For many years, the analyst I've respected most in the sector was Mickey North Rizza. Mickey's depth of expertise and background as a practitioner was abundantly clear from the moment any AMR Research (and later Gartner) client engaged her. And besides that, she was -- and is -- one of the nicest people in the sector. Period. Recently, Mickey left the analyst world to join BravoSoluton in an executive role. I caught up with Mickey for a formal interview looking back on her career so far and now, why she is excited to approach the market in a new way on the provider side. We also chatted about how in many ways, this latest move represents a full circle on a journey to drive effective procurement and supply chain transformation and lasting change on all sides of the market. In this multi-part interview series, Mickey looks back and forward on what is to come. It was a great chat. I hope you enjoy her stories as much as I do. - Jason Busch
Spend Matters: Could you give us a bit of background on your procurement experience pre-AMR Research?
Mickey North Rizza: I'm a practitioner by heart and nature. My first exposure to the industry was at Michigan State, as an undergraduate in their supply chain school. At the time, the "materials, logistics and operations" program was part of the business school. I received a BA and immediately went into purchasing and operations. The first place I landed was the Grumman organization, where I started as a junior buyer (yes, they called it that back then), focusing primarily on metals purchases. I was the buyer responsible for all the steel and aluminum for the Grumman Olson group that produced truck bodies on chassis for a range of GM, Ford and Chrysler vans/vehicles -- the purchases were the side panels such as on the Fed-Ex and UPS trucks. Yes, it was me who bought the siding that serves in the last mile capacity for most of the small parcel spend trucks, at least on the roads at the time (a curious irony and harbinger of things to come in my career, when I became exposed to combined purchasing and supply chain elements).
It was a very different time to be a metals buyer. I remember that aluminum was 92 cents a pound -- not far from today, in fact (the volatility has certainly been a factor in that market, however, with prices shooting up and down from that distant point). I really had a blast in the role and was exposed to a range of categories from rolled steel and aluminum (a primary focus) all the way up the metals value chain to castings. For systems, we moved from inventory cards to BPCS (Business Planning and Control Systems), which was developed by System Software Associates (fast forward to today; it's now owned by Infor).
After a bit of time in this role, I moved on to LTV Aerospace and Electronics to work on the sourcing for military trucks and vehicles, including the now famous HUMVEE before it also became a commercial vehicle. I led the purchasing of all steel and aluminum. As part of this role, I was allowed to try out new inventory, supplier rationalization and supplier management strategies. The first category I focused on was fasteners, and we were able to consolidate our supply base from thousands of suppliers down to two or three.
Quality control went up dramatically, in addition to the savings from driving additional volume to our strategic partners in the category. What a great lesson for later in my career. As part of my learning in this job, I progressed from basic buying to sourcing, setting up agreements, negotiating contracts and managing the overall supplier relationships. This, too, would provide a critical and important foundation for things to come.
Spend Matters: So what happened next?
Mickey North Rizza: I decided to move West, and went to work for a division of Motorola that had just purchased Mobile Data International (a British Columbia company). MDI made radios and scanners and was Motorola's only real competition in the area for outfitting fleets like UPS, FedEx, police, etc. We managed supply arrangements for a lot of accessories that would ship with the scanners. And we outsourced radio production to different facilities, coordinating the shipment of different SKUs and ultimately further down the value chain, spares as well -- another great early lesson I learned in bringing different aspects of procurement, supply chain and even service parts together.
After my stint there, I left to go to Innova Corporation, a tech hardware start-up. It was a great lesson in working in a fast-moving culture, quickly ramping production from prototypes to production. I was exposed to a range of commodities here, including PCBs (printed circuit boards). I also worked closely with the suppliers to help fund our working capital needs, in certain cases even managing 120-160 day terms across our supply network. I learned in this case that relationships with these key suppliers were based on trust -- something we should never forget. Suppliers completely depended on us to pay on time with these extended terms. And we did.
Stay tuned as our interview with Mickey North Rizza continues.