Oh boy, how can you ever deliver without the support from your team, and that absolutely has to include your *suppliers*!
Having visibility to the data is very important, as discussed recently on an interview with Celestica, but you still have to keep a close relationship with your key suppliers so that you may anticipate important changes before you actually see the impact on the data. :-)
Try as a we might, we never seem to get everything right the first time around. Even though the request sounds fairly straightforward, there are always subtle nuances that need to be taken care of before everyone's happy. Are we talking about the day to day happenings inside a typical household? Sure, it could be. After shoveling two feet of snow off of the long driveway I thought my better half would be jumping for joy and I'd have replenished my stock of brownie points for the day. Alas, I was soon to be informed that the driveable path was fine for our 4X4 SUV, but not for my mother in law's little car. So out I went, grabbed the shovel and made the necessary adjustments. It only took a half hour, but it was well worth it in the long run. In any relationship, what we sometimes think is good enough may be a bit off the mark in someone else's eyes. Hopefully then, after a quick chat and a little more effort, the problem can be taken care of.
The same is true within most supply chains. The term "supply chain" itself can be seen as a complex interconnection of people - executives, demand planners, supply planners, buyers, suppliers...and despite our advances in software and automation...the number ONE skill we need to master is communicating well from one person to another. Things go wrong more often than not and solving the problem at hand requires interactions between these folks. And which problems do you think get solved faster? The problem that landed in my in box from some executive I never talk to or the urgent call I got from the planner who needs an enhanced report to help figure out what decision to make? I say the planner wins. Why? Well, I had developed the report based on the initial requirements which inevitably fell short of what was really needed. So a little more effort to adjust an expression and add a few key fields to the report makes both the planner and me happy. It's a two way street and somewhere down the road, that planner will return the favor in some way. We all have strengths and often what we can do to help others is easy for us, but moving a mountain for someone else.
As for my driveway, it's still a one way street...a bit wider perhaps, but my mother in law's hot apple pie is looking mighty tasty!
I completely agree Francini and Chris! One important aspect of a successful supply chain is that it involves all of the players, from end to end. Just as in our own personal relationships, communication and collaboration is a key to building strong relationships among partners in a supply chain, especially when crossing cross-functional boundaries or “silos”. Being able to see and collaborate with a supply chain node upstream or downstream of your own (whether external or internal) provides visibility, enables decision-making supporting a common goal and builds trust.
You got it Emily!
To be mutually beneficial, the dynamic of a customer-supplier relationship is often more important than just the strength of the bond. Just like a healthy lifestyle requires a good balance between things like work, health, social life, family, and community involvement, your relationship with your suppliers requires a healthy balance.
As a partner (customer) it can feel great, for a while, to be in charge of a relationship. Your partner is always there doting on you, showing up to your sporting events, maybe bringing cookies… but then you start expecting them to go that extra mile for you every time, and hey, you’re the customer so you’re always right! They stop visiting friends (other customers) to spend all their time making you (their customer) happy and before you know it you’ve got them right where you want them, completely under your control! Your bond is so strong there’s no way they can say no to you! But wait a minute…. This isn’t who you fell for. This isn’t the happy, exciting girl (supplier) you fell for all those years ago! You’ve turned her (the supplier) into a shadow of what they once were... What they could have been! What have you done?!?
From the outset it’s important to ensure the relationship is built on a foundation of trust, compatibility, and mutual support. To get everything you want from your suppliers, it’s important that you offer them the right encouragement to pursue new ideas and opportunities. It’s important to teach them what you know, and listen to what they have to teach you. It’s important to give them the ability to find their own balance to minimize the risk of dependence.
While in many cases the customer-supplier relationship is more similar to a parent & child than a husband & wife, if you’re going to let you suppliers be your children, just make sure you don’t let them turn into the 35-year-old son who’s still living in your basement!
- You don't need to marry all members of your supply chain. Polygamy (as in competition) is usually ok, so don't get married unless you have to (ex: there are only a few high quality supplier for the given segment, setup-cost are high, regulations cumbersome, etc).
- If you decide to tie the knot, then:
- Don't take your partners for granted. Just because they are really important to you, that doesn't mean you are as important to them, particularly as time goes on. You never know when Prince Charming will come looking for your Cinderella....
- Don't let them take you for granted either. As time goes by, keep some metrics just to make sure you are not subject to bad habits (hey Mr. Trucker, why you keep increasing fees even when fuel prices are going down?, or Mr. Customer, how come nowadays you only buy my product after heavy discounts?.
- Don't assume, you'd better ask.
- If the time come to end the relationship, try to end it with dignity (i.e. clarify the reasons for ending it), bad breakup could end up as affecting future relationships.
- Learn from you mistakes, keep good practices in check.
It’s all about the customer. Nothing happens without the customer and everything we do should be with the customer in mind. In fact, I’ve overheard many of these romantic lines coming from our customer support group:
“You had me at ‘I’ll double my order.’”
“You make me want to be a better vendor.”
“I’m just a supplier, standing in front of a customer, asking them to love us.”
“Winning your business, was the best thing that ever happened to me… it brought me to you … You must do me this honor. Promise me you’ll survive.”
“Being you’re supplier means never having to say you’re sorry.”