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Supply Chain Solutions: 5 Ways To Successfully Work with Suppliers

supply chain solutions

If you run a products-based business, then you likely know how important it is to find the best suppliers, as of course, it is your job to find the best supply chain solutions. And if by chance, you’ve found great suppliers you realize how hard it was to find them.

But when you’re working with partners that supply necessary raw materials and products it’s important to monitor the relationship and ensure that those you rely on heavily are equipped to “deliver the goods.”

5 Supply Chain Solutions to Work Better with Suppliers

Here are five supply chain solutions to keep in mind while working with suppliers.

Communicate and Set Expectations Clearly

Much of the misunderstandings in business are due to a breakdown in effective communication. Don’t expect a supplier to read your mind or to understand your business from the onset. It is your job to see through the desire of supply chain solutions. It’s your responsibility to clearly outline what you expect in exchange for payment. So, if a supplier is continually not meeting your expectations – and you’ve identified them upfront – it’s much easier to move business to partners who can. Collaboration is key when working with suppliers, so also think about setting up a supplier day to get that communication process started.

Share Volume Forecasts with Your Suppliers

One way you can help your new partners, and see through to the success of your supply chain solutions, is to share a quarterly supply chain solutions suppliersforecast of the anticipated volume you intend to bring them. Be conservative in your estimates and base them on historical sales data – ideally the same period versus year ago.

Sharing data will put your supplier in a better position to help you meet your business need and cut down on elongated lead times.

Document Everything, Put Communication In Writing

You’ll have quite a few informal conversations with suppliers. Some will even promise you the world. It sounds nice. But not everyone delivers on their promises and you’ll learn this the hard way if you don’t put all of your terms in writing.

Outline what your supplier expects from you and what you expect from them in the way of your supply chain solutions desires (and that they’ve agreed upon). Then ask their representative to sign it and countersign the documents yourself. Don’t rely on your supplier to draft the agreement or an NDA.

Hold Suppliers (And yourself) Accountable

Did your supplier tell you that your widgets would be ready on Monday? If so, they should be ready on Monday. Not Tuesday or next Friday. In return for payment, your suppliers are obligated to accept responsibility for their promises and to be transparent with you when it comes to your business relationship with them.

Why is accountability so important? “Because accountability is what gets things done. Without it, things just don’t happen,” according to entrepreneur Danielle Zack.

And if a supplier cannot be trusted with the little things, it would be unwise to expect them to be trusted with much bigger things (i.e. increases in volume). Suppliers are an extended part of your team, and a key to getting your desired supply chain solutions achieved, and the expectations you hold for your team should be similar to those for business partners.

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One (Supplier) Basket

Can you have a monogamous relationship with a supplier? In some (rare) instances I believe that you can. But this is the exception, not the rule. At times, suppliers may experience things that are outside of their control or simply get greedy.

This means that unless you have something in writing and options – your business is operating in a highly volatile situation. This could translate into price increases without notice, lagging lead times or even quality assurance issues. You may have an excellent relationship with your current supplier – if so, that’s great! Keep doing what you’re doing. But always have another supplier on call to pick up where the last one left off if need be, after all, if you want the supply chain solutions you want to see happen, you have to have a back up plan, as sometimes, things don't work out the way you expected. Risk mitigation is a BIG deal in the supply chain, and not just disasters, but sometimes from the suppliers you work with every day.

Relying on one sole source is risky business. If a supplier is simply not delivering (in more ways than one) start to allocate a percentage of your purchases to a new supplier. Spread your risk and sleep a bit easier at night.

What other ways can companies work successfully with suppliers? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson oversees the overall marketing strategy for Cerasis including website development, social media and content marketing, trade show marketing, email campaigns, and webinar marketing. Mr. Robinson works with the business development department to create messaging that attracts the right decision makers, gaining inbound leads and increasing brand awareness all while shortening sales cycles, the time it takes to gain sales appointments and set proper sales and execution expectations.
Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson
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  • Exotrac’s Yard Management Solutions help maintain the communication flow between manufacturers and their suppliers. Increasing efficiencies on both ends!

  • Robert McDonald

    Great article Adam with excellent points.

    However, I disagree with the last statement that having a sole supplier is risky business. The whole point behind collaborative relationships is to create better products, services, client/consumer experience etc. together.
    Ask yourself the next time a client places an order with you….. do you recommend they reduce the amount so that they can avoid the risk that you can’t deliver what you promise? Do you tell them to try another competitor for a % of the order?

