Manufacturing Supply Chain Management Top Recruiting Partner – Sam Manna’s your guy

July 31, 2013

Sam Manna – (bookmark his information –  sammanna.com) is our expert in Supply Management Recruiting with an emphasis in Manufacturing, 3PL and Electrical/Auto. When Sam moved to Argentus from a global competitor several years ago, we knew we were getting a real powerhouse to join our already robust team of recruitment experts in Supply Chain Management. From day one, Sam demonstrated a tremendous depth and breadth of knowledge for the technical side of Supply Chain. What a great asset he has become for the group as a whole.

Coming from an Operations Management background himself prior to joining the recruitment industry in the mid 90’s, Sam had lived and breathed this stuff. He knows what it is like to be on the front line. Who better to manage the requirements of customers and the careers of individuals than to an expert who is as serious minded, conscientious and doggedly committed as Sam. No-one is more well informed with the most current market knowledge and with the best industry intelligence than Sam. He makes it his business to stay ahead of what’s going on in this very hot and demanding business vertical. And for years he has been leveraging his knowhow and superb connections to provide enviable recruitment results in Manufacturing, Transportation, 3PL/Distribution, Retail, Electrical & Industrial Manufacturing, CPG and Aerospace to name a few.

We drilled down this week in a conversation with Sam to learn more about the specifics of manufacturing recruitment in Procurement, Logistics & Supply Management. Sam offers some valuable insights about what’s hot in the market, the differences between staffing for large vs. small companies in the manufacturing space, as well as some great tips for Supply Chain Professionals looking to progress their careers.

“To be good at Procurement in manufacturing, you need really strong technical expertise. You need to be able to work with engineers who do product development. You need to have a technical understanding of what various components do.”

Could you describe your background in recruitment for manufacturing roles?

I’ve been doing manufacturing recruitment for about 6 years. I’ve worked with clients in Tier One, Tier Two, and Tier Three automotive. I’ve also dealt with high-tech electrical manufacturing firms. I’ve worked with everyone from large global organizations to smaller OEM manufacturers.

How did you get involved?

I got into it because it’s such a specialized area and I felt it was under-served from a Recruitment perspective in SCM. There’s an immense need for really strong technically-savvy Supply Chain people. Highly qualified Supply Chain professionals are in really high demand, but very short supply. There’s a need in the market for someone who can help find these people and who really understands the specifics of the industry as a whole which can be complicated and hard to grasp for a generalist recruitment firm.

How are Procurement and Supply Chain Management unique in Manufacturing compared to other industries/spaces?

To be good at Procurement in manufacturing, you need really strong technical expertise. You need to be able to work with engineers who do product development. You need to have a technical understanding of what various components do. You need to know how one component interacts with another. For example, why is a little microchip the most important part of a product? You need to be able to talk to engineers and work with them hand in hand. Procurement is especially important in manufacturing because there’s a perception that if the engineers are left to themselves, they’ll just buy whatever they need regardless of price point. And price is very important when bringing the product to market in the most competitive way.

What also sets it apart is that Manufacturing Procurement has a lifecycle that’s unique. It’s extremely time-sensitive. Other industries are time-sensitive but not quite like manufacturing. If you don’t have all the materials on hand in a manufacturing facility, your production line comes to a standstill. It’s not like Procurement for office services where if you run out of paper a business can still function. A production line at a standstill is lost money.

“No industries have really cooled down. Everything is still hot in terms of the manufacturing sector. Even though companies might be outsourcing their production globally, they still base their procurement teams here.”

What hiring challenges do manufacturing companies face in Supply Chain?

One of the main challenges is finding people with the specific industry experience. For Procurement, it’s hard to find people who have the technical expertise, who understand the manufacturing processes, but also have the existing relationships with vendors. The other thing is that the categories are also more specific than in other industries. If it’s automotive manufacturing, a Procurement hire needs specific experience in automotive. If it’s electrical they need electrical. It’s hard to do cross-over in terms of categories of Procurement. Skills are not as transferrable as they would be in other industries. This is why one needs to have an ongoing growing network of candidates in every sector of manufacturing to respond to the specific needs of each need.

What industries are hot in manufacturing right now for Supply Chain and Procurement, and which have cooled off?

Automotive is hot right now. No industries have really cooled down. Everything is still hot in terms of the manufacturing sector. Even though companies might be outsourcing their production globally, they still base their procurement teams here. Electrical is still particularly active too, as well as Alternative Energy which is an exciting area of growth.

Which roles are really in demand at the moment?

