DTE Case Study

Venus Randle, Senior Supply Chain Manager Inventory Optimization and Investment Recovery

My role is Senior Supply Chain Manager and I’m a member of the Supply Chain team. I lead our Inventory Optimization and Investment Recovery teams and assumed responsibility for Supply Chain Sustainability in 2015. I joke that I have a relationship with our material from cradle to grave and back to cradle through recycling--- the sustainability cycle. Our team is engaged around supply chain sustainability because our company’s goal is to be a Force for Growth and Good in the communities where we live and serve. Our supply chain is an extension of our community and we want them engaged around what’s good and right for the environment.

The sustainability initiative is top down at DTE and that makes my job easier in getting the team fully engaged around it. I regularly communicate and share knowledge at our All Hands Meetings and Practice Sharing Sessions with Supply Chain and the Supplier Performance Management teams. DTE has hosted supplier forums, and we factor sustainability into supplier executive review meetings. I also lead the DTE Supply Chain Sustainability team which was formed this year. This team is made up of volunteers from the organization that have an interest in learning about supply chain sustainability and furthering our sustainability goals.

DTE Energy is one of the founding members of the Alliance, but it took us a little time to get started formally. We’ve started now. We sent the Alliance’s survey to our suppliers in 2015 for the first time and this year will be our third year in a row.

The benefit and value of the Alliance’s supplier sustainability survey is it helps us pinpoint areas of environmental sustainability improvement for our suppliers.

In 2016, we tripled the number of suppliers who took the survey. Last year we had 66 suppliers responding compared to 21 in 2015. I joined the Survey work team this year so I could learn more about the inner workings of the survey and make suggestions for improvements. It’s been valuable for me because I am learning a lot about the survey. I am interfacing with Tom from Ecodesk, the architects of the survey, as well as learning how suppliers can improve their scores through Tiffany Rodriguez, who leads that team. I provide feedback to the survey work team from my team on how we can improve how the data is reported. One of the things we want to change is numerically showing the average score for the client on the PDF scorecards. Currently, it’s represented in a chart but you do not know the actual average score numerically. We also suggested that we change the way the scorecards are downloaded. Instead of downloading one PDF at a time, we want to be able to download all the PDFs at one time.

The survey allows us to measure our suppliers’ performance around sustainability. In 2017, we are including the supplier’s sustainability scores on their DTE performance scorecards. Not only are we measuring supplier safety, on time delivery and cost, we are measuring environmental sustainability. Do suppliers have an environmental management system in place? Have suppliers set targets around waste generation/recycling, water usage, ozone, GHG, compliance?

During the supplier’s executive review meetings with our senior leadership and their senior leadership we can talk specifics about sustainability, discuss their survey scores, and what they are doing to improve. Or if they are performing well, what can they share with us that we can share with other suppliers?

As utilities, we frequently work with the same suppliers. The Alliance’s standard survey is critical to ensure the suppliers aren’t getting 10 different requests for a survey from 10 different utilities. The supplier receives one survey.

In 2016, we released the RFP (Request for Proposal) Sustainability Questionnaire and established criteria for its use by our senior buyers and category managers when bidding. We have a set criteria used in making our sourcing decisions. If the playing field is equal and both, or several, suppliers look good on cost, delivery, and quality ... their responses to the Sustainability Questionnaire could be a leading factor in the final sourcing decision. Since implementing this process, we’ve used the questionnaires in 10 major sourcing proposals. The category managers have shared with me the great work some of our suppliers are doing based on the responses and presentations received in the bid packages. I categorize that as success when the organization is talking about what good looks like in sustainability.

What’s next for DTE Energy? We want to add supply chain sustainability to the DTE Energy website supplier page to serve as a resource for our suppliers. What we hear from our suppliers is “We want to be more sustainable” “How do we learn?” “Where do we start?”

As a utility, we can help our local suppliers by connecting them with our free energy optimization consulting.

Our external site has so much information about how to become a supplier, how to connect to a buyer. It currently serves as a great resource for suppliers. What we want to do next is add sustainability information. We’ve formed a team to pursue adding green initiatives for our suppliers on our DTE external web site and linking to the Alliance’s website so our suppliers can access best practices and voluntary standards on cable, investment recovery, packaging, and/or construction.

What’s great about the Alliance is you do not have to reinvent the sustainability wheel. There are other utilities more mature in this walk. Suppliers and utilities can learn from each other and share knowledge. That exposure to best practices is invaluable.

DTE Energy has made some major strides in sustainability by using more wind and solar; as well as, reducing our overall footprint as a utility. It’s just as valuable that we are aligning ourselves with suppliers who also have these thought processes and believe that sustainability is as important for them as it is for us.