Contract manufacturers (CMs) are a critical part of many electronics supply chains. This year, 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars recognition program, a jointly sponsored initiative of ThomasNet and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), identified a key supply chain professional at giant CM Flex as one of its winners. Gerardo Cabrera has the positon of global commodity manager at Flex in Guadalajara, Mexico, making the 30 Under 30 an international competition for the first time.
Originally, trained in finance, he became a commodity analyst at another electronic manufacturing service company and found his true career and passion. Cabrera started his time with Flex as an intern in 2014 (living proof that these types of programs attract top talent). After six months, Flex invited him to become a permanent employee. In 2015, the company promoted him to his current position and he took charge of approximately $25 million in spend per year.
Cabrera has proved his worth to Flex several times, including when:
- When, during negotiations for a co-sourcing program with a major company, he reduced costs by a projected $1.1 annually.
- When he identified a potential new source and developed that source as a strategic partner, saving $500,000 annual additional cost savings on components from that supplier.
- When he strengthened relationships with existing suppliers to ensure that they had an appropriate level of engagement with procurement to the benefit of both Flex and the partners.
We sat down with Cabrera to get his thoughts on the electronics supply chain as a profession and to discuss what organizations can do to attract millennial workers.
EBN: What key attributes does a commodity analyst need to be successful?
Cabrera: I believe the most important attributes for a commodity analyst/manager are:
- A strong focus on leveraging support and close collaboration with colleagues from areas other than procurement (i.e. business development, finance, market intelligence, operations, etc.);
- The ability to make fully calculated decisions in very short timeframes; and
- An exhaustive understanding of internal and external customer needs and expectations.
EBN: What attracted you to working for a global contract manufacturer?
Cabrera: One of the main points that had me sold on working at a contract manufacturer is the variety of customers and industries we provide a service to. It is one thing to be involved in the rigorous focus on quality for the medical and automotive industries and another to be part of the lean supply chain processes required for a fast-paced and volatile consumer product manufacturing. Working at a global manufacturer with a large breadth in their customer portfolio allows you to have a panoramic view of the worldwide market movement and evolution.
EBN: Tell us a little about your role at your company. What do you like best about what you do? How do hope your job will evolve over time?
Cabrera: I am in charge of drafting and carrying out the strategy to optimize sourcing on discrete semiconductors utilized in the products we build. This entails leading negotiations with manufacturers all over the world to make sure we provide the best cost and the lowest supply risk to our customers. The continuous collaboration with individuals from different internal global teams and external organizations is a very rewarding experience all in itself, because at the end of the day, we can see our combined efforts show on the products people use and rely on. I expect my role within the company to entail increasing cross-functional collaboration to discover and exploit new opportunities to maintain our organization as one of the top players in the industry.
EBN: What advice would you give someone who is considering a career in the electronics supply chain? What did you learn about this career path that you wished someone had told you earlier?
Cabrera: Real business is carried out by people, not machines or numbers. While it is of utmost importance to keep a clear view of the metrics and factual, hard numbers and statistics at all times, the relationships you build with people both inside and outside your organization are what really can mean the difference between under- and over-achieving performance. Relationships are the lube that helps the machine run as smoothly and robustly as possible.
EBN: What are the biggest challenges in terms of getting beyond old school attitudes and ways of doing things in the organization?
Cabrera: As with many large and long-standing organizations, an aversion to change is always a latent challenge. We need to keep a flexible and adaptable mindset in order for our organizations to thrive in this unprecedented and fast-paced market evolution.
EBN: What help and support have mentors offered you? What advice would you offer to electronics OEMs who want to be an employer of choice to the next generations of supply chain managers? (Why did you pick the employer you did?)
Cabrera: Us millennials are hungry. We have the drive and dedication to raise the individual team, a full department, or an entire organization to levels previous generations continuously dream of. Organizations looking to make the new wave of supply chain experts part of their arsenal must be willing to team them up with seasoned managers as soon as possible in order to exponentially develop and exploit their capabilities.
EBN: What else would you like to say about supply chain as a career or your experiences?
Cabrera: Supply chain is an amazingly unpredictable field which will keep anyone on their toes and at the edge of their seats. It should absolutely be THE career path for anyone looking for a new challenge every day!
— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN