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The smart thinker


By: Jerrel Yun, Singapore
Published: Aug 29, 2008
Asia - NSN recently celebrated its inaugural Innovation Awards Day, during which the company recognised outstanding suppliers who assisted NSN in terms of their contribution to innovation, product and service quality, cost reduction and process improvement.

But this is much more than just NSN's way of building their relationship with their suppliers. Byrne believes this helps in the company's grander plans of combating escalating material costs.

Why did NSN embark on this practice?

Last year we had a smaller scale event where we used it for relationship-building with our suppliers, and this year what we wanted to do was to line up our suppliers with NSN's values and our focus on innovation, so we very specifically made a number of awards that were to reward innovation.

Out of 1,000 suppliers in APAC, we targeted about 40 of them that we thought had made the greatest contributions to NSN and also new suppliers who we thought had tremendous potential to provide that innovation in the future.

The intention was to make these key innovative suppliers make Nokia Siemens their customer of choice.

This is important as we're in a very competitive business and there is a scarce pool of trained resources out there and so we want that pool of resources to select us before going to anybody else.

Suppliers also view this very highly. In fact, every time you walk into a supplier's boardroom they will have a shelf of their key awards and achievements. Particularly the Indian and Chinese suppliers.

Have these benefits materialised for NSN?

We've had some positive feedback from our suppliers. We've had suppliers come and talk to us about how they can build the relationship further, offer other products and services.

But this event wasn't just about giving out awards. Part of it was to share where the company is headed to and where we see the growth and opportunities, and where the suppliers can align with this.

So it's really about setting a scene for them, and what they have to do to be successful with us.

Why does NSN value innovation in your suppliers?

When people talk about innovation sometimes all they refer to is putting a faster chip in a laptop. But in reality, there's many ways you can innovate. It can be in design, it can be in your own products it can be in reducing costs, or it can be in your supplier's products in your products.

Especially when one of the greatest challenges we face at the moment is the rising costs of commodities and the escalating costs of labour. Businesses are under a lot of cost pressures and at the same time our customers are demanding lower and lower costs.

The question is how to work our way around it and for us we're trying to look at ways to do things differently.

Can you give us an example?

What NSN is doing is redesigning how we build telecom sites, we're redefining all the services and materials that go into the sites and therefore we can maintain the cost pressures for us and our customers.

For example, we're working on a concept called the "smart site". In Singapore we have rooftops to place our smart sites. In most developing countries where they don't have built out rooftops they typically construct big towers.

We are currently redesigning the tower completely. Rather than a four-legged angled tower we've designed a three-legged tubular tower. That saves us about 30% less steel, less concrete, and allows the operator to carry multiple sets of antennas.

Regular towers can weigh up to 15-20 tonnes. With this smart site we think we can reduce the carbon emission by about 11.5 tonnes of CO2 per site. So every site that is built translates into lesser concrete, lesser steel, lesser costs of transportation and we can save 11.5 tonnes of CO2 per site.

The new towers also allow operators to mount two sets of antennas on each site and what we've created is a rental opportunity for operators where if we sell the tower to M1, they could possibly lease out the space for another set of antennas to Starhub.

So instead of just having an expensive asset, we've created for them a revenue-producing possibility.

This adds value to our customers but also helps us manage rising costs and have a positive environmental impact.

What is your greatest contribution to the organisation?

We could talk about dollars and cents because that's how most people get measured, but I think perhaps its best to avoid that. I think other than savings, it would be building an excellent team right across the Asia Pacific.

When I came to this company about three years ago we had a fairly diverse group of people. We had people that were both from our services division who weren't procurement specialists, so we had people who had a planning background or people who may have had a project management background who were really doing the sourcing.

What we've done is to build a very dedicated and specific telecomm sourcing team. I've worked very hard to change the mix, recruit the right people, develop them and make them more focussed. Now we have very good teams where out businesses are.

There wasn't a specific incident that catalysed the change, but it was more of an evolution over time. We're now recruiting the right people, put in place the right training programmes, promoted certain people and have had some people relocate from one country to another to help them develop.

We've taken people from India to Indonesia and Australia to other countries, for example. We've really given them a breadth of diversity across APAC. They get exposure to other markets and can take that price points, negotiation techniques from different cultures and then we can start getting some benefits from around the region.

We have a big team in India and a big team in Indonesia because they are our two biggest spend countries.

Companies featured:

  • Nokia