Skip to content

Why Chemical companies need a strategic sourcing process


In the ever-evolving and highly competitive chemical industry, the ability to implement a strategic sourcing process is not just a matter of reducing costs—it's a critical component of sustaining business growth and maintaining a competitive advantage. For procurement leaders, site buyers, and CFOs, the challenge is to navigate a complex global market characterized by a volatile supply chain, managing 1,000s of suppliers and the pressing need for innovation and agility.

Strategic sourcing is a transformative approach beyond mere price negotiations to encompass a holistic view of procurement. It involves a meticulous analysis of spending patterns, supplier capabilities, market trends, and total cost of ownership. By leveraging data-driven insights and fostering robust supplier relationships, chemical companies can unlock significant value across their supply chains, particularly tail-end spending.

This article, by Heidi Humphries, Sales Director at DSSI, aims to guide procurement professionals in the chemical sector through the intricacies of implementing a strategic sourcing process. We will explore the foundational steps necessary to build a resilient sourcing strategy, discuss the importance of predictive procurement, and highlight the role of technology in streamlining sourcing operations. 

Focusing on practical solutions and industry best practices, we aim to empower you, procurement teams, to transform your procurement function into a strategic asset that drives innovation, mitigates risk, and delivers sustainable cost savings.

Chemical companies can implement a strategic sourcing process by adopting a comprehensive and systematic approach that aligns with their business objectives and addresses the unique challenges of the chemical industry. Here is a step-by-step guide based on insights from the provided sources:


Step 1: Understand the Sourcing Landscape

Chemical companies must first understand their various sourcing options, such as traditional sourcing, B2B marketplaces, listing sites, and meta-search engines. They should also be aware of the changing nature of chemical sourcing markets and the need for strategic capabilities to monetize strategic sourcing efforts.


Step 2: Establish Core Pillars

Strategic sourcing requires a solid foundation built on business understanding and spend transparency. Chemical companies should establish these core pillars to assess the strategic relevance of sourcing categories and develop suitable sourcing strategies.

In the context of strategic sourcing, "business understanding" refers to a deep knowledge of the company's operations, market environment, and overall business goals. This understanding helps procurement leaders identify critical sourcing needs and prioritize them according to their impact on the company's success.

"Spend transparency," on the other hand, involves having a clear view of where and how the company's money is being spent. This includes detailed insights into procurement expenditures across different categories and suppliers. Spend transparency is essential for identifying cost-saving opportunities, avoiding unnecessary expenditures, and ensuring that procurement decisions support the company's strategic goals.

Together, these pillars form the foundation upon which effective strategic sourcing strategies are built. By establishing these core pillars, chemical companies can ensure that their sourcing activities are not only cost-effective but also strategically aligned to support long-term business objectives. This strategic alignment is crucial for maintaining competitiveness and achieving sustainable growth in the dynamic and often volatile chemical industry.


Step 3: Embrace Agile Sourcing

Agility in sourcing operations is imperative for chemical companies to develop resilience against supply chain fluctuations and market conditions. This involves ensuring sources of supply, leveraging global trade flows, and supplier diversification.


Step 4: Predictive Procurement

Predictive procurement can help chemical companies secure raw materials at the right price and time. Companies can confidently predict outcomes and proactively manage suppliers by using advanced analytics and big data.

Supplier selection and the relationship with suppliers are critical to positive contract negotiations with companies evermore focused on suppliers based in the domestic locality.


Step 5: Implement Strategic Sourcing Processes

Chemical companies should follow a structured strategic sourcing process that includes data collection and analysis, market research, negotiation, contracting, and alignment with business goals. This approach minimizes supply risks and provides visibility into pricing, potential suppliers and forecasting.


Step 6: Diversify the Supply Chain

Chemical companies should consider strategies to manage risk and ensure a robust supply chain, such as utilizing suppliers with multiple manufacturing locations, relying on suppliers' delivery capabilities, and assessing geographical dependencies.


