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August/September 2013

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Supplier Diversity

Diversity permeates all levels at DTE Energy

“Diversity in everything you do means new ideas and perspectives. The more inclusive you are, the more creativity you’ll have,” says the supply chain lead


Soon after Anthony Tomczak became director of supply chain management at DTE Energy in Detroit, MI in 2006, he took on the task of helping the utility re-energize its supplier diversity efforts.

“The company instituted a new policy requiring all requests for vendor quotes go out to at least two diverse suppliers. It began exploring ways to expand the roles of women and minority-owned suppliers DTE Energy had already worked with successfully. And the company began looking for opportunities to engage diverse suppliers early on in project development and joint ventures.

“After that, it was looking at each and every category of supplies that we work with and seeing if there were suppliers available out there that could do that sort of work,” Tomczak says.

DTE Energy is active in the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, where Tomczak sits on the board, as well as in the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. The utility taps into the databases and other resources of those organizations to locate potential business partners. The expertise and advocacy of supplier diversity manager John Eley and his staff also play an indispensible role in cultivating these relationships, Tomczak says.

Their collective efforts have helped DTE Energy double its level of spending with diverse suppliers since the company revamped the program, from an annual average of about 7 percent to 14 percent, according to Tomczak.

“We’ve not only re-energized the direct spend that we’re doing with diversity companies, but we’re also looking to cascade our commitment through our supplier base,” he says.

That means getting first-tier suppliers to embrace DTE Energy’s commitment to diversity. In June, the company hosted a supplier symposium with 400 attendees. Participants learned about the company’s priorities and its aspirations for continued growth. They found out how suppliers who deliver values like quality and cost improvement could be part of that expansion. They also heard about DTE Energy’s success in finding capable diverse suppliers to meet their needs.

To get in the door
Tomczak says each supplier participating in the bidding process undergoes a pre-qualification review, including filling out a survey about its leadership, the type of work it performs and its customer base. Depending on how extensive their potential involvement is, suppliers may be subjected to legal reviews and risk assessments. Diverse vendors are required to have either NMSDC or WBENC certification.

How one diverse company did it
This summer Detroit-based Data Consulting Group (DCG) launched its first project as a DTE Energy vendor. Founded in 1990 by CEO Wayne Wheeler, an African American business professional with twenty-five years of corporate experience in technology services, DCG provides management consulting, staff augmentation and outsourcing services. Most of its business is concentrated in southeast Michigan. The firm has an additional office in Alexandria, VA that serves the federal government. DCG has clients in the public sector as well as the automotive, utilities, financial services and healthcare industries.

Wheeler, a former accountant with an MBA from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, says he had long dreamed of breaking out of the nine-to-five routine of his corporate experience.

“After working for some large automotive companies, I found myself looking for something a little bit more entrepreneurial,” says Wheeler. “For me, that was having my own company.”

The DTE Energy contract was a huge win for Wheeler. “Service companies are always looking for opportunities to work for the major players,” Wheeler says. “I am really excited about this opportunity.”

DCG partner Tim Couvreur says a friend helped set up an introductory meeting with DTE Energy to discuss DCG’s capabilities. Additional meetings followed, and several projects were identified that matched DCG’s capabilities. “We also learned a lot about DTE Energy’s commitment to local minority businesses. We’ve been very impressed,” says Couvreur, who joined the firm in 2003.

DCG is conducting a review, called a measurement and metrics assessment, of the utility’s IT operations in four areas: back office, plant and field, customer and shared infrastructure.

“They have certain operating performance standards they need to meet, based on their internal customers as well as what the industry is doing,” Couvreur says. “They have metrics and measurements in place, but we’re going to look at what they have as compared to other industries and best practices. We can bring an external perspective on how they might improve performance in their organization.”

Goals for diversity
At DTE Energy, every business unit and every buyer has measureable goals for doing business with diverse vendors. “We’ve got some really proactive buyers who see smaller opportunities and work with suppliers to help them understand what it takes to be a supplier to DTE, and help them prepare to do business with us,” Tomczak says. “And then there are larger opportunities, actual joint ventures and development projects, where we see an entrepreneurial spirit in the supplier.”

For example, when DTE wanted to start an energy efficiency program four years ago, a first for a Michigan utility, one local minority-owned company proposed to partner with an experienced out-of-state company to run the program initially. When the contract came up for bid again, the local supplier was prepared to take sole charge of the program, which Tomczak says has created more than 100 jobs in the city.

For DTE Energy, building a diverse base of suppliers means good business, Tomczak says.

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