Sep 12, 2022

What Is Sourcing? How to Find and Vet the Right Suppliers

by Arielle Kushner

what is sourcing

Sourcing refers to the process of finding and assessing suppliers in order to procure goods and services. The sourcing process can be very complex and may involve multiple stages, depending on the nature of the product or service being procured. Suitable suppliers must be identified, vetted, and qualified before a sourcing contract can be awarded.

The Importance of Sourcing

Sourcing is a critical function in any organization because it is responsible for ensuring that the goods and services required are procured from reliable and cost-effective suppliers. An effective sourcing strategy can help a business obtain quality products and services at the best possible price while minimizing the risks associated with supplier contracts.

What Is Considered Strategic Sourcing?

Strategic sourcing refers to a comprehensive plan that considers all aspects of the sourcing process, from supplier selection and contract negotiation to improving the supply chain management and performance measurement.

The objectives of strategic sourcing are to:

  • Reduce procurement costs and add to cost savings
  • Improve the quality of goods and services procured
  • Streamline the sourcing and cost management process
  • Mitigate supplier risk
  • Enhance supplier and vendor relationships

What Is the Sourcing Process?

For a business to find the right sourcing solution, they first need to understand what their sourcing process looks like. The sourcing process can be very complex and may involve multiple stages, depending on the nature of the product or service being procured.

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Below is an overview of the main steps involved in a sourcing process:

1. Needs Assessment

The first step in the sourcing process is to assess the needs of the organization. This includes identifying the products or services required, the quantity needed, and the timeframe for delivery.

2. Supplier Identification

Once the sourcing requirements have been identified, suitable suppliers must be identified and screened. The supplier selection criteria will vary depending on the organization’s specific needs.

3. Request for Proposal (RFP)

After a shortlist of suppliers has been identified, an RFP can be issued to invited suppliers. The RFP should include all the relevant information that the supplier needs to know for them to submit a proposal, such as the organization’s sourcing requirements, timelines, and evaluation criteria.

4. Proposal Evaluation

The proposals received from suppliers are then evaluated against the organization’s sourcing criteria. This evaluation may be done by a team of experts or through an RFP software.

5. Contract Negotiation

After the supplier has been selected, the next step is to negotiate the terms of the contract. This includes pricing, delivery terms, and any other special conditions that need to be met.

6. Execution of Contract

Once the contract has been executed, the sourcing process is complete. The organization can now start receiving the goods or services from the supplier as specified in the contract.

7. Performance Monitoring

Even after the sourcing process is complete, it is important to monitor the supplier’s performance to ensure that they are meeting the agreed-upon terms and conditions. This can be done through periodic audits or reviews.

Strategic and Tactical Components of Sourcing

The sourcing process can be divided into two distinct phases: strategic sourcing and tactical sourcing. Strategic sourcing is the process of identifying and engaging with the most suitable suppliers that can provide the best value for an organization. This phase of sourcing includes supplier selection, contract negotiation, and supplier management.

Tactical sourcing is the process of executing the sourcing strategy. This phase of sourcing includes sourcing activities such as RFP issuance, supplier performance monitoring, and contract administration.

What Are the Different Types of Sourcing?

To meet the specific needs of an organization, an in-depth understanding of the sourcing process is required. Knowing what resources are available and how to use them is critical to sourcing success.

Procurement teams should not only focus on acquiring goods at a cheap price, but also give attention to sourcing activities that revolve around developing long-term and beneficial relationships with suppliers, rather than one-time transactions.

There are different types of sourcing that a procurement team can use to achieve their desired outcomes:

Outsourcing

This is the process of contracting with a third-party supplier to provide goods or services that are typically performed by in-house staff.

Offshoring

This typically involves moving sourcing activities to another country where labor costs are lower.

Nearshoring

This sourcing strategy is similar to offshoring, but the sourcing activities are moved to a country that is closer to the home country, which makes communication and transportation easier.

