I had to duck out for part of the afternoon breakout sessions at Synergy today, but I had the chance to reengage later in the day. When I returned to the conference, I attended a session presented by Sean Harley of Transpac Access on low cost country sourcing, and was able to talk to some other participants that had attended sessions on Six Sigma and outsourcing, among other areas. Sean's session gave a decent overview of the opportunities and risks of China sourcing, though it was a bit too much of an advertorial in my book. But Sean and his team clearly have some strong perspectives on when it makes sense to consider overseas suppliers versus domestic ones. And they're doing it for middle market companies, many of whom have significant opportunities for cost reduction and quality improvement from global sourcing initiatives. In recent years, I have personally observed how a number of middle market companies have actually improved product quality by switching to overseas suppliers -- and consider how GM's PPM rate for Chinese suppliers is lower than for domestic ones.
On a different note, it struck me as somewhat ironic that many of the participants who were attending the event were focused on sourcing indirect spend, yet many of the afternoon sessions seemed more geared to direct categories. Nevertheless, I found much of the material informative, and the participants enthusiastic. I've got to say that so far, I'm picking up as much from Synergy as I usually do from Conference Board procurement and supply chain events (which usually cost a fair amount to attend, while this one is free). At the same time, the overall setting for Synergy feels more collegial (and there are fewer vendor / service provider sales "sharks" circling for leads, which is the norm at most Conference Board events).