Holcim Australia is a leading supplier of aggregates, concrete and precast concrete products to support projects from residential and commercial developments to major infrastructure. When management identified the opportunity to improve procurement processes in the business, it handed the job of turning things around to Kelly Irwin – Head of Procurement for Holcim Australia and New Zealand.
Irwin's success saw her recently awarded the CIPS Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the Year, while her procurement team has been awarded the Holcim Australia Internal Customer Excellence award three years in a row.
"Previously there was no real engagement with the business, the procurement team just handled contracts and rarely left the office," Irwin says. "The business didn't leverage the potential strengths of the procurement department – if there was any interaction with the procurement team it was only to complain about something."
"Today we've turned that around and procurement has gone from a complaints department to an effective unit which is really aligned with the business and adds value. I've implemented what I call the "the bums off seats" policy – you can’t be a good procurement person if you're sitting at your desk all day, every day, you need to get out there in the thick of it."
Irwin believes firmly in the importance of spending time building strong and strategic internal and external relationships. She adds: “A successful procurement function must clearly understand the needs of their stakeholders, both internal customers and external suppliers and this can only be done by regular engagement either face to face or by telephone - not simply sitting in office emailing. This is what the 'bums off seats' approach is all about.”
The transformation included centralising procurement processes, taking away the ability for staff members throughout the business to raise purchase orders without approval. The procurement team now manages the purchasing of everything from pencils to explosives, along with services such as travel.