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Procurement Perspectives: Pandemic, procurement and predictions for the future

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Pandemic, procurement and predictions for the future

This has been a very difficult year for contractors, owners and everyone else trying to ride out this storm.

I certainly don’t have a crystal ball but I am willing to predict that the way we do business in the future will be forever changed, for how long is anybody’s guess.

After a lifetime in procurement, I have never seen such a quantum shift in philosophy related to the procurement of goods and services. The need for major companies and government agencies to acquire the most experienced procurement professionals has never been so critical for the survival of organizations, both private and public sector.

Procurement has a wide range of competencies, from buying goods and services at the right price, dealing with the correct vendors, to helping to write and respond to RFPs that may determine if your company is financially sound for the future.

The world has never had to face a global pandemic in which markets are turned upside down related to supply chain management.

Companies are not carrying large inventories and have moved to “just in time” inventory methods, extending payment terms to help with cash flow, negotiating long-term agreements, cutting down on the number of suppliers they use, just to name a few examples of enormous shifts in industry practice.

With North America losing jobs and companies due to the pandemic at such a rapid pace, these repercussions could represent the end of businesses as we know it today, and we can now only speculate on what the new normal will look like.

Some other concerns to think about, depending on the outcome of the upcoming American election, may result in the world being completely transformed. At this point no one can predict if this will have a positive impact or create mayhem.

After the election is when we will know if it will promote salubrious effects, including some sense of a return to normal.

Dependability and continuity in supply chain has been obliterated during the pandemic. The price of commodity goods has been fluctuating wildly from one week to the next.

As someone that follows this very closely, I have seen some disturbing trends, making forecasting material deliveries for construction projects unpredictable.

The book on public and private procurement may have to be completely rewritten after the dust settles at the end of this year. I will have to incorporate an entire new chapter on Procurement after the Pandemic.

All these events culminate in companies laying off staff to reduce overhead. This is not the time to lay off senior procurement people as they should be able to create a savings through negotiating better deals, creating cost saving initiatives and helping the bottom line of every organization.

How ever you choose to view the events of this pandemic, it has surely galvanized support for us all to work smarter.

While the clear majority of companies are working together for the betterment of society, some companies are taking advantage of these circumstances to price gouge for critical items such as masks, hand sanitizer and other products required to fight this virus.

We need to be cognizant of the fact that COVID-19 has touched all of us in one way or another. As most of the country is trying to conduct business from home and following social distance protocols, working together is now more important for the survival of small and medium sized companies.

The possibility of a recrudescence in the coming months of a second wave is also possible, thus adding to the present concerns of shutting down the country even further.

From a purchasing perspective, I urge all my procurement colleagues to relentlessly continue to look for ways to improve the procurement process, policies and procedures to help your organization through these difficult times.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at

Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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