How Do You Identify a Truly Stellar Supplier

Assuming one exists, how will you know one when you find one?

Five years ago, we asked how do you identify a stellar supplier? One way, as we pointed out, was to find a supplier that actively self manages. A supplier which measures, tracks, and even reports its own performance against SLAs and KPIs, accepts — and even helps to identify — the corrective actions it needs to take, actively works to not only meet expectations but exceed them, and communicates as soon as something happens that could threaten a KPI, SLA, commitment, or expectation.

Then, if you find multiple candidates, find a supplier that wants to collaborate. Find a supplier who will work with you to jointly identify opportunities for efficiency improvements and cost reductions and help keep costs down for all. This is even better. But is it as good as it gets?

No. You want a supplier who will open its books, at least so far as what it’s costs are that affect you. And what you can do to bring those costs down. That dives into its overhead costs and lets you know if energy, manpower, or cost of capital (if it needs to borrow to meet daily cash flow needs until you pay for finish goods 30 days after shipment) and what it could use from you to lower costs — such as faster payments, help with de-regulated energy negotiations, or production line improvements and lean initiatives to keep manpower costs steady. And into raw material costs, and where it needs more volume or negotiating leverage to keep costs down.

And then a supplier that helps you identify your tier 2 supply chain risks. What good does it do for a buyer to know it’s tier 1 risks when most disruptions begin further down the chain — and when the only way to possibly recover against them is to get early warning. A truly stellar supplier also works with you to put in place systems that will allow the supplier to report on potential disruptions in its supply chain (when raw materials don’t show up in time, when the quality of components it gets goes down, etc.) so you know when trouble might be brewing and, if your supplier needs help, when you can help it to prevent troubles later.

A truly stellar supplier doesn’t hide its risks and costs from you — it shares the and allows you to work with it hand-in-hand in lean efforts to create truly stellar supply chains.