Interview: Bombardier CPO Sheds Light on Procurement's Evolution in Aerospace
(Pic Courtesy: Bombardier)
Bombardier is a global leader in aviation and manufacturer of the world’s finest business jets. In recent years, Bombardier has implemented strategies aimed at elevating its status to a Best-in-Class Supply Chain organization. These initiatives are now yielding significant results and have contributed to the company’s reputation for procurement excellence.
Beroe Best-in-Class Award
Bombardier won the Beroe Best-in-Class Procurement Bronze Medal in the Aerospace category. The acknowledgment as a Best-in-Class organization is typically calculated over a four-year period, reflecting the long-term impact and effectiveness of the implemented strategies. The initiatives that were established during this period are expected to continue to show substantial results and improvements in the coming years, further solidifying Bombardier’s standing as a leader in procurement. (To know more about Beroe Best-in-Class Procurement awards, please click here https://www.beroeinc.com/blog/worlds-top-50-procurement-organizations-2023/)
To gain a deeper understanding of what propelled Bombardier to win the Best-in-Class award, Beroe reached out to Shauna Gamble, Senior Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) at Bombardier.
It was lunchtime in Montreal, Canada, when Shauna received Beroe’s video call.
“We couldn't be happier about receiving this recognition. It's been a challenging few years for anyone in Supply Chain. Our Supply Chain organization consists of the best group of warriors in aerospace. It's very rewarding, and its a great recognition for our group,” Shauna told Beroe in an exclusive interview.
Soon after joining Bombardier in 2017, Shauna spearheaded several initiatives within the Bombardier Supply Chain team, including building a Bombardier Supply Chain Academy, developing diversity and inclusion programs for women in Supply Chain, establishing proactive supplier risk mitigation strategies, and planning for the evolution of Digitalization within Supply Chain.
One of the first transformations Shauna facilitated at Bombardier was the consolidation of supply chain functions that interface with supplier partners. To avoid fragmentation and the possibility of conflicting priorities, a singular, end-to-end supply chain organization was formed.
Shauna conveyed that there was the need for an evolution of skillsets within the Supply Chain team, and the need to integrate the evolution of technology more seamlessly into the organization’s DNA. Shauna reflected on the significant shift in the aerospace industry. Notable changes have occurred within the cabins and cockpits of the aircraft. The evolution inside these spaces required extensive adaptation and understanding of emerging technologies to integrate them effectively into the aircraft systems. The Bombardier Supply Chain organization emphasized the training and awareness of what incorporating these advancements mean inside the aircraft -- be it identifying new partners and business models.
To address the need of the skillset evolution, a “Procurement Academy” was launched. After consulting with external entities, a team of cross-functional internal stakeholders assessed the needs of the Procurement organization and designed a structured plan to address the current state of things, as well as what the company planned to build in the medium and long term.
Careful planning and design resulted in a robust curriculum that addressed needs at all levels of the organization, offering both industry-specific and generic business courses and certifications. Many forms of training are provided through the academy, including classroom training led by internal and external instructors, as well as customizable and student-led online courses.
Well aligned with her employer’s values, Shauna is a strong promoter of diversity within the organization. In the past 4 years, the number of women in Supply Chain globally has increased by 52%, and women in leadership roles has increased by 13%. The emphasis has been on enhancing gender diversity but also on identifying the next generation of leaders who could fill middle management positions, think innovatively, and bring passion to their roles.
To foster female leadership and workplace inclusion, the Supply Chain team holds quarterly “Women in Supply Chain” sessions. Every two months, these leaders gather, applying Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean-In Circle” approach. Lean-In Circles are small groups of peers who meet regularly to learn and grow together, receive and provide peer mentorship and learn new skills.
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, while doing research and attending industry events and conferences, Shauna compiled various supply chain trends that when combined reflected a significant problem looming for value chains.
Comparing Bombardier's approach to its industry peers, "Aerospace is a human-driven industry… A lot of it's in here," said Shauna, pointing out the significant knowledge and experience housed within the minds of the industry professionals. The loss of such expertise had a direct impact on the industry, she explained: “Quantifiably the percentage of experts that left the industry had a direct correlation to the degradation in first pass yield.”
The COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented and necessitated unconventional solutions. Unlike many of its competitors, Bombardier exceeded its guidance in deliveries, revenues, earnings and cashflow in 2022, thanks in part to the supply chain initiatives.
Changing Supplier Landscape
Shauna spoke about the evolving supplier landscape and its impending impact on the aerospace industry. She highlighted the on-going financial pressure expected to persist for a few more years, particularly affecting smaller, family-owned businesses established in the late 80s and 90s. The unique market and industry climate has resulted in Bombardier making novel business decisions, such as deciding to insource thousands of part numbers, and acquiring a supplier who was facing financial challenges.
The Intervention Team
The COVID-19 pandemic created many complex and multi-faceted challenges and issues such as resource constraints, skill shortages, layoffs, transportation challenges, and delays in product repairs or learning curves at the supplier's end. To mitigate production pressures, Bombardier put in place a Supplier Intervention organization. The Supplier Intervention team’s mission was and is to leverage its procurement influence with a team of specialists focused solely on alleviating key supplier (tier one through tier three) and commodity challenges such as planning, raw material, working capital and others. The team continues to grow and to help suppliers worldwide, expanding its focus to be both proactive and reactive when required.
Mapping the Supply Chain
The discussion also touched upon emerging trends in the aerospace industry, notably the rise of digitalization and the development of connected supply chains. This trend is inevitable and is reshaping the way supply chains operate.
The pandemic underscored the importance of conducting thorough risk assessments of suppliers and extending beyond tier one, to ensure the resilience and stability of the supply chain. Bombardier has partnered with a supplier who is a cloud provider of supply chain resilience and risk management intelligence and analytics. “Our tool alerts me if there's any event such as natural disasters, geo-political, economic distress, or if there's anything in the news, it automatically opens communication channels between Bombardier and its partners." Shauna said.
She shared insights into her strategic approach leveraging the supply chain mapping tool. “One of the reasons is to create a catalog of the global aerospace supply chain." She expressed her desire to understand the intricate web of suppliers and their respective sources "I want to know if I buy from Bob, who's buying from Jill, I want to know who Jill is buying from," she elaborated, referring to the interconnectedness of suppliers.
Shauna underscored the necessity of being more proactive than ever, stating, "You can't rely on what you did before COVID." She encouraged delving deeper into the supply chain to understand the capabilities of suppliers and to be aware of their technology investments and learning curves. "It's amazing how that foundation cracked," she remarked.
In conclusion, Shauna remarked, “Recent years have taught us that it is critical to anticipate change and be flexible and proactive in how we manage impacts to the supply chain. We must protect our business and on-going operational needs. Changes will persist but with the right skills, processes, tools, and strategies, we will build the desired resiliency. The industry designed a 'Just-in-time' inventory strategy, then lived through a 'just-in-case' reality, and now, 'Just-be-prepared'".
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