty Procurement needs to ensure that it has robust plans to ensure continuity of supply and is nimble enough to respond to events as they happen and, preferably predict them. In addition to this, cyber security is never far from the news these days and Procurement can play a key role in ensuring that the manufacturing systems are robust enough to ensure continuity of supply in the face of cyber threats and also ensure that the IP of the organisation is preserved.
What advice would you give to aspiring Procurement professionals?
In Procurement you are interfacing with every other function in the organisation and are expected to have a good working knowledge of Finance, Manufacturing, Quality, Design and all the other areas of activity. As such, get as much knowledge as you can from the experienced people within the organisation to build your general skill set. In addition to this develop some key mentors within Procurement to bounce ideas off and join CIPS so you can keep abreast of new trends and developments within the function. Lastly, enjoy what you do! My Procurement career has enabled me to learn a lot of new skills, work in fascinating industries and it has taken me all over the world where I’ve met lots of great and interesting people and learned about their many and varied cultures
Why did you join Martin-Baker?
I’ve worked for companies who make some fairly interesting products but working for a company that is the world leader in ejection seats for military aircraft takes some beating! During the Farnborough Airshow this year I met a number of Red Arrows pilots, the RAF’s chief test pilot for the F-35 aircraft and a number of ‘ejectees’ came onto the Martin-Baker stand and personally thanked us for the product that saved their life. Not your average day at the office.
In addition to this, my role was a newly-created one and the first Sourcing role to report into the Board of Directors at Martin-Baker. This gives the Sourcing team much more influence across the organisation as we develop our next 5-year strategic plan. In Sourcing we have embarked on an exciting 3-year programme to build on the experience that exists within the team but also bring in people from other industries to help develop a core set of Sourcing tools and techniques. We have also applied to be part of the Sharing in Growth (SiG) programme which is a lean transformation programme jointly developed by the UK Government and Rolls-Royce. Therefore, the combination of a fascinating product, great market position and a newly created role with a strong remit to develop the function was what attracted me to the role at Martin-Baker. The first 9 months have gone extremely quickly and we have a strong plan for 2017 so it’s a great time to join the team.