In 2001, when Delta Air Lines Inc. was grappling with rising fuel prices, terrorist attacks and fare wars, the $15 billion airline carrier set an aggressive goal of cutting 3% from its $10 billion annual spending on direct and indirect goods and services within three years. While its fuel costs alone total over $6 billion, the biggest logistical problem it faced was negotiating better deals with

the 6,000 other suppliers that provided the other 40%.

How did Delta do? The short answer is that it achieved its goal and then last year it saved another $200 million on top of that. The 'how' boils down to Delta's decision to automate, with the help of VerticalNet LLC, a Malvern, Penn.-based software vendor."It starts with the process, and the tool supports the process," says Bob Currey, Delta's general manager of sourcing innovation and supplier management.

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