Supplier partnerships pay for BHP

LESSONS learned during the COVID-19 pandemic will help the mining industry grow further, BHP chief procurement officer Sundeep Singh says.
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BHP chief procurement officer Sundeep Singh

Speaking at a virtual mining conference, Singh thanked BHP's partners and suppliers for the resilience and partnership shown throughout the pandemic.

"With your support, we've been able to demonstrate once again what this industry is capable of and what we have to offer," he said.

"It has been fantastic to see the way that companies were able to mobilise quickly to safeguard the health of our workforces, to support communities and each other - all the while keeping our operations running.

"Our ability to keep operating and generate employment, taxes, royalties and dividends in a time of crisis has been a really positive differentiator relative to other industries."

Singh said BHP had already focused on building more productive and sustainable relationships prior to the pandemic.

"We knew our partnerships were going to be a key differentiator for shared business value, but the way that came to life through COVID-19 was so much more amplified than anything we could have expected," he said.

"So many of you answered that call to arms, you stepped into that space and showed us not only how to survive but we came out of it better and stronger - more resilient."

Singh urged the industry to take the lessons learned from the pandemic and harness them to grow together.

He noted BHP's supply chains had deal with massive market change, rising trade tensions, disruptive technology, climate change and COVID-19.

"These challenges have really showed us that supply chains not only need to be cost effective and reliable, but truly resilient and sustainable," Singh said.

"It showed us the interconnectedness of the supply chain at its very depth - with impacts on things such as people movement that previously had never been under threat.

"Navigating these complexities to thrive in a new normal requires us to rethink our supply chain, to build a supply chain that can actually adapt and remain agile - all the while remaining safe, removing waste and pulling cost out."

During COVID-19, BHP's partner Compass Group established The Academy in Perth, which included a training kitchen, juice and barista training stations and simulation accommodation rooms.   

"The benefit is twofold: our BHP residents benefit from the higher standards and the skills of the Compass staff to manage this new COVID normal," Singh said.

BHP's Supplier Illumination program lets the company leverage advanced analytics, including artificial intelligence with the help of Deloitte.

This gives it information on its suppliers' suppliers and their suppliers.

"We all know increasing visibility into the network to manage disruption is at the heart of future supply chain management - but what do you do with those insights?" Singh asked.

"You can have all the control towers and data transparency for your supply chain but what are your relationships to repair, reroute, re-invent together?

"The resilience came from taking those analytics and sharing them with our other partners, which in turn made their supply chains more robust."

The shared analytics helped its explosives provider Dyno Nobel mitigate disruption in its supply chain and was a catalyst for Liebherr to review its stock holdings and identify parts that were better supplied locally and helped it identify second-tier suppliers requiring monitoring if lockdowns were to persist in Europe.

"We are also using different approaches for engaging suppliers to bring the best of the outside world in," Singh said.

BHP's Supplier Innovation Program is a series of challenges that work like a hackathon.

A recent challenge launch in Australia focused on fatality elimination and generated 700 ideas to solve problems that have never been solved before.

The company is also establishing its first Indigenous construction panel, targeting a set of sustained construction opportunities to Traditional Owner and Indigenous businesses.

Singh said BHP also wanted to make itself easier to work with by fixing its supplier onboarding and registration to be much simpler, rolling out SAP Ariba for payments so suppliers got paid on time and improving its supplier communication.

"My message is simple: the past year has shown what we can do when we work together," he said.

"Through real partnerships we have shown how resilient our businesses can be when faced with challenges that were previously unthinkable.

"My ask is this - even as the imminent threat of COVID slows, let's keep this spirit going.

"There will be clear winners and losers in the decade ahead. I truly believe that the winners will be those who understand what's possible when we partner, when we challenge and transform together. When we go after shared business value."