Digitisation challenges all areas of purchasing

Opportunities and risks of globalisation, megatrends in digital transformation and the added value of international networks were central themes of Europe's largest purchasing summit, which ended on 10 November afternoon in Berlin.

According to Gregor Gysi, President of the European Left, Europe is in a structural crisis. Photo: Tanja Marotzke/BME e. V.

Global procurement markets are increasingly coming under the spell of politics and require purchasing to constantly adapt its strategies. The emerging raw material rally is forcing procurement to secure prices and availability in the best possible way. And: the digital transformation of purchasing will accelerate smart networking within and outside the company. These central messages emanated from the 52nd BME Symposium on Purchasing and Logistics, which this year was held under the motto "Added value: Global networks" and ended in Berlin on 10 November. At Europe's largest buyers' summit almost 2,000 buyers, logistics specialists and supply chain managers were discussing the current megatrends of their profession since 8 November.

“The growing number of geopolitical risks requires companies to manage crises differently. It is primarily a question of cultural change. Crises have to be taken into account in day-to-day business,” said Jan Henning Mehlfeldt, Executive Vice President, Purchasing & Supplier Quality of the Webasto Group, at the beginning of the closing plenary session on 10 November. This requires agile organizations that provide flexibility in the allocation of responsibilities, flat structures and quick decision-making processes. Stable processes could also help learn from successfully managed crises.

Michael Harms, Managing Director of the East Committee of German Business, commented on current EU-Russia relations. He was firmly convinced that Russia would continue to open up. “Russia needs the West, especially its technological know-how.” While the state sector has little transparency, the Kremlin's economic policy is relatively open. Therefore, protectionist tendencies in Russia are not as pronounced as in the USA or China.

According to Dr. Thomas Hueck, chief economist at Robert Bosch GmbH, “the West has rushed ahead with the EU's eastward expansion”. It could not expect Eastern European states to have successfully completed a reform process in 20 years' time for which the old EU states needed 60 years and more.

Daniel Andrich, Delegate of the German Economy in Washington, reminded the audience that the US is strongly focused on its domestic market. Trade policy issues are therefore of secondary importance for the new US administration. Trump's mission in this context is to reduce the trade deficit of the United States.

Gabriele Sons, member of the Executive Board and Chief Human Resources Officer of thyssenkrupp Elevator AG, went into more detail on the serious effects of the digital transformation for her company. Industry 4.0 also requires corporate culture 4.0, because upheavals such as the digitization of the economy have caused fears among employees and superiors. Managers who managed to turn these fears into positive energy would have a head start in the digital transformation of the future. Industry 4.0 also means entering uncharted territory. Sons: “Then you have to be allowed to make mistakes.”

Gregor Gysi, President of the European Left, dealt with the current state of the EU in his final keynote speech. In his opinion, Europe is in a structural crisis. “The euro crisis is only an external expression of a strong current account imbalance between strong nations such as Germany and weak countries such as Greece,” Gysi added. He therefore proposes granting European reconstruction loans to countries in crisis. A debt conference for the entire eurozone would also be helpful. This would be of particular benefit to highly indebted Greece. EU citizens would have to decide whether they want a Europe of democracy or national authoritarianism in the future.

Impressions in the picture gallery

Save the Date: The 53rd BME Symposium on Purchasing and Logistics will take place in Berlin from 14 November to 16 November 2018.

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