Sellafield’s long-term view – a beacon of strategic collaboration in the supply chain

Proxima speaks to Susan Lussem, Supply Chain Director at Sellafield, about the importance of transparency and collaboration throughout the supply chain over the long term
Susan Lussem, Sellafield

“It is not every day that you get the opportunity to work on a multi-generational, nationally important project,” said Susan Lussem, Supply Chain Director at Sellafield, in conversation with Proxima. Sellafield is a subsidiary company of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and responsible for the safe and secure operation and clean-up of the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria.

Sellafield is the largest nuclear complex in Western Europe and the decommissioning programme will span over 100 years. “A project of this scale requires specific skills, innovation and a robust, risk manageable and resilient supply chain,” she explained.

In addition, Sellafield has a long-term enterprise strategy based on creating a clean and safe environment for future generations. “We have more than 11,000 employees and many thousands of people in the supply chain supporting us,” she added.

Lussem explained that the organisation’s strategy is built around three core components – safe and sustainable site stewardship, progress at pace, and lifetime value for money. “A manifesto underpins our strategy to make sure we sustain our principles over the long term,” she explained.

For Lussem, a key pillar of Sellafield’s long-term strategy is to maintain and improve its supply chain’s experience, and generate mutual value through strategic, long-term partnerships. “Our current engagement plan is scoped out until 2040,” she said.

 

What is the strategy behind your supply chain?

When it comes to working with our suppliers, it’s not about the lowest price we pay for something; it’s about overall value for money for the taxpayer, which includes, mutual and sustainable value derived from the relationship, the commitment of our partners, and the dedication towards a continuous improvement and development of innovative solutions.

 

Has Covid impacted your relationship with suppliers?

Covid brought our supplier relationships into sharp focus. Together with our suppliers, we had to adapt quickly. At the site, working with our construction partners and suppliers, we were able to act quickly together to ensure the site was safe for everyone. We introduced a range of initiatives, including having our own test, track and trace system to complement the national system.

 

How did you adapt to ‘the new normal’?

Our business continuity plan was successful during the pandemic because of the strong, existing relationships we had developed with our suppliers. Brexit also required ourselves and our suppliers to adapt our approach. Both challenges emphasised the value of collaboration between us and our suppliers. We have a much more robust supply chain now – it's much more focused, stringent, and agile.

 

What has been key to your success?

The best thing an organisation can do if they are looking to bolster their supply chain is start strengthening relationships. Transparency is key to a successful customer/supplier relationship, and it comes from collaboration leading towards a shared vision.

Every company should understand their supply chain.  This not only will assist business continuity, but also provide valuable information about the areas that can be improved and developed in a risk manageable manner for both suppliers and the customer, generating clear, commercial and sustainable outcomes. 

 

Looking ahead

For Lussem, thinking about short/mid/long-term goals and by being clear on the suite of principles and values will generate the supply chain development platform that will lead to stronger supplier relationships.

“At Sellafield, we focus on improving and maintaining high levels of supply chain engagement,” she said, noting that by developing and investing in long-lasting and fruitful business relationships, innovation is a natural outcome. 

For Lussem, knowing and working closely with a supplier can lead to solutions to products, services, skillset and technology, as well as efficiencies in business models.  “This type of constructive relationship leads to mutual agendas on areas such as sustainability, SME agenda, supporting the societies we work in, the environment, and the wider economy,” she concluded.

 

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