[Interview] Ulrich Weigel about Global Sourcing

Today, we are very excited to post our 1st interview.

Kathrin Kornfeld: Leica is an icon for a lot of people synonymous with quality. It is also a company with a global footprint that is continuously innovating. It follows that at Leica, Procurement has a critical role to play. So, Ulrich, based on your extensive experience and your role at Leica, what can you tell us about the meaning of “Global Sourcing”?

Ulrich Weigel: There’s no question that global sourcing is, and will remain, a key factor within the Procurement function. The question is not “should our sourcing be global?” but rather how and where to buy from. There will always be new opportunities out there.
Plus, opportunities exist for various type of purchases – even for production means or prototypes, which are categories that a lot of people still consider to be only for local sourcing. The same applies to high-quality components. Global sourcing enables Procurement to take advantage of currency exchange rates, reduced added value costs, and, sometimes, to access rare raw materials. It is also sometimes the only way to get access to technologies that are no longer available locally.

K: You are right, global sourcing creates a lot of opportunities. But, is it that simple? Are there any challenges in getting there?

U: Sure! As the adage says, “no pain, no gain!”. A “global buyer” faces several challenges. Global sourcing requires having a global and coordinated strategy. In-depth market studies are required. Finding suppliers by googling them is not really the way to go. It is critical to identify suppliers who have the potential to become qualified partners. Such suppliers need to be “shaped” and developed to fit the needs of the buying organization.

K: I imagine that all of this means that buyers may require a different skill set.

U: You are right, Kathrin. Global sourcing requires a sourcing professional who is motivated, proactive, knowledgeable, and at ease in a multi-cultural context. I want to emphasize this multi-talent aspect; especially for socio-cultural skills. Besides, buyers must be irreproachable! Ethics, resistance to corruption… are imperative. Buyers have also to manage the internal change management and become a salesperson. This is because the greatest resistance to change is often within your own organization!
In addition to the impact on buyers’ skills, global sourcing also affects organizations. As I said, global sourcing means change management so it is crucial to strategically and operationally align the whole Procurement organization to global requirements. I often say that “remote control never works.”

K: In a context of constant change, what do you see as major trends that will impact Global Sourcing?

U: Well, in the coming years, volumes sourced globally will continue to increase and account for an ever larger share of the portfolio. At the same time, occurrence of environmental and other kinds of disasters will also increase. A recipe for chaos if suppliers and the spend are not well managed!