Discussion about Implenia's new supplier management system

Sustainable supplier management – the only way to go

Implenia went live with its new supplier management system at the start of 2014. Against this background representatives of Implenia and metalworking company Ernst Schweizer AG met to exchange thoughts. As a supplier, Ernst Schweizer is affected by Implenia's new system, but the family firm, based in Hedingen, Canton Zurich, also has a lot of experience with its own supplier management system. Around the table sit Implenia's Jens Sasse, Head of Procurement, and Michael Berger, Supplier Manager, alongside Hans Ruedi Schweizer, CEO of the metal construction company, and Martina Marchesi, its Sustainability officer.

Martina Marchesi, Sustainability officer Ernst Schweizer AG, Michael Berger, Supplier Manager Implenia, Jens Sasse, Head of Procurement Implenia und Hans Ruedi Schweizer, CEO Ernst Schweizer AG (f.l.t.r.)

Mr. Sasse, why has Implenia introduced a supplier management system?

Sasse: As a construction and construction services company that generates around three-quarters of its turnover through suppliers and subcontractors, Implenia is very keen for business partners to share its standards and goals, so we can deliver high quality projects to our customers on time and on budget. This is why we took the supplier management concept, which has been use in other industries for many years, and developed it for use in the construction industry. Our aim with the system - which includes qualification (self-declaration and pre-qualification), evaluation (annual and project evaluation), classification and development phases (see diagram) - is to strengthen and extend our relationships with proven suppliers while minimising risks in the short term.


Schweizer: Our company has run a similar system for some years now. Our suppliers are subjected to a short assessment based on our four "Swiss success points" - three aspects of sustainability (employees and society, the environment and profitability) plus customer focus. First of all there is a self-assessment with a standardised questionnaire, and then we ask for individual details. With important suppliers we also carry out an audit.


Marchesi: Once they reach a certain purchasing volume, no company that takes sustainability seriously can do without a supplier management system these days.

“We carry out an audit with important suppliers.”

Hans Ruedi Schweizer, CEO Ernst Schweizer AG

What has your experience been with your supplier management system, Mr. Schweizer?

Schweizer: It has led to a concentration on fewer suppliers. Key supplier relationships have been expanded, but not all our business partners fulfilled our requirements, and by getting to know them better we found in some cases that there just wasn't the basis for working together. To sum up, I would say that our business relationships have become more transparent, closer, and so better.


Marchesi: You can't create a supplier management system overnight, so we're glad we started the process some years ago. Like any company we first had to find the way that suited us best.

“Implenia is very keen for business partners to share its standards and goals.”

Jens Sasse, Head of Procurement Implenia

Mr. Berger, how did Implenia's suppliers react to the questionnaire?

Berger: We launched the process with our most important business partners first. By the end of April 2014 around 50 companies had completed the first step - self-declaration. It turned out that some of the suppliers did not have the required information to hand in a suitable form, because this is a new thing for the Swiss construction industry. In other industries supplier management has established itself as a standard process.


Schweizer: I find that very surprising. We had no problem filling in the Implenia questionnaire because we'd done our homework long ago. I wouldn't have thought the questions Implenia asked would have caused a headache for any company.


Marchesi: We would actually have liked even more searching questions so we could have highlighted our sustainability credentials. For example, our company uses almost exactly the same amount of energy as it did thirty years ago, even though our turnover has more than doubled. This energy efficiency is a feature of our products, and we would have liked Implenia to acknowledge things like this as well.


Berger: We will be including more sustainability criteria in future. For the time being, though, risk minimisation is our priority. It will take a certain amount of time for the system to become established and evolve towards a more sustainable profiling.


Sasse: It does take time for a supplier management system to establish itself. You have to get the culture right first. But the benefits are already evident, so we are already seeing a change in mind-set. Various projects that Implenia is working on show this. The best examples are projects like the two residential developments, Neugrüen in Mellingen and schorenstadt in Basel. We believe that as sustainability criteria increase, supplier management systems will become the norm in the construction industry. It’s the only way to go.

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