Procure4Peace is the bridge between Ukraine and the procurement community.
Procurement Heads' Founder and MD Rupert Gaster spoke with Sammeli Sammalkorpi, Rohit Sathe and Lance Younger from Procure4Peace to hear more about the group and its aims.
Who is behind the creation of Procure4Peace and what are the organisation’s aims?
I will tell you how it started from my perspective but as you will hear later there are multiple different stories leading Procure4Peace.
When Putin’s administration started the attack on Ukraine on the Thursday we figured out whether we wanted to go public with our view that this is a horrible attack and if so what is the actual wording.
We quite quickly decided that our moral imperative at Sievo was that we should make that statement and we did that on the Friday.
At that point, I was contacted by a Ukrainian in Finland who was leading the Ukrainians in Finland organisation to see how Sievo could help Ukraine.
I realised that there is a real challenge in bringing the goods from Helsinki to Ukraine to help the Ukrainian army and other organisations and I realised through my connections that I was well-positioned to help and in a matter of a few hours I had offers from logistics companies to bring the goods from Helsinki to Kyiv and over the weekend we established a logistics corridor from Helsinki to Ukraine.
That was when I realised that the procurement and logistics industry is super well-positioned to help Ukraine because there is procurement expertise and also connections to logistics companies and companies that supply many different goods.
Initially, I was happy helping in Finland but then I started thinking about how can we do this in a more scalable way as this should be happening all over and how could we really mobilise the global procurement community to help Ukraine with its unique capabilities that procurement had.
That is what happened on my side but then Rohit and Lance reached out to me after having the same thought process and that is how we joined our forces and established Procure4Peace.
For me it has been very fast and continues to be very fast, right at the same time as Sammeli was posting and getting things mobilised we picked up a little bit of that through the Procure Tech network, I think it was a quote that you put out Sammeli that we actually published on our weekly signals as the headline and it was then that Rohit actually pinged us both and asked if we fancied having a conversation about what we can do.
So, for three different reasons we got together over the weekend to see what we could do.
We can talk about what we are doing and how we are doing it, the key thing being the link into Ukraine also Rohit had direct links into Ukraine which might have been the kernel of where things came from.
It is a very dear friend of mine since 2002 and when I heard the news his face flashed in my head and just about the same time, I saw the post from Sammeli, we don’t even know each other, I just saw that Lance had shared his post on LinkedIn and I said let’s get together to help my friend, which was the inspiration and we roped him into this initiative and he is our eyes and ear on the ground.
I think quietly he has roped us in!
He has been fantastic as have many others who are Ukrainians on the ground and I think from day one there was a stark reality for us all from what we were seeing on the television but actually, they were living with it in real life but without that, we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing now with that team on the ground.
What are some of the challenges that you have seen and how is Procure4Peace helping?
The one reflection we have had several times is that the wartime context is quite different from your normal procurement context in different ways.
First of all, the time to market is really essential – nobody knows what will happen the next day, next month and so on.
We need to manage two timeframes, helping people as quickly as we can and also creating something scalable and manageable for the long term.
It is almost like a paradox if you don’t get some help now it might be that there is no reason to help in a month’s time but at the same time if you just focus on the here and now you are never going to make it more sustainable and scalable.
Secondly, it is the unpredictability – how you can deliver the goods to different locations, it changes on a daily basis so you can’t plan, you have to be super agile.
At the same time, some of your typical procurement challenges are there, you have the demand you need to find the suppliers you need to make sure there is no profiteering in the business and organise logistics so it is the same stuff just in a very time-critical context.
Just to segue from where Sammeli left it, the biggest challenge is to operationalise, there is the demand, there is the supply so there is a match, but there are a lot of operational aspects that need to be completed in order to convert that match into a marriage.
That is the most difficult part, but having the right help on the ground and having an extremely bright and connected procurement community we are able to get that going.
At a very basic level Procure4Peace is a platform, it is a website it is a community on LinkedIn and on Facebook which basically gives us a base to collaborate form.
We are meeting individual needs coming in from the organisation, whether it is medical supplies, food or whatever that may be.
