“You never stop learning.”  

That motivational quote is typically found in a graduation speech, but there is certainly a good bit of truth in that inspiring platitude. I firmly believe that staying current in any profession requires constant education so I have been attending several of the University of Tennessee’s Global Supply Chain Management courses to keep on the forefront of our global economy’s rapidly evolving supply chain. One of the very valuable sessions that came from this coursework was “Vested Outsourcing” based on the book by Kate Vitasek.   

This particular session focused on finding innovative methods for outsourcing services in which both the company that is contracting and the contractor are collaborating to work toward achieving the same goal. However, as Kate Vitasek points out, the traditional relationship typically works in very much the opposite approach with both parties trying to maximize their own profits while working toward their own best interest. Ultimately, the overarching principle in “vested outsourcing” is that rather than pursuing individual successes, a collaborative relationship would be an optimized business solution where both are working for an overall success of the project. 

This really got me thinking about how relevant this kind of approach would be if applied to the biomass supply chain. In this business, high quality feedstock and operational efficiencies are paramount. We really do not have room for error. Take the baling operation for example. Producing a good quality bale of biomass requires a proficient operator that understands the optimal time to produce the bale in an effort to keep moisture low as well as how to maximize bale density. If we contract with a biomass grower to bale switchgrass or miscanthus, there may be some competing interests that may lead to a bale that has a higher moisture than we would consider acceptable. This is not at all to suggest that growers are somehow shady business dealers, it just means that maybe the service agreement was set up in such a way that did not encourage a common goal. Being a savvy businessman, that grower may have dedicated his attention to his or her soybean crop rather than focusing on getting windrowed material into a bale and out of the coming rain. 

At Genera Energy we contract with a number of service providers and firmly believe that they are just as much a part of the team as our own employees. Whether it be transport contractors, growers, custom harvesters, etc, we want our contractors to be successful. At the same time we have high expectations for quality, efficiency, and safety. Therefore we have established several creative strategies to incentivize our contractors to work with us so we can be successful together and both win. If you want to learn how a biomass supply chain can be fully invested in the success of your operation, please get in touch with us.   

By Lance Stewart, Supply Chain Manager