H2O Supply Opportunist

You're only as strong as your weakest link, or so the saying goes, and Bruce Beavis, vice president of strategic sourcing for US Filter, is maximizing opportunity, making sure his company's supply chain is made of only the strongest, most efficient...


[From iSource Business, May 2001] It's a tale of startling growth: two hundred acquisitions in eight years. Purchased by the industry's largest global player in 1999. A total of $4.5 billion in revenues.

As whirlwind as it seems, that's the story of Palm Springs, Calif.-based US Filter, which has grown from a tiny water equipment manufacturer to a leading provider of water and wastewater treatment systems and services, doing everything from supplying bottled water to treating hazardous waste. In 1999, when the company was bought by Vivendi Water, it became the North American operating unit of the Paris-based water company giant.

Heading up strategic sourcing for the operation is Bruce Beavis, vice president of strategic sourcing. His secret weapon: the use of e-technology to turn his supply chain into a lean, mean machine and one that gives him a competitive advantage. In the three years since he joined the company, he has initiated a series of farseeing e-commerce initiatives. His decisions have always been guided by a level-headed approach, honed by previous positions in operations and strategic planning at Rollins Environmental and Scott Paper, as well as at Deloitte & Touche, where he specialized in operations management.

Here is what Beavis has to say about technology and its impact on the supply chain in his company.

iSource: Tell us how technology is affecting the supply chain within your company.

Beavis:  With the Internet, we have a whole series of tools we never had in strategic sourcing, and those tools are allowing us to reach out to more suppliers in more places much faster than we could before. Plus, we can source the things we buy globally with more ease and efficiency. At the same time, the Internet is providing an automated way to perform functions that used to be difficult or expensive.

For example, a lot of the things we purchase are configured. If we buy, say, a pump, there are perhaps 12 standard features that need to be addressed before the right one can be selected. Things like pressure, temperature and the kind of application it's used in. We're in the pilot phase of an online configurator that lets us fill out questions about the features that are needed and then searches a database of manufacturers, pulling the correct model number for the product that satisfies all the requirements. It will save us huge amounts of time in our entire design, specification, engineering and purchasing process. Instead of seeking information by looking in manuals or going to individual Web sites, we have a tool that can simultaneously search and check multiple product offerings.

We'll also reduce mistakes. If you think of the possibilities for error when people fax documents back and forth it's human nature; mistakes will be made. But this configurator does internal engineering logic checks. If you operate in sea water, for instance, it will make sure you're not using components that will corrode, or it will suggest you use different components.

iSource: Are there other, important effects?

Beavis: Yes. The major one has to do with our relationship with suppliers. We can make sourcing plans and tell our suppliers that they need to adhere to our road map, as opposed to our being forced to participate in their marketing plans. So, our suppliers are dealing with us in a more customized way.

Here's an example of what I mean: Many of our suppliers have overlapping products, so, in September, we started going live with an Internet procurement portal provided by an ASP [Application Service Provider], which is a meta catalog for selected, existing suppliers of our MRO [Maintenance, Repair and Operations] products, sort of an industrial MySimon that lets us shop for the best deals. Each item is presented in the same format, so you can compare prices and attributes in the same place, instead of going to four different sites and doing four different searches. As a result, we created a competitive marketplace for the distributors of the goods we buy. And, at the same time, we're making the sourcing plan and telling our suppliers that this is the only way we'll buy their products in the future. The Internet has given customers the tools to make effective sourcing plans and bind suppliers to them.

This content continues onto the next page...
  • Enhance Your Experience.

    When you register for SDCExec.com you stay connected to the pulse of the industry by signing up for topic-based e-newsletters and information. Registering also allows you to quickly comment on content and request more infomation.

Already have an account? Click here to Log in.

Enhance Your Experience.

When you register for SDCExec.com you stay connected to the pulse of the industry by signing up for topic-based e-newsletters and information. Registering also allows you to quickly comment on content and request more infomation.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required