Canadian Manufacturing

Collaboration, innovation keys to supply chain growth, conference hears

Procurement experts focused on both topics at Canadian Energy Supply Chain Forum in Calgary

CALGARY—Collaboration and innovation: Decidedly different, yet inextricably linked, topics that were the theme of much discussion at this year’s Canadian Energy Supply Chain Forum (CESCF).

Set at Calgary’s BMO Centre, part of the Stampede Park grounds that host the city’s infamous annual rodeo and exhibition, the three-day conference and trade show hosted dozens of experts who spoke at length about how collaboration and innovation factor into boosting Canada’s energy sector supply chain—and how doing so relies on more than just the work of procurement pros.

From building the technology supply chain to building collaborative capabilities across it, the CESCF was packed with concepts on how to improve conditions and bottom lines while working in the Canadian energy sector.

“The concept of collaboration and working together feels natural,” said Allan To, president of the Alberta chapter of the Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA), “but how do we actually do it?”

People don’t easily turn to collaboration, said To, who is also a senior commercial manager with Suncor Energy Inc., and a dialogue needs to take place in order to get the wheels in motion.

“It doesn’t have to be complex,” he said. “We all just need to take one step forward, and it’s as simple as that.”

Ron Levesque, supply chain manager of Canadian capital projects at ConocoPhillips Canada Ltd., agreed, and said collaboration requires a “cultural alignment” that brings companies and supply chain professionals together to have them speaking the same language.

“I think we have to cultivate relationships and that (starts with) culture,” he said.

Relationships are key, Levesque continued, and if companies don’t improve in that field the supply chain as a whole will never get better.

In a separate session, Simon Brown, executive vice-president of the ArcBlue Consulting Group, said collaboration is an important way to extract additional value from outside organizations as well as your own.

Brown, who specializes in management and collaborative consulting, said relying solely on a contract is not collaboration, and it’s important to look beyond the dotted line, build relationships and work together to work better.

Innovation beyond the work bench

Dawn Farrell, president and CEO of TransAlta Corp., said she thinks of innovation as systems, not objects.

The only way to survive is to innovate, Farrell told attendees, and the best way to innovate is to do your homework—figure out what needs improvement before it actually needs it.

It’s not just about fixing problems you can find; it’s about finding problems so you can fix them.

“Time is our biggest constraint,” Farrell said. “Figuring out how to invest time is more important than figuring out how to invest money.”

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