In-House Sourcing

The iIn-house sourcing strategy involves performing all sourcing activities within the organization using in-house staff.

Joint Venture

This sourcing strategy involves forming a partnership with another organization to share resources and expertise.

Captive Service Operations

This strategy involves setting up a wholly-owned subsidiary in another country to perform sourcing activities.

Global Sourcing

Global sourcing is the sourcing of goods and services from multiple countries around the world. This sourcing strategy is used to take advantage of global market trends and to find suppliers that can offer the best value.

What Are the Benefits of Sourcing?

There are many benefits that an organization can gain from sourcing effectively. A few of these benefits are:

Cost Reduction

One of the main benefits of sourcing is that it can help reduce costs by leveraging the supplier’s economies of scale.

Access to New Markets and Suppliers

By sourcing from new suppliers in different markets, an organization can gain access to new products, technologies, and services.

Improved Quality

Acquiring goods and services from the most suitable supplier can lead to an improvement in quality.

Reduced Risks

An effective sourcing strategy can help reduce risks by diversifying the supplier base and mitigating dependency on a single supplier.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

Sourcing can help improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that the right products and services are delivered on time and at the right price.

What Are the Challenges of Sourcing?

Despite the many benefits, sourcing can also present some challenges for organizations. A few of these challenges are:

Long Sourcing Cycles

The sourcing process can be lengthy, which can lead to delays in receiving goods and services.

Contractual Risks

There is a risk that the terms of the contract may not be favorable to the organization.

Difficult Supplier Relationships

It can be difficult to develop and maintain good supplier relationships.

Limited Sourcing Options

There may be a limited number of suppliers that meet the organization’s requirements.

What Is Responsible Sourcing?

Responsible sourcing is a sourcing strategy that takes into account the social, economic, and environmental impacts of sourcing activities. This type of sourcing aims to minimize the negative impacts of sourcing and maximize the positive impacts.

Due to the growing importance of sustainability, more and more organizations are adopting responsible sourcing and sustainable procurement practices.

What are the Pitfalls of a Bad Sourcing Strategy?

Strategies are created to achieve specific objectives. A sourcing strategy is no different. A bad sourcing strategy can lead to many problems, such as:

Poor Quality of Goods or Services

If an organization sources its goods or services from suppliers who are not able to meet its quality standards, it will eventually have to suffer the consequences in terms of poor quality products or services.

Lack of Options and Flexibility

A sourcing strategy that does not provide the business with enough options and flexibility can lead to problems in the future. For example, if they source all its requirements from a single supplier and that supplier goes out of business, the organization will be left with no other options.

Increased Costs

An organization’s sourcing strategy should be clear and well thought out, otherwise, it can lead to increased costs for the business.

Risk of Supplier Dependence

Over-reliance on a single supplier can be very risky. If that supplier goes out of business or is unable to meet the requirements set, the organization will be in a difficult position. A bad sourcing strategy can often cause supplier dependence.

Inefficient Use of Resources

A sourcing strategy that is not efficient can lead to the waste of time, money, and other resources. Sourcing goods or services from suppliers who are located far away will incur higher transportation costs, thus leading to inefficient use of resources.

How Can Organizations Improve Their Sourcing Strategies?

Since sourcing involves the procurement of goods and services from external suppliers, organizations need to have a well-defined sourcing strategy. Organizations can improve their sourcing strategies by:

Defining their Sourcing Goals and Objectives

Organizations should first define their sourcing goals and objectives. This will help to ensure that the sourcing process is aligned with the organization’s overall strategy

Conducting a Needs Assessment

Assessment of sourcing needs is crucial in sourcing strategy. It can identify the specific goods or services that need to be sourced, and the quantity required.

Evaluating Potential Suppliers

Once the sourcing needs have been identified, the next step is to evaluate potential suppliers. Organizations should carefully assess the capabilities of each supplier to ensure that they can meet their needs.

