Inside Logistics

Diversity important throughout the supply chain

Companies advocate for minority owned business both internally and externally


April 12, 2012
by Carolyn Gruske

TORONTO: Opportunities can be gained by working with minority-owned suppliers and there are disadvantages in not doing so.

That was the message delivered at the 2012 Diversity Procurement Fair. The event, run by the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC), offered executives of minority owned suppliers—those owned or run by Aboriginals, visible minorities or women—a chance to network one-on-one with both potential customers and other suppliers. It also presented panel discussions on a wide range of supply chain and procurement topics, along with a keynote from Kevin Williams, president of General Motors Canada.

CAMSC president Cassandra Dorrington summed up the purpose of the conference very simply.

“We want to continue the discussion on supplier diversity in Canada, and how beneficial that is to the economic engine of Canada,” she said.

During the opening panel, Kevin Bell, who is senior manager – diversity supplier development at Chrysler Group and who also manages the supplier diversity process for the company, told attendees, “we—myself and my staff—advocate internally and externally for minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) in order for them gain access to our supply chain and provide procurement opportunities to companies across the States and Canada. On a global basis Chrysler LLC did about $22 billion in purchasing last year. And we try to make sure that an appropriate amount of that spend is done with minority business enterprises.”

Large companies with wide-reaching supply chains are often able to influence their partners, and their partners’ partners to do business with MBEs.

Albert Louis, director supplier diversity business development for Johnson Controls spoke about how Johnson promotes opportunities for MBEs throughout the supply chain.

“We make sure we grow our supplier diversity and make sure we afford our diverse suppliers opportunities to do business with Johnson Controls. We also try to influence those decision makers outside of Johnson Controls to make sure they are infusing cash into our economy and helping build a sustainable model for longevity and a healthy economy, understanding that demographics are trending toward the minority population becoming the majority by 2042 or 2052. We understand it is a business imperative that visible minorities and Aboriginals are getting business rewards so that creates a multiplier effect in the economy, and grows it in a healthy way.”

Of course just being an MBE isn’t enough of a reason for a customer to add a company to its supply chain. Baljit Sierra, president and CEO of Novo Plastics Inc, which supplies parts to automotive manufacturers, said a minority-owned business has to be a strong business with good business practices.

“It’s all about systems and processes. JCI [Johnson Controls] and Chrysler have been very good about helping Novo align our systems and processes with theirs, and that’s paramount. The second thing is pricing and financial information. In the recent economic conditions we faced, especially in the automotive industry, it was important to grow steadily and grow smartly. Before you get any business from a Tier 1 or an OEM these days, you have to make sure the business plan is robust and there’s a good capital structure. Then the third thing I would say is that you have to continue to focus on innovation and technology. And to use resources such as CAMSC, which is tremendous in terms of networking and expanding your business.”