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Former Sobeys And Wal-Mart Executive Wayne McKnight Will Speak About The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Procurement Operations.

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, December 10, 2013

Lots of people have jobs of all sorts, but only a select few do their work and live their lives in such a way that they draw insight from all they do. One of these rarities is Wayne McKnight. Sure he has had important jobs, as when he was at Sobey in Canada and he headed the Global Sourcing for Wal-Mart, but he did something else. He was put in positions to see things…and he saw. Not just the literal occurrence but the significance and implications of what was ongoing. We consider ourselves most fortunate that Wayne has agreed to share his insight with the industry. We asked Keith Loria a Contributing Editor at Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, to find out more:


Wayne McKnight
McKnight Insights & Solutions Inc.
Toronto, Ontario Canada

Q: This will be your first year at the New York Produce Show and Conference. What are your thoughts going in?

A: Yes, it’s my first visit to the conference. I have heard good things about previous shows, so I hope I can make a meaningful contribution to this year’s edition.

Q: You’ll be a featured speaker at the Global Symposium; what will the subject of your talk involve?

A: I will discuss “The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Procurement Operations.”

Q: What is it about this topic that’s so important to our industry?

A: It continues to be more important to know more about what happens up and downstream from your business. Many companies have done this to a high degree domestically and it makes sense to examine that same capability globally. Visibility to working globally, on the surface, tends to be more complex. The benefits are great if you can dial them in, the risks are great if you don’t. Everyone is looking for a competitive edge or a point of differentiation. The import/export arena is one area where you can potentially create distance from your peers.

Q: Can you offer a sneak preview of some of the main points of your talk?

A: I’ll cover the subject from my experiences and give the audience some insights into the dos, don’ts and what you need to prepare for.

Q: Can you expand on one of the pros of direct importing?

A: Most people lose sight of the primary objective, which is creating Surety of Supply of the right merchandise that meets the needs of the targeted end user (consumer). All other goals really are just a subset of this. Cost savings, food safety and security are all important but don’t play out if you don’t have supply. There are no guarantees in supply today with weather, labor, logistics, security and regulatory components but working directly between primary production and the final buyer provides a huge opportunity to collaborate, plan and make commitments.

When the focus shifts to executing a joint business plan with built-in contingency plans, it is a much more effective engagement than negotiating PO by PO. The talent and innovation in this industry is incredible. We need to make sure our business practices and objectives create the right behaviors and seize the opportunities in innovations, technology, sharing resources and improving financial returns.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of global procurement?

A: There are several, but let me mention one—underestimating the “change management” necessary in your organization. From the commitment that is necessary at the executive level of companies to the tools and training that front line staff need is usually a shortfall and in “catch up” mode for too long. Investing in people, infrastructure, systems and new work processes must be a strategic piece of the mission and done at the beginning. Building those new core competencies or enablers can’t be part of a tremendously long learning curve. Mistakes and risk get magnified if it’s not done right up front.

Q: What are you hoping participants walk away with after listening to your talk?

A: I hope to highlight a few areas that people should be aware of in their planning exercise so that they can proceed with their eyes open. Get to know and test your own DNA and appetite for change, ensure you understand your investments needed to build new core competencies and communicate clearly to stakeholders inside and outside your organization so they may adjust their products or services to the new paradigm. There are consequences and unintended consequences of your plan, direction and performance… or non performance.

Q: Is there one specific target group your lecture is aimed at or do you feel it’s something all attendees can gleam something from?

A: I believe in Global Procurement discussions that there are potential learnings for buyers, sellers, service providers and everyone in between. If the playing field is changing and potentially your role, it would be pertinent to understand the impact on your current company and what applicable help you need in order to re-position your activities so your services can continue to be valued. It is possible to resist change and be on the outside looking in.

Q: Why do you feel the New York Produce Show and Conference is an important event?

A: This show is becoming a must attend on the fall calendar for key folks in the produce business both domestically and internationally. The leadership of the Eastern Produce Council and Produce Business bring instant credibility to events such as this, which will just keep getting better. These organizations are keenly aware of current events and education as well as the benefits of important and cost effective networking opportunities amongst the industry personnel.

Q: Anything else you’re looking forward to at the show?

A: To participate in all of the shows events, listen to the speakers from the various panels and catch up with many friends that are also attending. Seeing the lights and decorations of New York City this time of year must be amazing, so hopefully there will be some time for that as well.


The question of how global trade will be done is pregnant with meaning and importance. We wonder if there aren’t external factors that drive big companies in the direction of buying direct. For example, if a global company wants cooperation for a government on siting stores, isn’t it helpful to have bills of lading showing that this same global giant is the biggest customer of the farmers in that country?

Fortunately, this session is supercharged as in addition to Wayne’s presentation we have a respondent panel consisting of Rich Dachman of Sysco, Reggie Griffin, formerly of Kroger; Bruce Peterson, formerly of Wal-Mart; Dick Spezzno, formerly of Vons, These people work now, or have worked for buyers of many sizes, in retail and in foodservice. One can expect a lively debate on the pros and cons of this important issue.

You can be part of the debate, just register for the Global Trade symposium and The New York Produce Show And Conference on site or right here

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