We have often discussed the value of working closely with your vendors to the point of making them partners. This strategy makes sense. The closer you are to your vendors, the more you help them, the better vendors they will be, and—most importantly—the better partners they will be.
Now let’s take that idea to the next level, all the way to the point of a true partnership. The best way to do this is to start meshing the companies into each other by creating cooperative teams up and down the organizations.
To do this you have to trust that your partnership is sound because you are actually creating a third entity: your company, your supplier’s company, and now this new entity made up of employees from both companies for the sake of the partnership. This partnership is not just symbolic; it’s literally significant evidence of a true partnership between you and your vendor partner.
The creation of this official partnership entity is made up of teams that consists of employees from both companies. These are the teams:
Customer Service/Production Control Team: This team would make the partnership more effective by developing a mutual understanding of what it will take to make the logistics of the partnership work, everything from finding more efficient ways to provide quotes and order tracking, to preparing for new upcoming orders. This team would also plan the scheduling for the current orders as well as upcoming orders.
Engineering Team: This team will solve engineering problems both today and in the future. Your engineers and designers will work with your partner’s to make sure that what you want build is being designed in the most efficient and manufacturable way possible. By far, this will be the most vital of all the teams as this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of helping you produce the best possible product. This is where your vendor truly acts as your expert consultant relating to their own processes and how they can best be used and produced.
Quality Team: This team not only handles all quality issues, but finds ways by working closely together to streamline the quality process, including developing common metrics to track all aspects of the quality of the products. This team would create a quality dashboard that consistently reports your vendors’ quality levels. They would also work closely with the other teams to create programs such as Lean, 6 Sigma, JIT (Just In Time), and Ship to Stock.
Operations Team: This team will consist of smaller teams formed from coinciding departments, such as those from the receiving department being on a team with your partner’s shipping department to make sure that the boards are packaged and shipped in a way that makes it easier and more efficient for your receiving department to get them into the system and on the floor. Other examples of this would be a team consisting of members of both of the partners’ purchasing departments. In this case, perhaps putting the power of your purchasing department to work helping your vendor get better prices of products your partner is going to use in making your products.
Sales and Marketing Team: Of course, your suppliers’ sales team will be working with your purchasing department as they always do, but this is different. This is your sales and marketing team working with your supplier’s sales and marketing team to find ways to sell and market your products. Your suppliers can add valuable information to your marketing team. Some ideas include giving you some facts on how your products are handled through their (the partner’s) processes; how they have a special five-point quality system fort medical products; and how they have special inspections for military products. These can all be used by your marketing department. The very fact that you have these cooperative teams will be a special feature to tell your customers.
Management Team: This is a high level, president to president team to make sure that your partnership is productive, working smoothly, and is consistently mutually beneficial. The fact that there is a formal team made up of each partners’ top management will assure that the partnership is working well. This team can discuss highly confidential information about the financial well-being of both organizations at all times; or inform one another ahead of time on mergers or acquisitions they are working on. This team is the backbone of the entire vendor/partner relationship, and will lead the way when it comes to successful company-to-company partnerships.
This strategy might seem like a lot of work at first, and you can expect some growing pains. But in the end, anytime you can get passionate people working toward one common goal, good things begin to happen. In the case of co-company partnership teams, great things are bound to happen.