It’s also no secret that supply chain collaboration, while invaluable, is something easier said than done. If this is something your company is endeavouring to master, a great place to start is with your direct suppliers.
One way to get the collaborative ball rolling with suppliers is to host a supplier day (or a series of them). Let’s take a look at how supplier days can work and the benefits to be obtained from using them to promote supply chain collaboration.
The Objective of Supplier Days
The main purpose of a supplier day is to host representatives from your direct suppliers at your plant or distribution centre, inviting them to take part in a one-day program of collaborative activity. During that day, you will offer a tour of your facility and present some information about how your business and supply chain operates.
The remaining slots on the schedule would allow for one-to-one (or team-to-team) discussions between your team members and those of each supplier, to generate ideas and begin formulating plans for ongoing collaborative initiatives.
Ultimately, the goal of a supplier day is to jump start supply chain collaboration by cementing relationships between individuals and teams, and identifying ways in which collaborative efforts can deliver add value/reduce costs within your supply chain.
Maximising the Value of Supplier Days
In order to get the best from a supplier day, activities should be carefully planned. Aside from promoting collaboration, you can derive extra value from the event by tapping into the knowledge of each supplier. There is no better time to do that than while providing a day’s hospitality and giving them a close-up insight into your operation.
Try to steer clear of discussions about pricing, but instead focus on how each supplier can help you to reduce operational costs and/or improve your product and service quality. To aid this approach, it can be helpful to revisit your factory or DC floor with each supplier and let them see how their materials/products are used or how they flow through your facility.
Tips to Aid Supply Chain Collaboration With Supplier Days
Remember that a supplier day should provide value for the companies that you invite as well as for your own organisation. The following tips will help you to plan supplier days in a way that actively encourages supply chain collaboration:
Listen more than you talk: The focus for the day should be on receiving supplier input and ideas. Try to keep from preaching and extolling the value of your business. Concentrate on listening to what your suppliers have to say.
Treat each discussion like a brainstorming session, where all ideas are noted without triggering debates about their credibility. After the event, you can evaluate suppliers’ suggestions and pursue the ones which seem to offer most benefit.
Keep the schedule moving: You might not have sufficient people or resources available to hold one-to-one discussions concurrently with multiple suppliers. However, there’s little value in having some suppliers twiddling their thumbs waiting for a chance to speak with your team.
Try to develop a cyclical schedule that allows some suppliers to tour your premises while others are in discussion with your team, and yet more are attending a presentation or briefing about your business.
Scale the event appropriately: The beauty of supplier days is that they can be hosted by a business of any size or scale. If you only have a few suppliers, you may be able to invite them all. On the other hand, if you have few resources and facilities but a lot of suppliers, you can choose to invite only the ones you consider strategically important.
In any case, try to scale the event in a way which will potentially yield the highest likelihood of sustained supply chain collaboration. Of course, you can always hold a series of events if you really want to see all your suppliers and a single day is insufficient.
Try Customer and Partner Days Too
Hosted events to inspire collaborative action don’t have to be restricted to suppliers. Why not use a similar format to host open days for your key customers or supply chain partners such as 3PLs or other contractors? The whole point of the exercise is to oil the wheels of collaboration, creating a start point from which you can work more closely with other businesses to improve the supply chain from end-to-end.
If you do choose to run with the idea and host a supplier day, we’d love to hear about your experience and whether it provided a useful boost to your supply chain collaboration efforts.