Step 7: Leverage Technology

Technology-enabled procurement can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the sourcing process. Chemical companies should invest in digital solutions that support data analytics, collaboration, and process automation.

Work closely with fewer suppliers that solve multiple problems within the procurement process, specifically around consolidated invoicing, a single purchasing catalog and, if necessary, a simple integration to your current ERP system.


Step 8: Focus on Category Expertise

Chemical companies should segment purchasing categories according to value and strategic importance and use a comprehensive approach to purchasing optimization beyond traditional levers. This requires deep knowledge of their categories' technical and supply-market intricacies.


Step 9: Address Industry-Specific Challenges

Chemical companies must tackle industry-specific challenges such as volatility of raw material prices, supply chain disruptions, stringent regulatory compliance, and environmental sustainability.


Step 10: Adopt a New Procurement Strategy

A new procurement strategy should be adopted to maximize strategic sourcing, which may involve consolidating the IT landscape and establishing overall governance across all regions.


Step 11: Prepare for Future Challenges

Chemical companies should prepare for future challenges by adopting strategies such as AI-driven demand planning and supplier diversification.


Step 12: Streamline Supplier Management

Streamlined supplier management solutions can efficiently support chemical companies' strategic procurement practices.

By following these steps and leveraging the insights from the provided sources, chemical companies can implement a strategic sourcing process tailored to their specific needs and challenges, ultimately improving profitability and competitiveness in the market.


Unlocking Value in Procurement: Strategic Sourcing for Tail-End Spend and MRO in the Chemical Industry

In the competitive chemical industry, procurement leaders, CFOs, and site buyers constantly seek new avenues to drive cost savings and operational efficiencies. While strategic sourcing for high-value categories has long been a focus, there's a burgeoning recognition of the untapped potential in managing tail-end spend and Maintenance, Repair, and Operations (MRO) procurement. 

We delve into the value of strategic sourcing for these often-overlooked areas, offering insights into how chemical companies can unlock significant value and gain a competitive edge.


The Overlooked Opportunity: Tail-End Spend

Tail-end spend, the small-value purchases cumulatively that make up a significant portion of a company's total spend, often flies under the radar due to its fragmented nature. However, it represents a substantial opportunity for cost savings and process improvements. 

Strategic sourcing in this area can lead to a more streamlined procurement process, better compliance with company policies, and significant cost reductions.


MRO: The Hidden Gem in Procurement

MRO procurement, encompassing the wide range of goods and services required to keep production facilities operational, is another area ripe for optimization. In the chemical industry, where production continuity is paramount, effectively managing MRO can lead to improved uptime, reduced inventory costs, and enhanced supplier relationships.


The Strategic Sourcing Approach

To harness the potential of tail-end spend and MRO, chemical companies must adopt a strategic sourcing approach that includes:

  1. Spend Analysis: Begin by thoroughly analyzing current spending patterns to identify the tail-end spend and MRO categories that offer the most significant opportunities for consolidation and cost savings.
  2. Supplier Consolidation: Reduce the number of suppliers to a manageable few who can meet diverse needs, leveraging volume to negotiate better terms and streamline the procurement process.
  3. Process Standardization: Implement standardized procurement processes across the organization to ensure compliance, reduce maverick spending, and improve efficiency.
  4. Technology Enablement: Invest in procurement technologies that offer visibility into spending patterns, automate transactional processes, and facilitate data-driven decision-making.
  5. Supplier Partnerships: Develop strategic partnerships with key suppliers to ensure reliability, quality, and innovation in the supply chain.
  6. Continuous Improvement: Establish metrics to measure the performance of tail-end and MRO sourcing strategies and continuously seek opportunities for further optimization.