Whether it’s for Directors, Managers or Sole Contributors, anything with Strategic Sourcing is in really high demand. In a nutshell, Strategic Sourcing is looking at your overall spend and leveraging that to get best pricing, as opposed to a more transactional buying function. Transactional buyers are pretty defunct in manufacturing. Companies do still have requirements that are transactional in nature, but the view is that there’s less benefit to having a transactional buyer because they’re not saving money. Strategic Sourcing skills are very important. That said, we’re still happy to help place more transactional roles when they’re needed.

“As specialty recruiters, we’re better able to understand an organization’s business needs, and the exact requirements that they need in their candidates more so than a more generalist recruiter.”

We’ve been working with smaller manufacturers more. What’s it like to work with smaller companies? How are their needs different from larger manufacturers?

A smaller company needs more of a pure Supply Chain Manager. They need someone who understands the full cycle of Procurement, as well as Logistics, Distribution, Importing, and Production. Smaller organizations are not as ‘silo-ed’ as larger organizations. So a Commodity Manager in a smaller organization will do more importing and dealing with production and engineering teams than somebody at a large multinational company. On a smaller staff, each individual wears more hats and has their fingers in more pots and as such has to have a broader range of skills.

In comparison, a larger company would have their roles clearly identified, and the roles would be more ‘silo-ed’. A Commodity Manager would do all the buying. They’d have a Logistics Planner who’d be responsible for bringing the product over to Canada. There’d be an Inventory Analyst maintaining inventory levels. There’d be Production Schedulers and Production Planners. Much more specialization in each category with less crossover.

That means it’s more difficult to hire for smaller firms. The right candidate has to come from a similar environment as the company they’re going to. So somebody coming out of a large multinational might not necessarily do everything that a Supply Chain Professional in a small company would do.

What would you recommend for someone trying to make the transition from a large Manufacturing company to a smaller one?

Someone looking to make that transition should try to expose themselves to as many parts of their organization as they can. Ask for an internal transfer at your present company to broaden your skill base. Ask to cover somebody on a medical or maternal leave. Or take continuing education courses. Try and get your CITT designation, or your P.Log (Professional Logistician) designation. Or look towards getting your SCMP designation from the Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC). Another good designation is APICS (CSCP). These can all be a big help in developing your career. And if you don’t have a completed degree, get it done. It’s imperative these days to move up the corporate ladder.

“While we’re not Supply Chain Professionals ourselves, we live and breathe their world all the time.”

I know we’ve also been developing our business working with startups in manufacturing. How is it different working with a startup, and what should people know about working with them?

Startups are very exciting. It’s a completely different culture with startups. They’re generally working ‘off the seat of their pants’ so their direction and mandate will change on any given day, so a candidate needs to be comfortable giving 6 months of work to a project only to see it terminated and then starting something else. You don’t have a lot of pre-established policies. It’s really a work in progress, which is exhilarating for some. Some people love that they have the ability to affect the organization’s bottom line. They love that they’ll be involved in projects that they wouldn’t be involved in working for an established company. At a startup, a Supply Chain Manager can go out with sales teams, with quality assurance, with engineering/production teams. And in some cases there is the benefit of profit sharing but usually salaries are lower. But an overall win in the long term.

As a professional recruiter with a specialty in Supply Chain, Procurement, etc., what would you say we offer clients specifically in the manufacturing space?

We offer a deep network which is very highly developed. We are very well known within this vertical as a leading specialist across North America for Permanent and Interim/Contract Staffing. The opportunity is there for companies to tap into the passive candidate pool when they are looking for talent. We have the business intelligence to help companies and candidates understand where the industry is and how competitive they are.

As specialty recruiters, we’re also better able to understand an organization’s business needs, and the exact requirements that they need in their candidates more so than a more generalist recruiter. For instance, what would a client like Magna need in their candidates vs. a company like Siemens?

We also understand the technical side. We are always educating ourselves to stay current in SCM. We understand the practical differences between an Automotive buyer and a Manufacturing buyer. We understand the differences between procuring Raw Materials for production vs. MRO (Maintenance, repair and operations). Not all buying roles are created equal. So while we’re not Supply Chain Professionals ourselves, we live and breathe their world all the time. We are able to source and produce those great candidates that continue to be in high demand.

We encourage you to reach out and speak with Sam more about how Argentus can partner with you for your needs in the Manufacturing and 3PL Sector

Reach him at sam.manna@argentus.com or 416-364-9919

Follow us on twitter @argentustalent or see us on Google+

Connect with Sam on linkedIn. You will be glad you did.

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