Benoît Avon, a Project Purchaser, tells us about his role. As a negotiator and risk management guarantor for the company, he offers the project teams the benefit of his multi-disciplinary view of Mobility's activities.
What is your educational background?
After completing a literary baccalaureate, I took a preparatory course for admission to France's leading business schools and then went to the École Supérieure de Commerce in Montpellier. While working towards my degree in Purchasing and Quality Management, I studied for a year at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and then took a year out to work as a sales representative with the Mars Food group.
Where have you worked to date and how long have you worked for Mobility?
During my end-of-degree work placement with the Renault Purchasing Department in Paris, I arranged to work abroad in lieu of my military service, working at Renault's new factory in Curitiba, in southern Brazil. I learnt Portuguese and stayed there for two and a half years, mainly helping to implement an after-sales purchasing structure. And, naturally, I made the most of the opportunity to travel around South America. When I came back to France in 2002, I wanted a change. I joined Mobility at a time when the company was developing its professional approach to purchasing.
What is your role? What exactly does it entail?
As a Project Purchaser, I define my role as a risk management guarantor for Mobility. People often think that the role of purchasers is limited to negotiations, but in fact it primarily involves securing our purchases of supplies and subcontracted services through contracts that take into account the constraints of the company and its projects. To this end, I look for the partners best capable of providing the support that we need and, together, we develop solutions and find ways to make savings.
As I work for several of Mobility's business units, I am lucky enough to have a multi-disciplinary view of all of our activities. This means that, when negotiating, I am able to take a wide range of technical concepts into consideration, such as the operation of power substations for transport infrastructure, ventilation systems in tunnels, or the civil engineering constraints involved in installing poles for catenary lines.
A project is a success when the budget and lead times are met, and when the end customer is satisfied with the work done.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Negotiating! It's a real thrill.
But that's not all I enjoy. The international aspects of our projects, developing our supplier portfolio abroad and setting up contracts to suit this context - especially the Lusail light rail transit system in Qatar which I am working on at the moment - are also extremely satisfying, although certain days can be quite difficult!
I also enjoy the human aspects, working as part of a team. The outcome of a negotiation is always the result of teamwork.
In addition, I am lucky enough to work for a company where the employees can have a hand in the development of the business. The Management seeks our opinion on various subjects, for instance via the Innovation and Perspectives Committee*. This group offers a real opportunity to share our ideas to develop the company and make it more dynamic.
What was the most enjoyable moment of your career to date?
In 2011/2012, I worked on a project to fit out three new tunnels on the A89 motorway. This large-scale project brought together several technical fields that were new to me at the time, and I was at the heart of a dedicated project platform for the first time. The stakes were high, as the purchasing of supplies and subcontracted services accounted for 70% of the project total, and the 18-month lead time to fit out three tunnels was a real challenge.
And what do you do when you’re not at work?
I keep very busy, especially as I have four small children! I am also a keen amateur clarinettist and I play in an orchestra.
*In 2014, Mobility set up an Innovation and Perspectives Committee. This think tank brings together engineers and staff from the support functions, all committed to the Mobility of the future.