Interview with a Leader - February 2021

Every month in 2021, APR will share a discussion with a Leader in his/her field.




Here we go, the February Interview with a Leader: purchasing and supply chain recruitment trends has arrived!

Quick reminder: APR has launched a new initiative for 2021; once a month, we interview a purchasing or supply chain Leader to get an insider view of the actual evolution of the job and its recruitment market.


In February, we had the chance to talk with Lionel Mathiot, SULO’s group purchasing and supply chain director but also sustainable development responsible of the company.

SULO is the European pioneer and a driver of innovation in the waste management industry. They collaborate with local authorities and businesses to “create solutions for today’s waste be tomorrow’s resource”. About 2000 collaborators are committed to deliver excellence and guarantee that SULO remains the pivotal player in the circular economy he is. But in the end, it is just one goal for one team.


Lionel has a rich background he builds on every day: real all-rounder, he is an international engineer with quality management master and went through 6 kinds of industrial and operational jobs in 3 different continents before he decided to bring his vision to purchasing and supply chain 10 years ago.

One year ago, he took over the lead on purchasing and supply chain in SULO: he now manages 40 people included the French sales orders management and a 250M€ spend but mostly is the group referent for sustainability development. He strives in building a strong bottom-up culture to engage everyone in this battle. And his position in the executive committee is a strong show of SULO’s commitment to supply-chain and sustainability.


First chat we had with Lionel was on the new challenges to come for 2021 in purchasing and supply chain; what kind of transformations is coming?

The new guiding concept is uncertainty and adaptability. Everything is now uncertain, and if clients’ orders are unable to be predicted, if the supplier’s capacities and constraints are rapidly evolving… so the whole value stream must adapt. Forecasts, supplier management, team management: it’s time to learn how to manage global uncertainty because today’s truth is not tomorrows’.

Some raw materials, like steel, are roller-coasting; some are in cruel shortage. On the other hand, the age-old target to reduce stock must be rethought. Same with supplier selection, planning and forecasting…We need to re-invent our strategies and be able to have several ones for one purchasing category: For instance, depending of our production units or suppliers capacities and specificities, we need to act in their best interest to preserve the right supply: “One does not fit All”!


During this time, Lionel reshaped mainly the S&OP process timeline: From monthly to weekly reviews, all plants work in synergy and it has been challenging to keep up this interactive collaboration. New weekly meeting format was developed with the different departments that he overviewed and piloted so he could keep the pace of the situation and adapt quickly by managing the interfaces.

The value stream itself was redesigned too: the supplier relationships were shortened, price agreements defined on shortest periods and raw material tolerances reviewed for further market fitting to be able to seize market opportunities. If the mission remained the same ‘create solutions for today’s waste be tomorrow’s resource’, SULO is well aware that new methods can only have positive impacts, both internally and externally to its customers.


Digitalization is also a huge evolution path that Lionel undertook, but that’s for another discussion!

Now, what does Lionel see in a tomorrow supply chain?


For sure the main topic will be about finding the right balance between centralization & decentralization responsibilities, global & local actions, short term & long-term strategies; Dedicating the right resources at the right time to have the best impact will be next months’ challenge.

Lionel is computing all context conditions to design the value stream of tomorrow. How can I capitalize on the 100km ecosystem around each plant, how can I be at the closest to local needs still optimizing the supply of the global market synergies, how can I build up sustainable but also societal processes to deliver values to our stakeholders?


Some questions are answered by the deployment of local purchasing representatives that are able to manage a commodity ‘as usual’ but that are also able to quickly catch the plants needs and perspectives to adapt their support. Pragmatism is a strong suit of this new model: local and global approach!

Lionel also sees his function as a connector of objectives and stakes of other departments like finance or production. Therefore, supply chain is now set in the plants, this answers the new reactivity necessity but also strengthen the involvement of everyone.


SULO and Lionel current focus is on developing sustainability throughout the group, but what is the true place for CSR in today and tomorrow organizations? Which step to watch out?

CSR is clearly a strong mission for SULO and every collaborator. Of course, CSR must give a competitive advantage to the group but also answer the “create solutions for today’s waste be tomorrow’s resource” question.


Thanks to Lionel strong industry knowledge, supply chain is a strong stakeholder in actions taken towards this objective. He leads with concrete steps the setting of new initiatives.


With the supporting cast of multi-functions colleagues from all countries, Lionel empowered the Circular Economy principles already used in the Group as new references to launch/continue several actions such as:

- Design: eco-design the products to adapt them to the real need and find less energy consuming ways of production and usage

- Production: in 2022, SULO aims to buy 100% of green energy and continues to reduce its energy consumption

- Transport: not only think about the type of vehicle which is more appropriate but also work on the usage. Rethink the packaging process so the transportation process is optimized. Use local suppliers and reduce weight of equipment’s.

- Usage: think about repair and maintenance, for example, the lid and wheels are now considered as more than a classic spare part: either it is easily replaced but it is also re-used or recycled during maintenance operations reducing waste

- Recycling: the waste collection equipment (our plastic bins) is already 80% made of recycled materials and increasing

- Material: that’s pure sourcing: keep track of innovation so less virgin raw material is used and mainly keep on open mind on new alternatives!

Lionel recommends watching out for CSR derives in group looking to go down this path: CSR is a Co-investment, this means that it cannot be delegated solely to suppliers but responsibility and engagement has to be fully shared.


And of course, we couldn’t let Lionel go without asking his viewpoint on the skills a future talent in purchasing or supply chain should have.

Think global and challenge status-quo!


Those jobs are now much more than we are used to say about them, it requests curiosity, energy, ability to see behind the lines and the impacts a decision will have all the way down the value stream.

A purchaser cannot think only about a price: health and safety, quality, environment, client need, service, total cost…and much more to be considered. Lionel strongly believes that specialization has its limits in today’s context: the more you see the more you learn.


Once again, uncertainty will remain in our daily lives still for some time which makes adaptability and capacity of challenging the status-quo essential. The job will certainly keep evolving and integrating more models like safety, sustainability, continuous improvement or digitalization: new Talents should be able to accompany this transformation with a curious, fighting spirit and anticipative mindset.


Finally, supply chain is a support function in the most noble way: it is here to create and sustain the necessary link between all departments. Communication and “solution selling” ability is not an optional soft-skill.


One tip Lionel wants to share with you: a job opportunity is a mission but also an environment, be sure you match with the company’s values and vice-versa! For instance, SULO has strong cultural values defined by its employees that shows in everyday life.

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