2013 Pro to Know of the Year

Prime Advantage’s Louise O’Sullivan shows us what it takes to really be a supply chain pro


Webinars to learn not only about a member supplier but connect with them for future business opportunities, increased benchmarking efforts, annual conferences and even interactive technical training that allows members to utilize technical videos to train their service technicians on products before the product installation for a customer—providing members with key services necessary for their business growth is a primary focus of O’Sullivan’s in working to address their challenges of today.

While group buying has long been available in vertical markets such as food service and healthcare, perhaps the biggest aspect that sets Prime Advantage apart from buying groups is its benchmarking efforts and constant focus on member needs and current challenges—in addition to O’Sullivan’s dedication and commitment she provides in helping her more than 750 U.S. manufacturers.

“One of the issues that came up in the last 18 months is when one of our members said ‘I know you have this many suppliers but I still have categories that you don’t have a supplier for,’“she explained. “To address that, we partnered with Strategic Resource Management and introduced cost benchmarking, which is different than the traditional buying group concept. And so now, we actually look at specific categories on a one-on-one basis with our cost benchmarking team. We cost benchmark their prices compared to what is being paid locally and across the country, and we then partner with them to either help their existing suppliers reduce cost or bring them a supplier who will reduce their cost,” explained O’Sullivan.

“The other aspect that differentiates us is we have suppliers in raw material and components and services and suppliers,” she continued. “About 80 percent of our members’ purchases are in the raw material and components area and about 20 percent are in the services and supplies area—that is a big differentiation. We also have a field team of regional account managers that work directly with the members and suppliers. That is another differentiator of ours. Most buying groups don’t have that. We really spend time getting to know our members, their challenges and their goals. And then we work to pair them with suppliers that will actually meet their needs and solve their problems,” said O’Sullivan.

So what does it take to become a supplier of this elite group? Let’s just say the process does require jumping through a number of hoops, perhaps the biggest one being that a Prime Advantage supplier has to nominate “said” member looking to join. On top of that, the selection committee—made up of 30 Prime Advantage member companies—must approve the nominee based on a large list of factors such as the manufacturing process, quality control, engineering, total cost management and much more. Not to mention, current suppliers are continuously audited throughout the course of their Prime Advantage membership.

“Buyers and suppliers come to us looking for the win-win,” said O’Sullivan. “Our big goal is to establish these strategic buyer relationships for our members. We work very hard and our members see us as a unique and essential resource because we bring them suppliers that are pre-audited, that are top global suppliers who are No. 1 or No. 2 in their industry, and that will treat the members uniquely—meaning treat them as special compared to those not in Prime Advantage. And for the suppliers, their win-win comes from that establishment of long-term relationships and growing their market share within small to mid-sized manufacturers that are often hard to locate if you’re using some sort of a buyer’s list.”

With that kind of commitment and drive for supply chain excellence, it should come as no surprise why O’Sullivan ranks as Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s top “Pro to Know” of 2013. Today, Prime Advantage serves more than 25 different industries including truck and trailer; packaging; commercial food service; material handling; food processing; and construction.

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