Inside Supply Management Magazine

Innovation and Diverse Suppliers

May 05, 2015

In the not-too-distant future, minority populations in the United States will be the majority, and businesses “will die on the vine” if they don’t connect with minority communities and make diverse businesses an integral part of their supply chains.

Diverse suppliers may surprise supply management practitioners by their agility and their ability to provide innovative products and services, often at better-than-expected price points. During a session on diverse suppliers and innovation at ISM2015, two supply chain professionals shared stories of unique innovative solutions their diverse suppliers bring to the table and the overall value such suppliers provide supply management organizations.

Linda Winter, director of sourcing for Pacific Gas & Electric, discussed innovative solutions offered by several diverse suppliers, including a company that is working on a way to pull battery power from electric cars when they are not in use, and add it to the power grid.

Kimberly Proffitt, senior director of finance and supplier relationship management at Nationwide Insurance, told about a diverse supplier that uses drone technology to shoot videos and another group of diverse suppliers that created a consortium of public relations and marketing professionals so that together they “can service a Fortune 100 company.”

“We often tell diverse suppliers that alone they might not be enough, but if they can partner with others in the same space, that can be a differentiator,” Proffitt says.

Both agreed that supply management’s role with diverse suppliers is to introduce and create opportunities for the suppliers with business stakeholders, to ensure that diverse businesses are part of the mainstream in the company and to help them remain competitive.