How to Improve Your Supplier Relationships in the New Year
Every factory runs on supplier relationships. These partnerships range from parts and components suppliers, material suppliers, and freight providers to service partners who supply the services your factory doesn’t keep in-house. Whatever the relationship, no matter the capacity, these partnerships are critically important to foster. A good relationship opens many doors, providing opportunities that ultimately benefit your factory, its operations, and its success.
Suppliers are your gateway for operations. If you can’t get parts from Supplier A, you can’t repair your equipment. If you can’t buy materials from Supplier B, you can’t manufacture a product. At a fundamental level, supplier relationships are the most basic building block for success. It’s advantageous to build ones that are strong, friendly, and tenured.
How to foster a good relationship
You expect certain things from your suppliers — fair pricing, timely delivery, honesty, respect, to name a few. But it’s also crucial to consider your role in the relationship. What does your supplier want from you, outside of your business? Chances are, it’s the same things you expect from them.
Thinking about how to provide value to your suppliers is key in understanding how to play your role. Here are a few simple ways to establish yourself as a customer your suppliers want to work with:
- Maintain good, consistent communication with them, keeping them informed of your needs and expectations so they understand the relationship.
- Practice proactive dispute resolution without escalating conflict. If something is wrong, figure out why. Don’t play the blame game or point fingers. Work together to resolve it.
- Maintain transparency in all dealings with your suppliers. Be upfront about things like payment schedules or defects, and practice honesty in all dealings with your partners.
- Keep them involved in your evolving needs. For example, share order projections with them if you plan on ramping up. The more they know, the more they can do.
- Pay your bills on time! The simplest way to garner favor with your suppliers and partners is to pay them on time. Don’t overextend a line of credit, either.
These simple tips are common sense for most operations managers, and for good reason. They’re rooted in building blocks of common decency. In essence, treat your vendors like you expect to be treated.
Relationships take work
To foster good partnerships, you need give and take. This year, work to understand the expectations of your suppliers and make your own needs clear. Get on a level playing field with them and work to solidify the bedrock of the partnership. You’ll find that when the time comes to have difficult conversations — like asking for price breaks or realigning terms — the conversation is easier and both parties are more amenable because there’s empathy involved in the partnership. Don’t be at odds with your suppliers — be in step with them.