Three priorities for procurement officers during the COVID-19 outbreak

Chief Procurement Officer; COVID-19
April 1st, 2020
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In more peaceful times, procurement officers have demonstrated their ability to contribute to innovation and business development.

However, the COVID-19 crisis is giving procurement officers the opportunity to demonstrate their responsiveness towards lessening the impact of the virus and finding original solutions as a matter of urgency.

Procurement officers are focusing on three priorities to ensure that normal company activities can continue:

Procurement officers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis: Keeping teams safe

For procurement teams, the shift to remote working happened in response to the start of the lockdown.

This obligation to safety has forced procurement officers to reorganise their teams' work as a matter of urgency. This has involved:

  • Increasing the operational capacity of each member of the procurement department.
  • Organising collective work, with regular team routines and catch-ups, to ensure that the department is on the same page.
  • Ensuring that procurement departments remain fully integrated in the company's global information system.   

The robustness and agility of e-procurement solutions have ensured that the procurement team's contribution has remained uninterrupted.

Procurement officers have therefore been able to demonstrate a strong and practical strategic vision since the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in Europe. The line held!

Procurement officers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis: Responding to new needs

The crisis caused by COVID-19 did not begin with the isolation of French teams. Procurement officers have therefore been able to anticipate certain repercussions of the epidemic based on how events unfolded Asia.

This foresight has enabled procurement officers to initiate the first preventative measures relating to essential company processes. However, the suddenness of the impact caused by declaring a state of emergency in France means that the response has been largely improvised.

Procurement officers have had to respond as a matter of urgency because of failures in the chain within the current ecosystem:

  • Limitation or suspension of relations with Asia
  • Full or partial closure of many suppliers
  • Significant restrictions on the movement of "non-essential" goods

Procurement officers have also had to reconnect interrupted supply chains by identifying alternative solutions, which in turn is providing them with  new sources.

Procurement teams are therefore being driven by two unusual situations:

  • The search and supply of personal protective equipment suitable for implementing preventative actions and procedures.
  • The search and supply of components for the many companies that have chosen to take part in the "war effort [1]", by transforming their production machinery or logistics plans.

Procurement officers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis: Maintaining the ecosystem

Procurement officers are leading the response strategy in the face of the COVID-19 crisis through their close relationships with their main partners:

  • By organising the maintenance of supply chains with suppliers who are able to continue supplying good or services.
  • By preparing all suppliers to bounce back when needed, including those whose activity is fully or partially suspended.

Procurement officers can cooperate with the company's main partners in three different ways:

  • By monitoring strategic deliveries and their assignment on a daily basis, depending on changes in how companies are organising production for industrial activities.
  • The same approach applies for the food sector, with a special focus on drive-throughs, for example.
  • By supporting partners who have been hit the hardest by COVID-19, for example by ordering more of certain products (choosing fresh French products over supermarkets) and of course, by making a special effort to secure the payment chain.

In conclusion, procurement officers are assuming a strategic position in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The urgency and need for decisive measures demonstrate that company procurement officers are able to respond to challenges during difficult periods as well.

In the future, when we look back on this crisis, procurement officers will play a crucial role in building an even more resilient supply chain.    


[1] Over 300 French factories involved in a full-on "war effort" – French newspaper Les Échos/26 March 2020

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