Selecting the Right Supplier

After the evaluation process is complete, the organization should select the supplier that is best suited to meet their needs. The selection process should be based on several factors, including cost, quality, and service.

Monitoring Supplier Performance

Finally, it is important to monitor the performance of the supplier on an ongoing basis. This will help to ensure that they are meeting your expectations and requirements.

Supplier Relationship Management

Managing suppliers and arranging sourcing events are important sourcing activities. But supplier relationship management (SRM) is a key sourcing strategy that helps organizations to optimize their supplier relationships. SRM involves the development and maintenance of positive relationships with suppliers to improve communication, collaboration, and coordination.

Other Important Considerations

There are a number of other important considerations that organizations should keep in mind when sourcing goods and services. 

These include:

Cost is not the only factor to consider when selecting a supplier.

While cost is an important consideration, it should not be the only factor that determines your sourcing decisions. Over-reliance on low-cost suppliers can lead to problems such as substandard quality, late deliveries, and poor customer service.

The supplier selection process is critical to sourcing success.

The supplier selection process is critical to sourcing success. Organizations should carefully evaluate all potential suppliers before making a decision. Quality suppliers can make a significant difference to the success of your sourcing strategy.

A well-defined sourcing strategy should be in place.

Organizations should have a sourcing strategy in place that clearly defines the goals and objectives of the sourcing process. Without a sourcing strategy, it will be at a disadvantage when negotiating with suppliers.

Supplier performance should be monitored on an ongoing basis.

The sourcing process should not end once a supplier is selected. It is important to monitor their performance so as to ensure that they are meeting your expectations. This can be done through regular communication and supplier performance reviews.

What is Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain management (SCM) is the process of planning, executing, and controlling the operations of the supply chain with the aim of achieving desired levels of service and performance. SCM includes the coordination and collaboration of all activities from sourcing raw materials to delivering finished products to customers.

What are the Challenges of Supply Chain Management?

Some of the challenges faced by organizations when managing their supply chains include:

Globalization

The globalization of business has led to an increase in the number of suppliers and customers that organizations have to deal with. This has made it more difficult to manage the supply chain effectively.

Complexity

The increasing complexity of supply chains is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today. Supply chains are becoming more global and interconnected, making them difficult to manage.

Risk

Supply chain risk has also increased in recent years due to the increasing complexity of supply chains. Organizations need to be able to identify and manage supply chain risks in order to avoid disruptions.

Talent

There is a shortage of talent in the supply chain management field, making it difficult for organizations to find qualified individuals to fill positions.

Technology

The ever-changing landscape of technology can also be a challenge for organizations when it comes to supply chain management. Organizations need to keep up with the latest technologies to stay competitive.

Social Responsibility Initiatives

There is an increasing focus on social responsibility initiatives, such as sustainability, which can add complexity to the supply chain. Organizations need to be able to integrate these initiatives into their supply chain management processes.

Increasing Customer Expectations

Customer expectations are also increasing, and organizations need to be able to meet these demands in order to stay competitive. A business’s supply chain can be a key differentiator in meeting customer expectations.

Sourcing vs. Procurement

It is important to note that sourcing and procurement are two different functions within an organization. Sourcing specialists are responsible for finding and engaging with suppliers, while procurement specialists aim to get the best possible price for goods and services. Sourcing and procurement teams work closely together to ensure that an organization is getting the best possible value from its suppliers.

A comprehensive procurement software can help organizations streamline their sourcing and procurement processes. This type of software includes features such as supplier management, contract management, spend analysis, and sourcing events.

Conclusion

Making sure that your organization has a good supply chain is crucial to its growth. Sourcing, in particular, is a critical part of the supply chain. Strategize sourcing plans, implement them, and make sure you monitor the sourcing process to ensure that your organization is getting the best possible value from its suppliers.

With a good sourcing strategy in place, your organization will be well on its way to success!

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