Solving Supply Chain Problems Before They Happen

Getting your products to your customers is what you do. If the "tap" turns off on those products, you are in danger of losing customers and profits as a result. Here are some ways to make sure your supply chain keeps supplying.

Your basic job is to act as a conduit to take a wholesale item and make it available to a customer. It doesn’t matter if you seal driveways (in which case you bring a wholesale drive sealer and apply it yourself for your customer) or if you sell widgets (in which case you buy wholesale and sell retail). In most cases, whether you offer products or services, your role is as a conduit.

If your supply chain dries up, you won’t be able to satisfy customers. That means lost business..and that’s bad news. Historically, both the supply chain and the customer were taken for granted. Then, customer service moved from being a department in a company to being a way of doing business. The customer became king. Concepts like customer relationship management ruled.

Today, more and more companies understand that the supply chain relationship needs to be nurtured as well in order to enjoy an ongoing supply of product. Are you building your supply chain relationships?

Supply chain relationships should be treated as invaluably as customer relationships. The argument could be made that you are the customer and therefore you should be on the receiving end of customer relationship management, the reality is that you need to be on the giving end of supply chain relationship management.

In cases where your suppliers have multiple distributors selling their product, you may not be any different than any other distributor. Should their supply diminish, they have no more motivation to see that your supply remains unaffected than to see that anyone else’s supply remains unaffected.

Like customer relationship management, supply chain management seeks to build relationships with vendors in order to remain at the top of their mind. Make your suppliers your friends. Treat them just like customers: take them out to dinner, “schmooze” them, “spiff” them… forgo the idea that they should be schmoozing and spiffing you because you are the customer. Show how much you appreciate them.

Then, should the supply ever dwindle, you’ll have a better chance of being first priority because you’re not calling them up saying “Hey, I’m one of your customers”…instead, you’re calling them up to say, “Hi Dave…can you send me a couple more units?”

One way to show your appreciation to your vendor is to make them the sole provider. Vendors like being the sole provider. If you’re worried about losing business if your sole provider stops providing, then consider building up an inventory. Chances are, the money you save in bulk orders will make up for the increased inventory costs.

Lastly, consider implementing inventory management software. Even if you’re just a small company, inventory management software does more than track units. You can use it to compare sales volume and anticipate problems before they occur. Since today’s customer demands result in inventory shortage next week, you’ll be able to spot increases in demands today and build additional capacity into your inventory for next week.

If you’re scheduling sales calls for the coming weeks, add a call or two to your supply chain. They’ll be thrilled that you dropped by and you’ll show them how much you appreciate doing business with them. It’s a good first step toward proactively solving supply chain problems before they start.

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