    Open communication, well planned and agreed upon SLA with periodic reviews makes accountability & performance issues a non issue. If you develop it together then there is no question as to what each role and responsibility is, and no disputing because you have a well planned and laid out mutual agreement.
    At the core of this successful relationship needs to be a mutual feeling of value and a sense that we’re both on the same side. It’s about getting away from the old adage of Us against Them mentality and PIVOT to a mentality/mindset of asking “who can we leverage, partner with who can benefit from working with us as much as we can benefit from working with them”?
    In the end, success is defined by those who are measuring it – Make sure you measure together, you talk about what the outcome or goal is and how together you can make a better product or service.
    In the end, isn’t the goal to simply be better than anyone else, to better serve your industry?
    So shouldn’t your suppliers be lined up in a way that promotes your overall strategic goals and helps you achieve them?
    For that, I want someone committed to me, invested in me, not someone who is wishy washy and willing to jump to the next supplier without reason or communication about what led to this decision.
    I think you need to ask yourself this question. Ask yourself, If I’m not going to commit to any of my suppliers…… can I really expect them to commit to me?
    If I’m holding back – Isn’t it logical they would hold back?

    Suppliers should not be looked at as a weak link or a target for what could go wrong, rather its the opposite. Suppliers who are fully engaged, committed and in-line with the same goals or outcomes of your organization should be embraced, sought after and time taken to develop a win-win-win strategy. They are possible, you just need to be open to working with them.

    • Cerasis

      I love this counterpoint, Robert. Thank you. I believe in the end, it seems, we need to be open to working with many folks, but we should also expect a commitment from all of those suppliers who are serious about long term sustainable relationships with you. Curios to know more about what you do and your story, Robert. Can you share here?

      • Well I’m glad you posted this article Adam, thank you. Like in anything else, there are good stories and bad stories about how it did work and how it didn’t and there are checklists and “rules of thumb” but something different is what I believe is at the heart of a successful client/supplier relationship. It’s the alignment of strategic goals and alignment of delivering what your clients are asking for, what they need and what would be an extra bonus benefit for them even if they haven’t asked for it yet. Anticipating the next step of evolution in the industry/market.
        For example, just over 3 years ago when I attended a TMC conference I was told repeatedly that “fleets won’t pay more money to combat corrosion”. Well, I see more and more manufacturers production increasingly specifying galvanizing as the remedy for corrosion. Sure it costs a hell of a lot more, sure it adds weight, sure that weight has a negative effect on fuel efficiency and revenue, sure it produces a toxic by product when repaired and sure I can only galvanize some metal components because if I covered more I couldn’t afford it or it would make the equipment too heavy.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think galvanizing is a fantastic way to abate corrosion, but it’s only a good option in certain applications…… In my opinion, transportation equipment is not one of them. Corrosion is not a one shoe fits all sizes type of beast. Many factors change the way you approach the situation.
        I know there is a better way, it’s different from what has been tried but it will net the results fleets have been seeking to protect their equipment for longer lifecycles at lower costs. I don’t know if this is the place to make a commercial plug, but Syner-Co International is working to share our technology and application to remedy the corrosion problem without the limitations and costs associated with other existing choices.
        The most simple way of explaining is that I found a better way for manufacturers in this industry to remedy the corrosion problem. It’s cheaper for the OEM to apply factory direct, its cheaper for fleets, it’s environmentally friendly and it lasts longer.

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  • Another good post, exactly this is the post i was finding about Supply Chain. Thanks for sharing this informative post. 🙂

  • Karen Porrino

    I agree that all your eggs in one basket is risky however, sometime that’s out of your control. This is especially true if one of your main customers insists on a particular supplier. Communication is key but even then you are stuck with a relationship that may be difficult for both supplier and yourself as maybe neither of you want the agreement for several reasons, lead times, packaging requirements.volume etc.

    • Cerasis

      Karen, such a very good point. Communication, no matter the number of suppliers, is the crux of all of it. If you can’t talk, collaborate, how can you build trust and be true partners? Thanks for your comment!

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  • Charles Intrieri

    Good article, Adam. I see you included Supplier Day: thank you. I’ll ad setting up a service level agreement with your suppliers and have face-to-face visits frequently to review the partnership. Is the partnership continuously improving?

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