Manager, Materials Management Branch
City of Edmonton
Describe your current work; what is your role there?
The City of Edmonton delivers civic services to a fast growing metropolitan area of nearly 900,000 citizens. Operating in a centralized shared services model, the Materials Management Branch provides a complete range of procurement and supply chain management services to all City Departments. Our goal is to provide excellent service and to effectively support our clients in successfully delivering on their business objectives and mandates. Our procurement team is responsible for managing an average $1 billion in annual spending on goods, services and construction, seeking best value outcomes that include economic, environmental and social considerations. On the supply chain side, we provide inventory management and distribution services through a centralized warehouse, as well as numerous dedicated client stores located throughout the City. Our supply chain division manages over 57,000 SKU’s, including parts service that supports 4700 bus, LRT and municipal fleet assets.
In my role I am accountable for providing leadership to our Branch and its 150 dedicated employees. Working with a talented management team, we continually challenge ourselves to identify and execute plans to improve our systems and processes, which will increase our efficiency and effectiveness and support the evolving needs of our clients. Given the frenetic pace at the City, and the constant flow of projects and day-to-day work that we need to accomplish to meet clients’ timelines and expectations, this is not always easy! In addition, I am actively involved on numerous departmental and corporate governance committees and major projects, and externally I devote time to building strategic relationships with key suppliers, industry associations, and peer organizations to advance the City’s interests, share information, and position the City as a customer of choice.
What does your typical supply chain work day look like? Describe a typical day for you.
My days are hectic. Typically I’m trying to keep one step ahead of all the emails, meetings, deadlines and commitments that I have. With literally dozens of projects and initiatives in progress at any given time, dealing with the inevitable issues that arise in the course of the work of the Branch, attending City Council meetings and staying abreast of current events and trends that impact our work, it is an extremely dynamic and exciting environment. I also make sure to check in regularly with my direct reports and our staff to stay connected with the operational activities and challenges and to provide coaching and mentoring.
Why did you choose a career in the field of supply chain management?
From a young age I was very entrepreneurial and had an aptitude for business. My early work experiences were in warehousing and distribution environments, where I was exposed to a variety of supply chain functions. I was always intrigued about how things worked and the interdependency of the various links in a value chain from the customer need to its fulfilment. A purchasing manager who was an early mentor of mine recommended the C.P.P. program (now SCMP) to me to help my career development, and this decision laid the foundation for my continued advancement in the profession. Since completing the C.P.P. program, I obtained an MBA degree and have taken a number of leadership and technical training programs to stay current and continue my interest in lifelong learning and personal development.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I love the fast pace and the important projects that I am involved in or that my team is supporting. Contributing to building a great City and serving my community is extremely rewarding for me. As important is working with many passionate and talented people and helping others, whether they’re my staff or clients, to be successful. As I progress in my career I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience, and to support and mentor the next generation of employees who are the future of our profession.
What major changes have you seen in the supply chain industry over the past five years? What trends do you think we will see over the next five years?
The major changes that stand out for me are how automation and leveraging technology are becoming more and more crucial to achieving greater levels of efficiency and to supporting our strategic outcomes. Also, the supply chain function is certainly viewed as much more of a strategic function than in the past. This leads to greater client and corporate expectations, and new skill sets are required to successfully operate and continue to demonstrate value at a new level of profile within organizations. A third change is the advent of environmental and social purchasing as a catalyst for change and a multidimensional lens through which procurement can contribute to organizations. In the public sector, this is more and more aligning with deliberate public policy objectives, whether it is supporting local suppliers (economic development), poverty reduction (living wage) or environmental leadership.
Over the next five years I see a continued evolution of the function toward a cost recovery/revenue generating model through expanding techniques such as category management and strategic sourcing, as well as external collaboration. I also believe there will be continued elevation of SCM as a strategic function that is viewed by governance and executive levels as a critical success factor. This will lead to greater pressure to elevate the skills and competencies of practitioners and promises that our profession is rising to the stature which many of us have long believed it should attain.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their career in supply chain?
Be curious and seek learning opportunities wherever you can find them (both formal and informal). Research, ask lots of questions and make sure you understand your customer and their business needs and challenges, and be proactive to presenting solutions that truly add value (i.e. don’t wait to be asked). Build trust and credibility by following through on your commitments, delivering results and showing interest in your customer’s success. Become a valued business partner. Don’t work for your next job; put all of yourself into your current role, whatever it is.
Pursue your formal education. More and more, intermediate and senior roles in supply chain management will require advanced education, reflecting the specialized skills that are necessary for success. Make the personal sacrifice to position yourself for career advancement.
What are the keys to getting the most out of your SCMA membership?
Being an active member and participating in events and educational opportunities to grow your skills and knowledge and build valuable peer networks. SCMA regional councils work hard to develop programming that provides opportunities for professional connection and learning. Consider volunteering on your regional council to develop new skills and meet other professionals. Active participation with professional associations is valued by employers who are looking for the best and most well-rounded candidates.
How has the SCMA membership (or your SCMP designation-if applicable) been of value to you and your organization?
The SCMP designation was a key ingredient in my professional development. The coursework and capstone course helped me to develop the ability to think strategically while honing the foundational skills and techniques needed to solve problems and manage various aspects of supply chain management. The knowledge I gained through the SCMP program positioned me to make greater contributions to my organization. Achieving the SCMP also supported my career advancement by providing me with the educational qualifications to pursue more senior positions and making it possible to pursue a Master’s degree.
What role does networking play in your professional career?
Networking plays a major role in my professional career. Relationships truly are the currency of business, and establishing strong networks and relationships both internally, across peer organizations and with key external groups and suppliers is essential to our success. Networking provides a conduit to market intelligence, best practices, peer support, opportunities for collaboration, and it creates talent pipelines that support succession planning. By actively participating in SCMA events, educational opportunities and conferences, I have built up a strong network of colleagues and made many lasting friendships.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
What makes me most proud is the credibility and respect that the City’s procurement and supply chain management function has built in the eyes of our elected officials, senior management and our clients. During my tenure, our star has risen through our elevated status in the organizational structure and a having a much stronger mandate through policy. Most importantly, it has risen because of the degree to which we are invited to provide strategic advice that helps guide the City’s largest and most sensitive and complex projects. We are now being recognized as an essential business partner. This has been a complete team effort from both a strong and united management team, and through the passion and commitment to excellence of all staff.