3 Questions to… Rafael Anchustegui

Rafael Anchustegui, Group Chief Purchasing Officer at Saint-Gobain, explains the importance of data for the Group's growth, and how Purchasing intends to ride the Big Data technology wave.

Big data is a fairly abstract concept for most of us. Why is it such an important issue for our Group in 2021?

Big data is a treasure left underexploited by many large corporations. Groups like Saint-Gobain manage an infinite volume of data. The technology to mine this data is now available. If all the data is held in a single location – a data lake – the Countries, businesses and central functions can focus on using this data rather than each wasting resources on tracking it down, mining and cleaning it.

With all data accessible from a single location, it is possible to extend our knowledge of the businesses, to understand and pre-empt market behaviors, identify and minimize risks and roll out strategies to improve competitiveness. Data can also be used to analyze business data, purchasing, finance, inventory and logistics data, and so identify opportunities for improvements respecting of course the protection of personal data.

Under the Nazaré project (the name of the Portuguese city famous for its huge waves chased by surfers) instigated by the Purchasing function and Group’s Information Systems Department (ISD), data has been made accessible to all authorized entities for local or consolidated use. Each Country, business or local function still retains its freedom of data use. It is this that makes big data such a revolutionary change. It is disruptive in how data is managed.

What is the current status of the Nazaré project?

We have made significant progress with Group data collection, as we are now at 93% data recovery from industrial companies. We are now starting, for the first time, to apply a data cleaning algorithm, system-by-system, business-by-business. A number of our Activities and Countries have wished to get started and are now advanced. Data will begin to be available by the end of the first quarter, and then ready to be used by the interested parties.

The ISD is receiving a growing number of requests from the Countries, businesses and Group central functions (Purchasing, of course, but also Sales, Finance, Audit, etc.), which want to leverage the benefits of big data. In response to these requests, the project teams are working hand-in-hand with central and local ISDs, together with the business partners in the various entities and Countries.

Data sharing comes with confidentiality issues. We have created a committee with the Group Legal Department to set in place the appropriate data security procedures, even in the case of internal sharing.

Where does the Nazaré project go from here?

Nazaré is a big data project, but it also addresses modernizing the Purchasing process by introducing integrated smart systems – or Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) – covering all stages in the supplier journey: digitalization of our interaction with suppliers from prospecting to contracting, including calls for tender and negotiations. Users will be able to access most of these applications starting in the first half of 2021. They will help maximize buyers’ time (fewer administrative tasks) and improve the quality of their work as the information collected will be used to analyze markets, predict trends, prepare negotiations and optimize cash. As such, the Nazaré project will alter the buyer profile, inducing the need for revised training.

Processing and analyzing big data is an ongoing process. We are currently responding to certain needs which will change over time, and many others will crop up. For us to respond, we need to make sure we ramp up specialist data processing resources.