Transforming the supply chain of the world’s largest real estate services company is no easy feat, but thanks to its innovative thinking and technological ingenuity CBRE is making it look easy.
With acquisitions of Norland Managed Services and Johnson Controls GWS under its belt, the California-based company has undergone a mammoth supply chain transformation in recent years.
Thanks to these purchases CBRE now offers a diverse range of real estate services which gives the firm the platform to not only guide businesses about how they should invest their money, but also how they should run a building – whether that means advising them on their space management or actually running the facilities for them.
Bespoke supply chains
Despite such far-reaching changes in its supply chain, one thing has remained the same at CBRE – its commitment to its customers.
Anna Williams, EMEA Supplier Engagement Director, says that the company’s downstream business model is vital to this customer-centric ethos.
By not centralising its procurement activities and offering bespoke supply chains to its customers, CBRE ensures that the spotlight is truly on its customers’ needs and wants.
“I think what gives us a competitive edge is that we treat each supply chain as an individual organisation,” Williams explains.
“We take our time to understand our supply chain. We make sure it fits within each of our client's requirements and we offer bespoke supply chain partners rather than having a one-size-fits-all solution.
“I think that helps us to create a world-class solution for our clients and it also makes suppliers want to work with us because we recognise their core skills and competencies across geographical areas and utilise them,” she adds.
The real estate market is a fiercely competitive one, but CBRE distinguishes itself by also offering sector-specific solutions.
“We operate across a wide range of sectors such as industrial, healthcare, life sciences, heritage, stadia and education,” notes Krys Stanton, Supply Chain Solutions Director. “Our strategy is to tailor the supply chain to the sector so that clients know they’re buying into a company which is not only a reputable brand but also understands the sectors that it’s operating in.”
A diverse range of suppliers
With both its global footprint and bottom line set to soar, the company has gained a well-earned reputation as a market leader in commercial, leasing, investment sales, and residential project managing.
Such renowned success has come about for a culmination of reasons, but it can partially be traced to the way CBRE works with both large corporations and SMEs alike.
“This means if the client has requirements to use local suppliers or diverse suppliers such as women-owned businesses. We can adapt the supply chain to make sure they'll get what they want,” Williams says. “On the other hand, some clients may want to use international players, so we also adapt to that to ensure that we offer a solution tailored to the customer .”
A leading supplier portal
With a global spend in excess of $50bn provided by more than 85,000 global suppliers, delivering a revolutionary supply chain transformation was by no means a simple task.
To take on such a mammoth function, CBRE looked to the marketplace to find a supplier portal which would help it streamline its operations and drive operational excellence.
When it couldn’t find one, it made CBRE MySupplier.
This digital tool isn’t an off-the shelf-package – it was specifically designed by CBRE, and it is this innovation which has been the cornerstone of the company’s supply chain journey.
Whether it's making the firm's supply chain more transparent, encouraging supplier engagement or offering supplier feedback, it seems the leading compliance tool has elevated the firm to new heights.
“Our supply chain strategy involves not consolidating or solely spending with big suppliers,” explains Rachel Lee, VP, Global Supply Chain Transformation.
“We continue to use SMEs to fully support our local customers and that means we have a huge network of suppliers that we work with in Europe. We wouldn’t be able to manage such a large network without our supplier portal. This is a problem that many other companies have, and nobody's solved it until now.
“This means we're putting decision-making back into the hands of our client teams rather than a centralised procurement function making the decisions,” she continues. “We're giving business managers the tools they need to make the right decisions around which suppliers to use.”
Compliance is one of the most deep-rooted challenges in the supply chain discipline today and with a broad footprint spanning across continents, CBRE has ensured this portal adapts to local language and legislation requirements. Already launched in the UK, the portal is now set to roll out in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR) and by the end of this year, it will be linked to the company’s ERP system to ensure its supply chain is fully compliant.
Going a step further than other portals in the market, CBRE MySupplier also acts as an engagement portal. It allows suppliers to understand CBRE as a business, who they need to contact to help with their business development and how they can attend CBRE’s renowned events.
Transparency, engagement and feedback are just three ways in which CBRE MySupplier is helping the firm wholly transform its supply chain capabilities.
The portal also provides suppliers with feedback to see if they are performing well, how they could improve, and how they compare to their market competitors. “Suppliers receive their performance rating and this allows them to see how they rank against other suppliers in their field or marketplace,” explains Lee. “It sets up a competitive environment. If a supplier wants to win more business in CBRE, they know what they need to do because they can see how they're ranking against their competitors in our portal.”
Contending with the ever-increasing pressure to achieve savings and sustain supplier relationships, the global property firm has taken a relationship-driven approach to its supply chain function. As a result, it has invested capital in creating a supplier engagement team, which is responsible for not only managing compliance but also managing relationships with CBRE’s suppliers.
Sustaining supplier relationships
Embedded in the company’s fabric is a commitment to developing deep and long-lasting relationships with vendors. Therefore, the team meets with suppliers at company events to keep them updated with the latest CBRE knowhow.
“Supplier relationship management (SRM) is generally approached with large suppliers only because it takes quite a lot of investment from both sides,” explains Lee. “We take a different approach. We build relationships with all suppliers, small, medium, or large. It's not a process, it's not SRM in its theoretical term, it's about how we deal with suppliers on a day-to-day basis. SRM to us is a real living and breathing philosophy that everybody is involved in – it's not just a process run by the procurement function, it's our day-to-day business.”
CBRE’s technological ingenuity is exemplified by its leading supplier platform, CBRE MySupplier, and for Lee, Williams and Stanton, it is this genuine commitment to developing supplier relationships which gives the company a competitive edge and allows it to offer leading supply chain solutions to its clients.
“We want to make sure our clients recognise that we're a world-class supply chain function,” explains Williams. “We want clients to come to CBRE to outsource their real estate needs to us not just because of our own in-house capability, but also because of how we manage the supply chain on their behalf. Our supply chain has experienced growth with CBRE. From a supplier perspective, it's been a positive journey. Even our small SME suppliers have come on a journey with us and as we grow through acquisition, we're moving forward and upholding our best-in-class approach.”