The Benefits of Strategic Sourcing in Tail-End Spend and MRO

By applying strategic sourcing principles to tail-end spend and MRO, chemical companies can realize several benefits:

  • Cost Savings: Consolidation and negotiation can lead to direct cost reductions in purchasing and inventory management.
  • Process Efficiency: Streamlined processes reduce the time and resources spent on procurement activities, allowing staff to focus on strategic initiatives.
  • Risk Mitigation: A more controlled and transparent procurement process reduces the risk of supply chain disruptions and non-compliance issues.
  • Supplier Performance: Stronger supplier relationships lead to better service levels, quality improvements, and access to innovation.

For procurement leaders, CFOs, and site buyers in the chemical industry, strategic sourcing for tail-end spend and MRO is not just a cost-cutting exercise; it's a strategic move towards operational excellence. 

By recognizing the value in these areas and implementing a strategic approach, chemical companies can unlock significant value, enhance their supply chain resilience, and position themselves for sustainable growth in a highly competitive market.


What are the key factors to consider when selecting suppliers for chemical companies?

When selecting suppliers for chemical companies, several key factors must be considered to ensure the supply chain's quality, safety, compliance, and efficiency. These factors are crucial for maintaining the integrity of the chemical industry's operations and meeting regulatory standards and customer expectations. Here's a comprehensive overview of the key factors:


1. Supplier's Reputation and Reliability

The reputation of a supplier in the industry is a critical factor. A supplier with a good reputation for reliability, professionalism, and ethical practices is likely to provide consistent quality and service. Checking reviews, and testimonials, and seeking feedback from other customers can provide insights into the supplier's track record.


2. Industry Certifications and Compliance

Suppliers should possess relevant industry certifications such as ISO 9001 (quality management), ISO 14001 (environmental management), and OHSAS 18001 (occupational health and safety management). These certifications indicate that the supplier adheres to international standards in quality, environmental protection, and worker safety.


3. Technical Expertise and Support

Chemicals are complex, necessitating suppliers with strong technical expertise. Suppliers should have knowledgeable technical teams to guide product applications and regulatory compliance. This expertise is crucial for navigating the regulatory landscape and ensuring chemicals' safe handling and use.


4. Product Range and Availability

A supplier with a broad range of products that meet your current and future needs can significantly streamline procurement processes. It's also important to assess the supplier's ability to provide customized solutions and their flexibility in adapting to your business's evolving requirements.


5. Logistics and Delivery Capabilities

Efficient logistics and reliable delivery services are essential for maintaining uninterrupted operations. Suppliers should offer dependable shipping options and have robust logistics networks to ensure timely and cost-effective product delivery.


6. Quality Control and Product Testing

Quality assurance is paramount in the chemical industry. Suppliers must have stringent quality control measures in place, conduct regular product testing, and provide certificates of analysis (COA) or other documentation to verify product quality.


7. Financial Stability and Growth

The financial health of a supplier is an important consideration. A financially stable supplier is more likely to be reliable in the long term and capable of investing in quality improvements and innovation.


8. Sustainability and Environmental Practices

Given the increasing focus on environmental sustainability, it is important to select suppliers that prioritize eco-friendly practices and responsible sourcing. This includes waste reduction, energy efficiency, and green technologies.


9. Communication and Customer Service

Effective communication and responsive customer service are crucial for resolving issues and facilitating smooth transactions. Suppliers should be easy to contact, quick to respond to inquiries, and proactive in addressing concerns.


10. Cost and Pricing

While cost should not be the determining factor, competitive pricing is important for maintaining profitability. When evaluating suppliers, balancing cost considerations with quality, reliability, and service is essential.


11. Experience and Market Presence

Suppliers with extensive experience and a strong market presence will likely offer higher reliability and a deeper understanding of industry trends and challenges.

By carefully evaluating these factors, chemical companies can select suppliers that meet their immediate product and service needs and contribute to their long-term success and sustainability in the competitive chemical industry landscape.

If you'd like an understanding of optimising your chemical company's strategic sourcing, please visit our homepage or leave your contact details in the website's chat. DSSI have a long history of success in MRO and Tail-spend optimization across manufacturing as a whole and can lean into this multi-industry experience to successfully navigate the hardest challenge.