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Focus: Sourcing/Procurement

Feature Article from Our Sourcing and Procurement Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's On-Target e-Magazine

Aug. 24 , 2011

Supply Chain News: ISM's 2011 J. Shipman Award Winner Shelley Stewart on Procurement Careers, Lean and Supply Management, and More


Chief Procurement Officer at Tyco International Says Better Managing Risk will be Key Skill Area in Next Few Years


SDigest Editorial Staff 


In May, SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore spoke with Shelley Stewart, SVP Operations Excellence/Chief Procurement Officer at Tyco International and winner of the prestigious J. Shipman award from the Institute for Supply Management, its highest honor, which was presented to Stewart at ISM's annual conference in Orlando.

SCDigest Says:


You can't just keeping taking costs out of the suppliers, you have to start driving efficiency into the supply base

Shelley Stewart .

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That interview was included as part of our overall video coverage of the conference (see ISM 2011 Video Review and Comment), but below we provide an abridge text version of that conversation, where Stewart talks about how he got in to a supply management career, the importance of Lean thinking in procurement, risk management, managing up, down and sideways, and more.

Gilmore: Shelley, how did you get into this profession, and what was the path in your career?

Stewart: It was a circuitous route for me. I had an undergraduate and master's degree in criminal justice, and I came home to New York and my father helped me get a job in aerospace. They were putting people like me [without much experience] in the purchasing organization. I started working in sub-contractor management.

That's kind of how it was back then. You didn't plan to get into procurement, unlike now, it just happened. That's how it started for me.

Gilmore: You wound up going to United Technologies, and of course United Technologies has been one of the leaders in Lean. Did you get steeped in Lean thinking and practice?

Stewart: Yes, I learned from Yuzuru Ito [a famous Lean expert] who was a special advisor to the chairman of the company, on the quality requirements, and attended Ito University [established within United Technologies]. Ultimately, I was responsible for rolling out Lean to the supply chain there.

Gilmore: Do you think the supply management profession as a whole needs to get more involved with Lean and better understand Lean principles?

Stewart: No question - At Tyco, ours is called "operational excellence," and we're working the Lean concepts and trying to push them out to our suppliers. We don't have it totally rolled out yet, but we're doing it in pockets.

So the answer is Yes. You can't just keeping taking costs out of the suppliers, you have to start driving efficiency into the supply base.

Gilmore: What advice do you have for younger people still early in their supply management careers to have the kind of success that you have had?

Stewart: One, have good communication skills. Two, good skills in dealing with people. Three, really understand your profession, and what it takes to get the job done. And understand that you are not on an island alone in a company, you have a real constituency there, and customers internal to the organization, and you have to understand what they need done.

(Sourcing and Procurement Article Continues Below)




You also have to understand where the company is headed, the business plan and the financial strategy, so you can really add value to the company.

Gilmore: There have been so many changes both in the practice of supply management and in the overall environment we operate in today, what do you see as some of the key challenges that the supply management discipline is going to have to get even better at in the next 3-5 years?

Stewart: Well, globalization is really key, and risk of supply around that globalization. Making sure you understand who your suppliers are, where they are - there are a lot of natural disasters happening now, geopolitical things occurring... You can't prevent those, but you can be prepared for those and be ready with back-up sources of supply, and build good relationships with suppliers so that even if there is a critical issues, you're the first to get your product when the time comes.

So there are a lot of areas around risk that we need to better understand and get good at.

Gilmore: When you reach the kind of success that you've had, you have to interact a lot with CEO, CFOs, other executive peers. What are the keys to getting that part of the job right?

Stewart: It's starts with making sure you understand what their issues are. As I said, procurement is not on an island alone. You impact the organization, so you need to understand what your customers need to have done so you can accommodate them. That doesn't mean you don't push them and help them get aggressive about the challenges they are facing, but it does mean you are clear, you communicate, you collaborate, you make it clear you are working to solve their problems.

Gilmore: At the executive level, you have to manage up, you have to manage sideways, and you have to manage down into your organization. Do you have any sort of guidelines on how much time you should spend with each, or does it depend?

Stewart: I think it depends - there are no clear guidelines. But there is a balance. You have to manage up, down and sideways because that's where all your constituents lie. Your CEO, CFO, company leadership, the business leaders - you have to make sure you are aligned with them, you have to make sure you are aligned with the functional leaders in the company, and you have to make sure that the message that what you and your team are attempting to accomplish is permeating down into the whole organization.

Gilmore: Shelly thank you very much for being here with me today, and congratulations on a fantastic career and fantastic award.

Stewart: Thank Dan, I really appreciate it.

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