Cirque du Soleil: using digital transformation for procurement efficiency

Cirque du Soleil: using digital transformation for procurement efficiency

“What we do is very unique,” reveals Fulya Oguz Operational Procurement Manager, Supply Chain at Cirque du Soleil. “On a day-to-day basis I might be talking with an operational buyer about a lift that will pull up a 25-ton tent in one corner of the world, and then move on to discussing the lingerie required for our Zumanity show.” The Canadian entertainment company was established in Montreal, Quebec, in 1984. In the past 35 years the business has expanded on a global-scale, having offered shows to more than - 200mn viewers globally across 450 cities.

Due to the colorful nature of the performances, the procurement team is often required to source non-conventional products in order to achieve the high-quality productions promised in its reputation. “Our goal is to invoke imagination, provoke fantasies, and evoke emotions. In order to enable that we buy extremely specialized and unique, custom-made products,” says Fulya.

Fulya manages the operational procurement team within the company’s supply chain operations, which focuses on strategic sourcing, travel management, customs and logistics. “My team consists of project managers and operational buyers that specialize in different commodities. Essentially, my team supports all the Cirque units, including studios, buildings, IT, touring shows, production and of course costumes workshops,” she states. Her mandate is to ensure all internal business units are supported with solid contracts, efficient procurement processes, and good risk management. For Cirque du Soleil, efficiency is important in ensuring all the customer-facing aspects of the company function perfectly. “Operationally we have to be efficient and we have to be on time,” Fulya explains. The live shows require reliable equipment and bold sets and costumes, and without efficiency from the procurement team these may not be readily available.

Innovation is a key driving force behind functions. With growth influencing operations, the team is introducing new technologies to manage procurement and ensure vital efficiency. “As our President Daniel Lamarre has said ‘At Cirque du Soleil we don't talk about diversity, we live it every day with different nationalities influencing our growth.’ I think it is very important as we’re a worldwide company and our global presence has increased considerably over the years. And, of course, this growth influences and impacts all of its business units and their operations. So, everything we do we have to do it even more efficiently and effectively,” explains Fulya. With growing demand, the team is focusing on introducing new, creative solutions: “It's a creativity-driven business. We try to acquire the best and brightest talent in the field of procurement, while capitalizing on the highest technological advancement and tools available.”

In order to introduce new technologies, Cirque du Soleil began by questioning how it conducted business. By addressing what could be eliminated from everyday operations, it could then decide where to start investing. “To support our supply chain transformation, we invested in an e-sourcing cloud platform, shortly followed by an e-procurement cloud platform. The e-sourcing platform was introduced with the intention of streamlining our communications. As a buyer, we receive requests in all forms – from emails to verbal.” Cirque du Soleil has been able to process an increased volume without increasing the team. The cloud has enabled time-efficient operations, allowing Cirque du Soleil to communicate globally and shorten its response time. The team also found that the solutions enabled statistic tracking, analysis and traceability, while connecting different departments. “We can invite different partners within the same tool – it breaks the silos. Everyone can participate,” Fulya continues.

Innovation is not the only priority for Fulya, with Cirque du Soleil also ensuring it sources its products in the most sustainable ways. “As a citizen of the world we have to value sustainable methods and watch our footprint. We have to integrate these principles in our procurement practices,” says Fulya. “Today we have performances all over the world and we have to showcase unique products, meaning the fabrics and props we use are not readily available or reachable.” In 2017, the company transported fabrics from France to Canada on the Avontuur sailboat. The successful journey emitted zero carbon as the engineless boat required no fuel. This led to the firm committing to making at least five journeys through this method by 2020 in order to reduce its environmental damage when acquiring its specialized materials. When creating the LUZIA show, the firm used 6,000 litres of water per performance. In order to offset the huge quantities used, Cirque du Soleil would ensure that every liter would be recycled during the duration of a stay in a given city. “When we say sustainability and the environment are very important to Cirque, we really mean it,” Fulya adds.

Since joining the company eight years ago, Fulya has helped transform the operational procurement team. As she continues to break the silos and be a part in ensuring the company’s shows are staged on time, the head of the operational department aims to ensure the solutions – allowing this to happen – are implemented across the world. “In regards to technology, we have already decided what we’re going to use and we’re working on it. The next step is making sure the cloud platforms are accessible all over the world,” states Fulya. “That’s an extraordinary responsibility in a magical environment.”

Fulya Oguz