The business landscape is ever changing, numerous innovations have allowed companies to transcend borders and become global entities. While the opportunities are numerous so are the challenges; in this fiercely competitive global marketplace success requires companies to pay closer attention to supplier relations. Global leaders should retain suppliers with vested interest in the long-term success of the company. These partners should be willing to extend more value added services, flexibility and resources. To attain this level of trust with suppliers, companies should approach these relationships with the same care they use when approaching customers. A vigorous supplier relationship management (SRM) strategy can assist organizations in maximizing partnership value, minimize risk, and manage costs through the entire supplier relationship lifecycle.
When formulating a supplier relationship management strategy organizations must consider the following implications to be successful:
Become the Customer of Choice
In May, 2014 Raytheon gathered a group of its largest suppliers in Boston, MA to discuss the launch of the company’s Supplier Advisory Council. This advisory board is to serve as the first step towards a more comprehensive supplier policy and the building block for Raytheon’s new SRM strategy. As stated by Michel Shaughnessy, Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain for the company “In order to reach a level of earned preferential treatment, Raytheon has to build stronger bonds and greater trust into supplier relationships.”
By working closely with its suppliers to receive the best sales terms, fluctuating manufacturing capacity when needed and first access to the latest innovations, Raytheon secured its status as a leader in the defense systems market. The company also realized a 10% increase in stock price since the summer of 2014, in a highly competitive and regulated market.
Connect your supply chain
Supply chain concepts are generally understood in a linear pattern of consecutive planning in the form of plan-source-make-distribute-return/dispose. What happens when a company plans to bring a product to market and outsources all of the steps in between to suppliers that do not communicate? Take for example lithium batteries, which are intermediate parts destined to be incorporated into finished goods such as laptops, cameras or cell-phones. The transportation of lithium batteries is dangerous, as they overheat, which can cause significant damage. In electronics supply chains, transparency and visibility is key to ensuring that products get to market as promised. To do this, the production and transportation of all component parts must be closely monitored and coordinated.
Foster partnerships based on trust
In 2013 B2C e-commerce sales accounted for more than 1.2 trillion US dollars. Omni-channel shopping has given customers a wider selection of goods and a platform for price comparison. Because of this, businesses are finding it challenging to forecast demand and therefore they risk escalating inventory costs or stock outs. Organizations need more flexibility in their supply chains and should seek stronger partnerships with their suppliers, moving away from transactional relationships based on costs and delivery times, and focus more on long-term mutually beneficial relationships.
SRM software, much like a CRM system allows supply chain personnel to keep track of supplier interactions and address concerns early. This type of system can also help organizations understand when their suppliers are undergoing change or hardship, and offer them an opportunity to step in and help, or provide them with enough time to source from different suppliers.
Manage working capital
To establish and maintain leadership, organizations must innovate. Most often capital is tied up in paying suppliers with few funds invested in R&D. Some companies choose to extend accounts payable as long as possible to free up capital that can be invested into R&D and innovation. This requires strong supplier relations, built on trust as most times delaying payment can erode partnerships, affect terms of payment, and cause less willingness for collaboration. These strategies are even more beneficial in the retail space where suppliers consider special arrangements on payments in exchange for better shelf space and product visibility.
Set clear expectations and KPIs
Suppliers are not mind readers; their success relies on communicating with their customers, understanding their demand needs, and receiving honest feedback. Organizations that rely on hundreds, maybe thousands, of suppliers to fill demand find themselves reacting to supplier behavior rather than anticipating concerns and preparing ahead of time. A comprehensive supplier management strategy helps organizations arrange suppliers based on different tiers of importance and reliability.
Suppliers should be held accountable for their promises; all communications, formal and informal should be properly logged and followed up with. It is unwise to trust a supplier with more work or a better project, if they have repeatedly failed to meet deadlines in the past.
Organizations should keep detailed information on supplier communications, contracts, and improvement based on their internal key performance indicators. While all businesses appreciate a supplier’s ability to deliver high quality goods on time, organizations should also have individual characteristics they value from their suppliers. It is important that these characteristics are shared with suppliers and used to measure their ability to improve on these indicators.
Find opportunities and improve supply chain sustainability
Consumers are becoming increasingly more concerned with how their products are manufactured and sourced. According to The Nielsen Company: 55% of global online consumers in over 60 countries assert that they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social change and environmental protection. In the past we have seen numerous examples of global leaders fail consumer expectations. These organizations depend on a vast network of global suppliers to bring their products to market, but in the eyes of consumers it is their responsibility to ensure that their practices have minimal impact.
To meet the growing demands of customers, organizations must work closely with suppliers, conduct regular audits, and analyze findings. Managing supplier relationships strategically allows global companies to set standards and utilize existing assessments such as the Higg Index. To reach sustainability best practices, communication with suppliers must be collaborative and transparent with stated common goals and clear ability to measure efforts.
According to the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), supplier relationship management is a comprehensive approach to planning and managing an organization’s interactions with providers of goods and services. This practice is supported by a dynamic SRM strategy that retains information that can be used for analysis. The overall objective of SRM is to streamline transactions and manage communications. As supply chains become more diverse and exposed to various global risks, these practices help organizations become market leaders, mitigate risk, hold suppliers accountable and measure their supply chain footprint.