By Rich Weissman
Shane Perl is the Director of Strategic Sourcing, Global Raw Materials, for a New England-based chemical company. He recently spoke with My Purchasing Center's Rich Weissman about his procurement career and philosophies on supply management.
Please tell us a bit about your background:
I came to procurement through a non-traditional means. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in chemical engineering and I received my MBA from the University of Detroit with some graduate work completed at Rutgers University. While I always seemed to have an interest in finance and marketing, I considered myself an engineer first and a business manager second. I was at BASF for 13 years and I became involved in a project that exposed me to procurement and operations. I really enjoyed that work. I continue to be involved in strategic business decisions and what helps me is that I can view these decisions through the lens of a chemical engineer. My engineering degree has been very valuable.
What was the BASF project?
BASF is a successful company that often grew through acquisition. At one time there were over 100 sites and that resulted in fragmented technical and commercial processes. Our team worked to standardize processes throughout the domestic operations. It was a successful project and it ultimately expanded globally. It was during my involvement with this project that I discovered my interest in working with suppliers and realizing how much impact suppliers had on the success of the company.
Did you personally expand globally with it?
Yes and those were interesting assignments. I moved to Germany for two years where I was part of a cross functional global team expanding on our success in streamlining operations. I really enjoyed my time in Germany, and I also had a short project assignment in China. Once I got back to the United States I had assignments in Louisiana and at company headquarters in New Jersey.
But then you left BASF. Why?
I was recruited by a management consulting company that had the promise of expanding on the type of work I was doing at BASF, supporting the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. But, at that time I had a young family and an ever increasing travel schedule didn’t quite fit into my definition of work life balance so I left after about a year. I loved the work but I needed to get back into a more traditional job for me and I landed with a New England chemical products company as the manager of strategic sourcing. I’ve been here about three years.
What kind of projects are you working on?
I work on short, medium, and long-term sourcing strategies with raw material suppliers and our regional operating units in a center-led procurement process. I work closely with the head of procurement and operations in the field. I have responsibility for the strategy piece of our raw materials acquisition. Again, I am able to combine my business and technical expertise to really dig into sourcing strategies based on global market trends and how they impact our business and ultimately our customers. I really enjoy it.
What are your supply management philosophies?
I look at three important segments as I study the markets. First, I need to understand the total cost of ownership of what I am analyzing. Next, I need to understand the market conditions, relative to supply and demand and pricing trends. Finally, I need to look at the company risk management profile on my commodities. Once I have these three elements I can develop a successful strategy. But, I don’t make the analysis alone. We work in cross functional teams and certainly include the end user in our process.
Do you have any advice to share?
I try to learn as much as I can about the markets I am working in, including understanding the pressures the suppliers are working under. I think it is important to have a deep knowledge and passion for what you are doing. I like to gain what I call a ‘balance of knowledge’. I need to be equal to or better than the supplier on the other side of the table.
Endicott College Assistant Professor Rich Weissman teaches management courses for the School of Business and the Van Loan Graduate School. He is also the director of corporate education, which includes the Center for Leadership, Endicott’s management development institute. He is vice chair of the planning committee and also serves on the technology committee and the Institution Review Board. A practitioner turned educator, Weissman has more than 25 years of experience in all facets of procurement and supply chain management. He has held positions with large business units of Fortune 500 companies, medium-sized contract manufacturing companies, small venture-backed Internet startup firms, and third-party procurement, consulting and strategic sourcing firms.
Rich holds an M.S. in Management from Lesley University and a B.A. in Economics from Rutgers University. He is past president of the Purchasing Management Association of Boston and a recipient of the Harry J. Graham Memorial Award, the highest honor bestowed by the association.
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