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Suppliers: invaluable partners for Thales

Roque Carmona, Thales Purchasing Director, explains what the challenges and developments in the Group's purchasing policy are as Thales virtually met more than 500 of its strategic suppliers mid-December 2020.

© photo Alexandre - LIGHT EX MACHINA

Why was it so important to maintain the Global Supplier conference, even as a virtual event?

Roque Carmona: Many of our suppliers have suffered the economic consequences of the global pandemic. It was important that we reaffirm the partnership relationship that we have with them. We have done everything possible to support them and keep their business going. For their part, our suppliers have demonstrated their responsiveness, inventiveness and commitment to continue supplying the Group, and thus contribute to its resilience. They are, and will be tomorrow, stakeholders in the transformation of the Group. It is therefore essential that we discuss the challenges facing Thales with them so that they can help us meet them. Our performances can only be as good as our suppliers' one!

Amongst these challenges, which is the one that you feel is the most important?

RC: Without a doubt, competitiveness. Let me remind you about the importance of our purchasing activities: nearly 7 billion euros this year, of which more than 2 are spent with 3,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, around 14,000 suppliers. If we are demanding with our suppliers, not only in economic terms - meeting deadlines, reducing defects, etc. - but also in terms of integrity, we also expect a lot from their expertise and creativity. They should be encouraged to "challenge" the specifications of our products - anything that will make us more competitive is a good thing! To establish and maintain this win-win partnership, our relations must be fluid, transparent and, above all, based on sharing the same values.

What lessons can we learn from the global health crisis?

RC: The pandemic reminds us that we must always be prepared for the unexpected. Despite the abrupt halt to the global economy, our supply chain has held up well overall, thanks to the partnership we have with our suppliers and the radical transformation of the Purchasing function over recent years. In certain activities, defence for example, the constraints imposed on transport have shown us that even in our “virtual” world, distance still matters - it is impossible to deliver a radar via the internet! This raises the question of sovereignty in matters of critical systems. This crisis should help us prepare for the future by accelerating the transformation of Thales and its suppliers.