Driving Sustainable & Customer-Centric Procurement Strategies through Digital Transformation

By: Ruji Akhtar Mahmud, Head of Procurement, GE HealthCare | Thursday, 20 June 2024

Ruji Akhtar Mahmud, an accomplished procurement leader with global experience spanning diverse industries, drives transformative change and cost reductions through strategic practices. She integrates lean methodologies, sustainability, and technology to streamline supply chains, championing efficiency, innovation, and community engagement.

In a recent conversation with the Global Woman Leader Magazine, Ruji discussed leveraging customer feedback and real-time data for sustainable procurement decisions, exploring emerging digital technologies inclusive integration and strategies for seamless sustainability integration.

How have you utilized customer feedback loops and real-time data analytics synergistically to drive procurement decisions that not only meet but exceed customer expectations while advancing sustainability initiatives?

We prioritize understanding and exceeding customer expectations. We actively engage with customers through surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interactions to gather invaluable feedback. This feedback is meticulously analyzed usingdata analytics tools and LEAN practices, allowing us to identify patterns, trends, and areas for improvement. Armed with these insights, our procurement team makes informed decisions, sourcing high-quality materials, optimizing delivery timelines, and negotiating favorable terms. Simultaneously, we leverage this data to drive sustainability initiatives, prioritizing eco-friendly suppliers, implementing green logistics solutions, and promoting circular economy practices throughout the supply chain.

In your opinion, what emerging digital technologies show the most promise in revolutionizing procurement practices, and how should leaders plan to integrate them while ensuring inclusivity and accessibility?

In the digital age, blockchain, AI, and IoT revolutionize procurement. Blockchain enhances supply chain traceability and accountability. AI automates tasks, enabling strategic decision-making and predictive analytics. IoT enables real-time monitoring of assets, inventory, and shipments, optimizing resource utilization. Leaders must plan for seamless technology integration, providing comprehensive training and upskilling opportunities. User-friendly interfaces and accessibility for all stakeholders, regardless of technical expertise, are crucial for successful adoption. As a procurement practitioner I have had the opportunity to utilize many of these emerging technologies and firsthand experienced the value they enable us to deliver to the business.

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a core focus in procurement. How do professionals plan to ensure that sustainability practices are deeply ingrained in every step of the procurement process, from sourcing to delivery, while still maintaining cost-effectiveness?

To ingrain it throughout the process, professionals must establish clear sustainability goals and metrics aligned with organizational objectives. This involves assessing potential suppliers' environmental practices, labor standards, and social responsibility initiatives. Prioritizing sustainable sourcing by partnering with eco-friendly suppliers and promoting recycled or renewable materials is crucial. Implementing eco-friendly packaging, optimizing transportation routes, leveraging technology for supply chain visibility, optimizing inventory management, and minimizing waste can significantly enhance sustainability while maintaining cost-effectiveness. Collaboration, stakeholder engagement, and continuous improvement efforts are key to balancing sustainability and cost-efficiency.

Procurement leaders play a pivotal role in driving sustainability agendas. Can you discuss a strategy you've implemented to integrate sustainability goals seamlessly into procurement practices, thereby positively impacting both the environment and customer experience?

I have been fortunate to work at companies where our comprehensive sustainability strategy integrates seamlessly into procurement practices, benefiting the environment and customer experience. Our Supplier Responsibility Program evaluates potential suppliers based on rigorous environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. We collaborate with suppliers to develop innovative solutions that reduce waste, conserve resources, and minimize environmental impact throughout product lifecycles. For instance, at one company, we partnered with a supplier to develop eco-friendly packaging from recycled materials, reducing our carbon footprint while providing sustainable solutions to customers. By aligning procurement decisions with sustainability goals, we contribute to a greener future and enhance customer experience with eco-friendly products and services resonating with their values.

With the increasing emphasis on ESG principles, how do leaders employ to ensure that procurement processes are aligned with broader organizational ESG goals, and what metrics do they consider most important in tracking progress?

Aligning procurement with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals is a priority. Clear metrics and Key Performance Indicators across all ESG dimensions are essential, including carbon footprint reduction, waste minimization, sustainable sourcing, supplier diversity, human rights assessments, community impact, supply chain transparency, ethical practices, and regulatory compliance. Regular audits, supplier assessments, and stakeholder engagement track progress against these metrics for data-driven decisions. Fostering a culture of accountability, continuous improvement, cross-functional collaboration, and open communication addresses gaps and challenges. This holistic approach ensures procurement processes align with broader organizational ESG goals.

As a woman leader in the industry, how do you navigate and overcome challenges unique to gender diversity in procurement leadership roles while championing inclusive practices that benefit not just an organization but the industry as a whole?

As a woman leader in procurement, I've faced challenges like unconscious biases, limited mentorship, and work-life balance struggles. Overcoming these obstacles involved building a strong network of allies, seeking mentors, and advocating for inclusive policies like flexible work arrangements and equal opportunities within my organization and industry. I champion diversity and inclusion initiatives, promoting unconscious bias training and creating a supportive environment for women to thrive. By leading by example and fostering an inclusive culture, I aim to inspire and empower the next generation of women leaders in procurement, paving the way for a more diverse and equitable industry.