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The Professionals: Xiaofei Xu

Xiaofei 01From building strong supplier relationships to facing global challenges, our Commodity Manager highlights the importance of innovation and teamwork in the world of global purchasing.

Ever wondered what it takes to manage the procurement activities for a multinational company? Join us as we explore the dynamic and fast-paced world of purchasing through the eyes of Xiaofei Xu, our Chemicals and Glass Commodity Manager, as she shares her insights and experiences highlighting the importance of innovation, teamwork, and proactive problem-solving.

You are our Commodity Manager for chemicals and glass – what does that job entail? Tell us more about what you do!

I’m part of the Global Purchasing team and I’m responsible for the procurement activities for all chemical products sourced from our suppliers in Central Europe, as well as for all glass products supplied to us globally. This includes items such as our washing machine glass doors and the ceramic glass for the induction surfaces of our cooking equipment. My primary responsibilities involve identifying, evaluating, and selecting suppliers based on cost, quality, and reliability. Additionally, I monitor supplier performance and negotiate contracts and terms to ensure cost efficiency while maintaining the highest levels of quality and delivery performance.

What route did you take in terms of studies and jobs to where you are today?

Xiaofei 02

I began my studies in China at the International Studies University in Shanghai, initially focusing on foreign languages, more specifically French. At that time, few Chinese people studied French due to its complexity, especially in the early stages of learning the language. However, I was determined to broaden my horizons and experience the world firsthand, beyond what I read in the newspapers. So, when I met the head of the master’s program at IAE (Institut d’Administration des Enterprises), I decided to come to France to continue my studies. That’s where I earned my master’s in strategic management in Purchasing (DESMA) at the IAE Graduate School of Management in Grenoble.

I then started my career as a project buyer for a single plant, before progressing to lead buyer for four plants, and then I eventually became strategic purchaser for several plants across Europe at my previous company. In January 2022, I joined Electrolux Professional Group as the Commodity Manager for Chemicals and Glass, currently based in our plant for professional laundry equipment in Troyes, France.

What do you love about the role?

It is amazing to interact with colleagues from diverse cultures and engage in international exchanges on a daily basis! Our Group operates in various business areas, including laundry, food, and beverage, with manufacturing sites spread across different countries. The same geographical and cultural differences apply to our supplier base, which makes the ways of discussing, negotiating, and communicating with suppliers in Sweden, Italy, and France distinctly unique as well. It’s fantastic to be part of such a diverse team that exposes me to so many different cultural backgrounds and ideas. Despite the complexities of our work, I am grateful for our exceptional purchasing team, as we are able to truly support each other. Whether it’s from Asia, the US, Europe, or Italy, my colleagues have always provided immense help and support with their suppliers, which is truly fantastic.

And, on the other hand, what are the biggest challenges?

In the world of purchasing, we face different challenges every day. Often, we deal with price increases that force us to find viable solutions to mitigate the impact and deal with them in a cost-effective way. At times, we might be informed by the supply chain team that a supplier is not able to deliver on time, requiring us to find a quick solution. There might also be times when the quality control team reports that the products delivered are non-compliant, which triggers yet another search for alternative solutions. Each situation requires flexibility and problem-solving, making it extremely important to fully understand our products and company targets, but also to stay informed about the external market, to help maintain a resilient supply chain.

What advice would you give to people wanting to work in a position like yours?

Besides being a good communicator, which is a critical skill for anyone in purchasing, I believe being proactive is incredibly important. Proactiveness allows us to anticipate potential risks before they become issues. In my first year, I was quite reactive as I was still building relationships with key suppliers. However, in my second year, I was able to identify potential risks based on the experience gained in the previous year, and that has allowed me to become more proactive. It’s essential to have a “plan B” in place in case problems arise, which is challenging to do when you are always reactive. Preparing and gathering information beforehand allows us to find solutions more effectively. Of course, we cannot foresee every single issue, but we can certainly mitigate the main risks with proper preparation and planning.

How would you like to develop further in your role or potentially do something completely different?

I have a deep passion for music. When I was younger, I used to sing a lot, and I’ve always dreamt of forming an international band with members coming from different countries. It would be amazing to sing and play various kinds of music together, making one unique sound from our diverse backgrounds. That would be something completely different that I would love to be able to pursue one day!

Tell us about your experience of working in a multinational environment and the opportunities that exist within the company?

I spent 22 years in Shanghai before moving to Europe, where I lived for another 20 years, and this has been an incredibly valuable experience for me. When I first arrived in France, I realized how much my mindset was shaped by my upbringing and over time, I started noticing the different changes in my approach and behavior.

Previously, I used to approach situations considering only my perspective, focusing on my own goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Now, I’ve learned to consider why others act the way they do, understanding their motivations and challenges. This change has allowed me to find solutions that bring people together and help them collaborate, regardless of everyone’s cultural differences.

We have a strong Global Purchasing team with colleagues from Italy, Sweden, France, China, Thailand, and the US – and thanks to the collaboration of my colleagues we’re able to bring our strengths together to help each other face our daily challenges and identify the best possible suppliers based on price, quality, and delivery.

Why choose to work at Electrolux Professional Group?

I really appreciate the focus our Group puts on its people. People are our priority, and our company values them completely as they create value for us. It almost feels like being part of a big family, where the atmosphere is positive and there’s mutual respect and trust.

There are also many opportunities. Whether it’s moving to different plants, taking on new tasks, or changing professions, we have the possibility to develop ourselves and keep exploring our potential. And lastly, I appreciate how innovation is at the core of our strategy. It’s what drives us to maintain our leadership position in the market and pushes us to continued success.

Check out our global career site, if you aspire to pursue a career similar to Xiaofei´s.