Together, Ronnie Fleming, Chief Procurement Officer and Chris Platts, Head of Procurement Operations, have worked for SSE for more than 15 years. The two have deep roots in the procurement sector working for the likes of Wimpey Construction, Leighton Contractors (Malyasia / Middle East ) Mace Group, United Utilities, Accenture and DHL Supply Chain.
“I am a Chartered Quantity Surveyor by profession,” says Fleming. “I have been in the construction and utility industry for over 40 years, the last 12 have been with SSE. As well as overseeing the procurement for all third party spend across the SSE Group (around £3bn per annum), I’m also responsible for a team delivering post contract commercial support across our large capital projects portfolio. In addition, I look after Property & FM, Logistics, Fleet, and Travel with a team of c460 highly talented people.”
Chris Platts, on the other hand, heads up the procurement operations team at SSE, “I have the pleasure of looking after about 80 people across UK and Ireland which includes our sourcing teams, purchase to pay, data analytics, system support, sustainability, SRM, and innovation. I also lead our large change programmes for the Procurement & Commercial , such as digital transformation and some broader group change programmes.”
Being a leading generator of renewable energy in the UK and Ireland, as well as one of the largest electricity networks in the UK, SSE develops, owns and operates low carbon infrastructure for the net-zero transition, including onshore and offshore wind, hydropower, electricity transmission and distribution to grid, efficient gas generation, alongside providing energy products and services for businesses.
Data-driven, frictionless, insights and creating value
The mission: ‘A data-driven strategic partner, providing a frictionless procurement and commercial experience with insightful market and supplier information that delivers significant value for each SSE business.’
Making a significant, multi-million-pound investment in new processes, tools, and skills over the next few years, SSE aims to achieve its mission creating a world-class procurement function, by focusing on four core themes: 1) optimising the core 2) data, analytics and insight 3) customer experience and 4) automation.
“This programme is one of many across the group. Our CEO wants to create an upper quartile digital business by 2023, which was set last year,” said Platts.
“We’re one year into our three-year programme and we’ve had two big deliveries focused on optimising the core. We have implemented a new source to contract system and a new system to control contingent workers and professional services engagements in SSE.
“We’ve also completed a data strategy that sets the foundations for the digital change; we’re also in the middle of some proof of concepts and trials to introduce machine learning and analytics on commodity pricing impacts, and in the early stages of a mobile app for catalogue procurement.”
Despite this, being successful with a strategy of this magnitude doesn’t come without its challenges. “Big deliveries are obviously complex,” says Platts. “Having a large number of users in procurement and the wider business means that business change and adoption needs to be carefully through, but we have managed to deliver them on time and under budget. More broadly we recognise that digital isn’t just about the shiny new technology, it’s a cultural change in the function and the wider organisation to consider new ways of working to become more agile in what we do.
“Another challenge has been on the recruitment side. We are looking for resources in some key roles at the moment, but so are a lot of other procurement functions. Labour markets are becoming buoyant post-COVID so we have to consider how we attract and importantly retain talent in the team,” adds Platts.
SSE and its relationship with sustainability
When it comes to sustainability at SSE, the utility company is deep-rooted in making a difference. “Our purpose is to provide the energy needed today, while building a better world of energy for tomorrow.. Our vision is to be a leading energy company in a net-zero world. Our strategy is to create value for shareholders and society in a sustainable way by developing, building, operating and investing in the electricity infrastructure and businesses needed in the transition to net-zero. And our Goals by 2030 are to cut carbon intensity by 60%, treble our renewable energy output to 30TWH/annum, help accommodate 10 million electric vehicles onto the electricity network, and be the leading company in the UK and Ireland championing fair tax and a real living wage,” says Fleming.
Focusing on the company’s sustainable procurement strategy, Platts emphasises how proud SSE is of what it has achieved over the last 18 months. “SSE has aligned to the ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement Guidance Standard as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” says Platts.
“We have a new Sustainable Procurement Code, which sets out the requirements and expectations for our supply chain – from paying a real living wage to setting science-based carbon targets.
“We have also carried out detailed risk and opportunity assessments across our entire purchasing categories, allowing us to directly link our sustainable tender criteria and performance metrics to material risks and opportunities, as well as apply proportionally for our suppliers. We also publish a compliant Modern Slavery Statement each year, dating back to 2016.”
Reflecting on SSE’s digital transformation strategy, Platts explains that the challenges from a digital/sustainability perspective have been “how we can digitally enable our sustainable procurement strategy? How can we assess and track supply chain risk? How do we provide supply chain insight that will add value to the ESG story? This is why we are currently piloting things like supply chain reporting tools.”
“It’s an extremely exciting time to be a part of SSE. We’re a principal sponsor to COP26 and our purpose is to help to address the climate emergency. Having a sustainable supply chain, which is managed by a digitally enabled, world-class Procurement & Commercial function will be key to delivering our net zero ambition,” concludes Platts.