Helping Organizations Realize the Power of Effective Supply Management

Christine Breves, the 2018 J. Shipman Gold Medal Award winner, has found ways to consistently deliver new value through supplier relationships.

By Gregory Sharpless

For Christine S. Breves, C.P.M., advancing senior management’s appreciation of what a highly capable procurement organization can bring to a company is more than just a lofty goal to aspire to — it’s a critical component to an organization and its endeavors.

“It’s our job as the supply management leaders to help our senior leadership understand the power of good supply management — what we can bring to the organization, how we can bring value,” says Breves, the 2018 J. Shipman Gold Medal Award winner and senior vice president — manufacturing support and chief supply chain officer at United States Steel Corporation.

But, she says, “You don’t do this by just talking about it — rather, you do so by delivering the results. You really need to understand the business, the business needs and how to support them.”

Breves has spent the majority of her 30-year career in the aluminum and steel industries, with Alumax/Alcoa, then U.S. Steel. The two industries, she says, can be quite demanding. “Steel is a fascinating business, but it’s also a very challenging business. It has big ups and downs and is very cyclical.”

She discussed a variety of supply chain issues and concerns with Inside Supply Management® prior to receiving the J. Shipman Gold Medal Award at the ISM2018 Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

ISM: What are some of the ways that supply management has changed in the past 30 years?

Breves: I think it’s changed dramatically. Supply management has become more important in the success of companies — well-managed supply management organizations can make a big difference. Obviously, the internet and technology have driven tremendous change. The sophistication of commodity strategies has also progressed — it’s evolved from strategic sourcing to very sophisticated category management collaboration with suppliers. In addition, procurement people today have become true business partners — looking at how we expand margins and grow the top line. Supply management organizations really are the
interface to the supplier community — and have become a source of huge value and innovation to a company.

ISM: Have you seen changes with suppliers as well?

Breves: Suppliers have absolutely become more sophisticated. Plus, how we connect our organizations to thosethird parties has changed. Both sides have certainly become much more sophisticated, and that rate of change has been challenging. Data analytics, cognitive procurement and robotics are just three examples where there has been a lot of progress in the past few years.

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