Supply chain disruptions have been well documented – and so has the rush to digitalisation. How best to respond when it comes to procurement? Felicity Landon talks to Francesco Leboffe, purchasing manager at d’Amico Shipping Group

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the logistics sector, more than many others, to adapt rapidly to the new demands of territories, supply chains and consumers, says Francesco Leboffe. As global purchasing manager at d’Amico Shipping Group, he says that this has led to companies experimenting with new collaborative and organisational models based on flexibility and digitisation – and this is the starting point for facing the next challenges.

D’Amico is focusing on agile procurement, matching this to the drive for sustainability, too. Leboffe says the importance of adopting an ‘agile’ strategy emerges, as opposed to a strategy more oriented towards minimising costs, in the context of predictable demand.

“In concrete terms, this means working with a greater redundancy of resources – primarily warehouses – in order to quickly reallocate stocks and overcome critical issues, such as the stoppage of activities, locally. The implementation of this strategy also requires an increase in decision-making speed, in which choices must be increasingly data-driven and dynamic,” he says. “For the planning part, one method adopted is smart working, the effectiveness of which has been greater for companies that had already experimented with this way of working remotely and that have adopted cloud technologies and software.”

This latter point in fact facilitates remote access to IT systems and promotes increased visibility along the supply chain, he adds. “The ‘agile’ strategy is also based on the concept of flexibility, which allows you to quickly implement the most suitable solutions to respond to changes in the context.”

Smart procurement as a concept is relatively new and often misunderstood, says Leboffe. But he says there are ‘easy wins’ to make – gather data, analyse data, perform calculations, notify and communicate, manage workflows.

Within procurement, digital transformation is rapidly changing the way practitioners manage their processes – indeed, purpose-built procurement tech is now common in organisations of all sizes

Last year d’Amico announced that it had chosen iMarine Software (SeaProc) to provide an e-procurement service to its global fleet of 70 vessels. The service has been embedded into d’Amico’s ABS NS Enterprise system, the fleet management software system for digital maritime operations. The decision was taken as part of an ambitious plan to transition the company to a purely digital transaction model across all shipping operations. Specifically, the SeaProc platform automates standard procurement transactions and adds electronic invoicing to provide a ‘source-to-settle’ process across the fleet.

Leboffe says: “Within procurement, digital transformation is rapidly changing the way practitioners manage their processes – indeed, purpose-built procurement tech is now common in organisations of all sizes.” 

He describes smart procurement as “the practice of using technology to automate routine procurement tasks”. “For example, it may leverage automation for contract management, vendor management, request management, and more. Many cloud-based procurement technology tools include automation features, powered by complex algorithms, AI, machine learning and natural language processing.”

However, while these tools can lighten workloads, they can’t operate without the input of procurement professionals, he emphasises. “The goal of smart procurement is to reduce the amount of human intervention required to perform routine or mundane tasks,” he says. “By automating lower-value, repetitive elements of the procurement process, practitioners are free to focus on higher-value, strategic goals.”

Ideally, automating this work will deliver benefits including improved efficiency, reduced procurement costs, enhanced consistency, better data collection and analysis, faster and more confident decisions, and improved stakeholder compliance, says Leboffe. 

In a presentation to IMPA’s Virtual Conference towards the end of 2021, d’Amico fleet director Salvatore d’Amico focused on sustainability and decarbonisation. As he said, “We need to thank Covid for making sustainability one of the main topics on top of all our agendas.”

D’Amico has focused on sustainability for a long time and of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the company is committed to working on the 14 that are applicable to its operations.

Sustainability does not mean being more expensive, he insisted – and sustainability must be applied to procurement.

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