As Sir Tim Berners-Lee (and founder of the world wide web) once said, “We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.” However, we know every procurement professional would say it’s just as important to have supplier diversity.
The world can change in an instant, as we’ve learned all too well these past few years. That’s why we must build resilience into our business operations. One way to do that is to expand our sourcing pool. And the best way to do that is to help connect with – and foster the growth of – a diverse set of sources, explained Cynthia Snowden, Zebra’s Supplier Diversity Manager.
We recently connected with Cynthia to learn more about Zebra’s formal Supplier Diversity Program, including its purpose, impact, and recruitment structure. Here’s what she had to say:
Your Edge Blog Team: When and why did Zebra formalize its Supplier Diversity Program?
Cynthia: It’s no secret that Zebra is committed to diversity and works hard every day to foster a culture of inclusion. Our Supplier Diversity Program is simply an extension of our inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts outside our four walls and a way to uphold our core values: innovation, agility, integrity, accountability, and teamwork. Through the program, which was officially launched in 2019, we are proactively identifying, building relationships and capability with, and purchasing goods and services from, certified diverse suppliers.
Your Edge Blog Team: How do you define “diverse supplier”? Are you using the same criteria that many government agencies use? For example, do you look for certified HUBZone, 8(a), women-owned or minority-owned businesses?
Cynthia: Yes, Zebra uses the same criteria that many government agencies use, including women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, disabled-owned, LBGTQ-owned qualifiers, as well as HUBZone and Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (MIPR) criteria.
Your Edge Blog Team: Does Zebra have supplier diversity goals?
Cynthia: We do have supplier diversity metrics that are shared internally. In general, though, we are looking to increase our supplier diversity spend and expand our diversity supply base.
Your Edge Blog Team: Zebra produces very specialized technology solutions that require certain components to maintain their high quality, durability, and safety ratings. Has that rigid design criteria made it more challenging to diversify Zebra’s supplier network?
Cynthia: Not necessarily. There are diverse suppliers that have demonstrated they can meet Zebra’s capability criteria requirements.
Your Edge Blog Team: How do you work with suppliers to get their parts certified or confirm the quality and performance meet Zebra’s standards, especially when the relationship is built via the Supplier Diversity Program?
Cynthia: There is not a different process for suppliers who enter Zebra’s sourcing network via the Supplier Diversity Program. All suppliers are vetted through a stringent capability process to become a Zebra Authorized Supplier.
Your Edge Blog Team: We understand that you and your team leverage industry network events for supplier recruitment much in the same way the talent acquisition team might use them to meet and recruit new job candidates. Have you found this to be a successful way to meet new suppliers?
Cynthia: Yes, this is one of the ways that our procurement teams meet new diverse suppliers. The Supplier Diversity Program utilizes our National Networking Partners, which include the Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC) and Disability:In. This type of recruitment effort is beneficial, as we get the opportunity to meet and network with these suppliers in person. We learn about their businesses and technology capabilities early on, which helps build a viable pool of diverse suppliers. So, the networking helps us prepare suppliers and our internal procurement team for future sourcing opportunities. When we require certain capabilities or components, there are more pre-vetted suppliers available for us to contact.
Your Edge Blog Team: If a business wants to work with Zebra, do they need to have certain certifications proving they’re a “diverse supplier” before reaching out to procurement, manufacturing or supply chain teams? Or does Zebra complete that certification process once a relationship is formalized with each company?
Cynthia: Diverse suppliers normally get certified via one of our Networking Partners (WBENC, NMDC, or Disability:IN). They have the option to self-certify and upload the verification documents in our system. Not all suppliers are utilized immediately, though, whether diverse or not. Our sourcing efforts vary based on business need. However, selected suppliers will be notified in the beginning of the procurement process and will be sent a solicitation to bid (RFQ/RFP). The suppliers can accept and provide a quote or choose not to participate.
Your Edge Blog Team: With most of Zebra’s manufacturing operations based in APAC, has it been easier or harder than you expected to diversify the supplier network?
Cynthia: Currently, our Supplier Diversity Program is aimed at recruiting suppliers located in the United States. That said, it has been harder to diversify due to a growing number of our supplier base in the direct spend category being located abroad.
Your Edge Blog Team: Does Zebra offer business development or even technology incubation programs to support supplier diversity efforts and make it easier for companies to design, integrate, test and certify components to our specifications?
Cynthia: Yes. Zebra actually offers supplier development and growth support to all suppliers, with technical and financial support provided as we see fit based on the programs and projects with which suppliers are involved.
Your Edge Blog Team: How do you know if a supplier’s component is the right fit for Zebra’s technology solutions?
Cynthia: We consider whether the supplier can meet the specifications and build the part to print. We also confirm the supplier has the right equipment, technology and human resources, and the ability to source materials and meet product or service delivery schedules. Additionally, we look at the supplier’s past performance, overall expertise, cost, location and financial standing and sustainability.
Your Edge Blog Team: If a diverse supplier wants to work with Zebra, should they get in touch with you and your team?
Cynthia: The best method is to register in our Diverse Supplier Portal. Suppliers should note that registering does not guarantee being offered business (a contract award).
If you’d like to learn more about Zebra’s Supplier Diversity Program, contact Cynthia. You may also be interested in hearing what Zebra’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, Tami Froese, had to say in this interview:
Expert: Greater Inclusion and Diversity Can Change Everything, Including Both Supplier and Supply Chain Resilience