The Inside Story of Procurement & Supply Chain in Singapore

The Inside Story of Procurement & Supply Chain in Singapore

The location, acquisition and transferral of goods and services has since time immemorial been considered a critical aspect of any business model, which is why the procurement & supply chain industry is as traditional as it gets. However, in the past year there have been dramatic advancements in technologies that have altered the way that procurement & supply chain is being implemented. For companies and candidates operating in this sphere it is imperative that they are able to move with the times to ensure that they not only remain relevant, but also advance.

Worldwide, procurement and supply chain is on the threshold of a digital revolution with IoT, AI and blockchain technologies and big data analysis changing everything about how the industry operates. This digital transformation promises a variety of benefits, including improved efficiency in business processes, operations, transparency and security, meaning that organisations must act swiftly to embrace these disruptive technologies.

Primarily these professionals are recommending the full-scale digitalisation of the industry, and companies are following this trend, looking to transform their organisation by these means. As a result there is a huge upsurge in demand for candidates who not only understand these new technologies and the applicable software, but can also optimise these apparatuses in order to make the supply chain more efficient, particularly in how it translates into the logistics aspects of ocean and air freight.

Of these technologies, the most highly regarded is blockchain, particularly in how it relates to the sourcing of materials, enables greater cost-efficient practices and facilitates improved movement of goods throughout Asia. The key issue here is in visibility, and any software that can improve this is of the greatest importance.

This is especially essential for FMCG companies that deal in customer-to-customer interactions. Here the logistics are paramount, with considerations over not only the transferral of goods and payments, but also concerning any intermediaries involved in transactions. It is here that the visibility of technology is of value, and why blockchain is currently considered the frontrunner in the industry, yet problems surrounding how this will be satisfactorily put into practice remain as companies struggle to understand how it works in both theory and practice.

It is due to these concerns that over the last six months there has been an increasing demand for candidates with experience in digital transformation, but companies in Singapore – particularly in the e-commerce sphere where the requirement is most pronounced - are finding them difficult to locate. With procurement such a traditional industry most candidates lack the new technological skills and are ill-equipped to implement these disruptive technologies, but also companies that are still themselves inexperienced in these new technologies are unsure of what skills they require.

Due to this candidate shortage organisations are beginning to look outside of the industry to source candidates from other areas that have successfully applied these apparatuses. One area that has proven particularly successful is aeronautics, as companies have noted the industry’s long history of big data and high-technology implementation and located candidates with transferrable skills for a logistics environment.

One area in which these technologies is likely to prove critical is in last mile delivery, the final leg of the e-commerce supply chain.

For many retailers, delivery is their only face-to-face contact with customers meaning that its importance cannot be overstated. Last mile delivery is a major concern for many e-commerce companies as it tends to be the costliest and least efficient aspect of their operation. The cost of global parcel delivery, excluding pickup, line-haul, and sorting, amounts to approximately US$83 billion, with growth rates in 2015 of between seven and 10 percent in mature markets and more than 100 percent in developing markets.

Thanks to Singapore’s enviable infrastructure, last mile delivery is not such a major issue for companies operating solely within the city state. However, for organisations with a wider remit throughout Asia it can prove particularly troublesome. To this end there are a number of technologies being developed, such as TR46:2016, which aims to standardise dataset formats and streamline delivery processes between e-commerce retailers and logistics service providers, paving the way for more efficient deliveries.

While most companies are looking to improve procurement & supply chain efficiency through digitalisation, others – particularly MNCs – are seeking out more dramatic initiatives for cutting costs, either centralising or decentralising operations outside of Singapore through restructuring.

With Singapore topping charts of most the expensive cites in which to live, costs for companies in the area have escalated, making it one of the most expensive countries in which to operate. Due to this rise in costs many companies have made moves to either relocate supply chain support staff operations to cheaper countries, or close regional hubs altogether or have local branches report directly to global headquarters.

There is a general feeling amongst experts that companies will realise that the savings made do not recompense for the loss in efficiency and leadership offered by their Singapore based regional hubs and soon return. However, this may be of little comfort to employees for whom this movement means that positions have been lost.

Despite the technological and structural upheaval in the procurement industry there is still a strong demand for candidates, particularly in these months immediately following the pay out of bonuses in the new financial year. Although there have been signs of some slowdown in FMCG markets, the supply chain sides of high-tech and life sciences industries are showing strong growth, meaning that for candidates with this experience it could be a good time to look for improved positions, especially if they are skilled in the new digital trends.

Due to newness of the technologies involved and the lack of candidates, the demand is spread out over all levels. Smaller companies that are either new to the game or do not have the broader global reach from which to draw experience are looking for senior level individuals around whom digital and analytical teams can be built. Larger companies are predominantly looking for low to mid-level candidates with exposure at regional scope and good career progression to improve digital departments, but they are also looking for more senior level staff who can combine technical skills with people management skills and a past record of cost saving projects at big industry names.

But no matter the level of the candidate or the size of the company, for each there can be no underestimating the importance of this digital revolution of the procurement sector. This once traditional industry is changing rapidly and looking to the future, even if many people within it are unsure of what that future may consist. Candidates who possess the skills to not only understand this future, but can assist in actualising it are the key to this, and companies who can locate them will steal the march on their traditional competitors.

If you would like to discuss this report in more depth or you wish to discuss your job search or recruitment needs, please email Belinder Kaur, Procurement & Supply Chain Manager for Hays Singapore at