The third thing we are providing is actual people, it is manpower, whether it is local Ukrainians or procurement expertise or software to be able to augment what is happening there.
What is important to remember is we are focused primarily on non-governmental organisations or CSOs.
In the very early days, we had conversations with corporates and also with the public sector and NGOs.
It was very clear that it was the NGOs or CSOs that didn’t have the capacity or the skills to be able to meet the needs.
Most of these organisations don’t have procurement or are not experienced in all the categories or in the volumes.
Those are the three things we have mobilised to focus mainly on the NGOs and CSOs.
How is the war impacting supply chain?
I think if you were to put the war in the context of the global supply chain crisis that has been running for the last two years I would say that the impact on supply chain of this war is limited in the big scheme of things.
Simply because the community has already gotten used to something that has had a lot of global impacts.
There are certain industries that have faced the heat a lot more, a grocer or a food business or a business buying a lot of grain, oil – those businesses are obviously hit.
But if you were to look at automotive the impact is far less in comparison to what they have dealt with over the last 24 months.
The biggest impact in my view has been the explosion in the commodity prices and the volatility that has triggered.
The big question is how is that going to affect consumer confidence and how does that then result in changing the buying behaviour of the users I think that is the bigger question that needs to be addressed.
Over the last two years, a tremendous amount of inventory has been built up in industries and in people’s homes.
There is a bullwhip that is already in play, if the consumer reacts in a cautious manner and pulls back the spending habit you are going to have an awful lot of inventory that is going o be in the pipeline in addition to what is already there and this can trigger an issue that goes beyond supply chain.
I think bullwhip is a good expression, in reality, I think there are some supply chains where it is evident where the problems are going to be.
It may be based on industry or it may be based on your footprint.
You may be an automotive manufacturer that does have supply coming out of different areas, I think some of the bigger issues that are going to face us are trade wars, the effect of sanctions and the ripple effect from that as that has fundamentally changed, for the next decade at least.
Things are already changing but this has magnified that.
Some of the things we are going as an industry we have put into practice during Covid are starting to come into play now.
One of the partnerships we spun up is between Scout B and Berow to help us, five years ago Scout B was a very small business and they put their hands up to ask how they could help and they are now working together to meet some of the supply market insight that we need across particular categories of spend.
So you have collaborative networks being formed, yes they still have to be agile but there are things that have been put in place at Rohit says to enable us to be able to manage the supply chain.
Is there anything that we can do to help procurement professionals who may be displaced or affected by the war?
It is happening in a couple of different ways, for example, we started with four people in Ukraine who basically were the core team that has kept everything real and they have created a network of more than 40 people in Ukraine who have either been displaced from their roles or have time to volunteer and they are then helping us locally with buying activities.
Beyond that we have had a few people on the LinkedIn group say we have a need for procurement people or a developer of procurement software, people like Circular did that on the development side.
There are others as well. There isn’t as far as I know a dedicated procurement headhunter that is saying we can help place people just yet, but those are the things that we are doing so far to try and connect people.
How can people support Procure4Peace in achieving its goals?
I think for all procurement professionals out there the call to action is to join the LinkedIn group.
Proure4peace.org is the website and then the LinkedIn group as well.
That is the way you can make yourself available.
Then specifically if you have any expertise in productive equipment, medical supplies categories are in high demand.
Also, if you are a generic procurement professional and you have some time on your hands right now and could help with a couple of days a week or on a full-time basis, those contributions are very valuable.
Also, any super well-connected procurement professionals, even if you don’t have time to volunteer on a full-time basis if you have some connections in these certain categories – medical supplies, food as well increasingly.
The re-building will come later on but announcing yourself in the group is the way to go.
We know that people have their own individual initiatives going on so there is a group that built a platform that is dedicated to buying medical supplies but as these new platforms for helping become available, please continue to let us know about them.
Then we can help to disseminate and connect it so they get used in the best way possible.
The best thing we can do is to collaborate and connect there are channels to do that, either through us or there is an inter-agency procurement group that is set up on behalf of the NGOs to which we are connected so that people are developing solutions just share them with us and we can make sure people are aware of them and are using them as well.