The best way to develop and implement a true ongoing and productive partnership with your vendor/partners is to make it a full team effort.
Each companies’ partnership team should have members from each of the company’s departments. For example, the vendor’s team should have someone from the shipping department coordinating with someone from your receiving department. The same with engineering, quality, and operations. This coordination should be at all levels from the top down.
The best way for teams to work together successfully is for each level to understand one another’s needs and challenges.
Here is an example that perfectly exemplifies the true spirit and benefits of a full team vendor/partner relationship: shipping and receiving.
Many might scoff at this and question why there should be shipping and receiving people on a vendor/partner team? The answer is simple: First, shipping PCBs or anything high-tech these days is just not that simple. The paperwork has to be right, from the actual real count of the product, certificates of compliance and coupons, to the way the product is actually packaged—right down to how many are in a box, the size of the box, if there should be desiccant in the box, how much the box should weigh and even the kind of box it should be.
There could be times when the way the boards are packaged and shipped is causing the customer’s receiving department real headaches. Should the boards be bagged? How many units should be in each bag? Should the bags be taped? Think about that for a minute; how much extra time does it take to receive the boards and get them ready for the floor if all the bags are taped? Or if there is a different quantity in each bag?
Still think shipping is a simple operation? Remember how hard your vendor works to produce and ship high quality boards to you on time? Well, that effort can all be wasted if they are packaged incorrectly. If the right C of C is not included in the box, or if the count is wrong, then the customer cannot use the product, which is as bad as the product being late. There is nothing more aggravating than having perfectly good product held up in our receiving department because of what amounts to a simple clerical error.
Now, if you develop a team between your company’s receiving department and your vendor’s shipping department, many of these problems can and will be eliminated. Even more, if your receiver visits your vendor’s shipping department and watches how the product is handled, she can come up with some time saving ideas for both companies.
The same applies when your vendor’s shipper spends time in your receiving department, he can witness for himself how the product is received, how it is handled, and surely, he can come up with some ways to make his customer’s (the receiver’s) job easier.
Years ago, I witnessed something like this when a mini team made up of our receiving department and our vendor’s shipping department came together and devised several very good ways to save cost, not the least of which was developing and designing a re-usable box that could be sent back to the vendor after we had emptied it. This does not sound like an earth-shattering time or money saving plan, but it was. We ended up saving almost $25,000 a year because of this idea. And that was all bottom-line money.
This team worked together for years, coming up with several innovative ways to save time and money. Over time they came up with an inventory system that was coordinated over both of our companies. They also developed a special relationship so that, if something did go wrong, instead of stopping everything, a simple phone call would solve the problem. They were pulling for each other, all rowing in the same direction for the benefit of both of our companies.
But the best part of this story was the way these folks felt. They felt empowered, respected, and best of all, they felt like they were both sitting on the same side of the table, which in the end is the true goal of a vendor partnership.
This is just one example from just one departmental relationship. Imagine all the mutually beneficial good that comes out of the relationships between the engineering departments and the quality departments, and every other department in each organization. The benefits would seem endless.
There is no doubt the vendor/partnerships are a full team effort from both sides of the desk. And it will in the end all work to your advantage if you are willing to take the time to make it work.