Timeframes for projects are not always under control of the sourcing team. And, as clients wrap up their year, needs arise for last minute efforts to either close out ongoing initiatives, demonstrate progress on internal initiatives that have not moved forward as originally expected, or take on needed projects to warrant the year's spend without losing operational capital for the next year. This presents opportunities to all parties involved, but careful attention needs to be paid to both the supplier's needs and client's timeframes.

Suppliers usually find themselves under staffed and under pressure to finish and deliver orders before the end of the year so they can meet their own schedules. This creates a conflict between internal and external interests for each supplier. In a real sense the choice is one of satisfying existing customers, or building business and expanding opportunities for the coming year.

In December, the last two weeks are especially considered off limits due to the pressure of "use it or lose it" vacation policies and family commitments. Some companies will even shut down their operations on the 21st and not reopen until the 4th of January as standard practice.

In larger companies a separate team is responsible for the quotation of orders. So, even though they are probably understaffed a quotation can still take place with an extended time period. Depending on your past dealings with the company and the business opportunity that's offered a one week timeframe can still be reasonable for distributors.

When quoting manufacturing services a more detailed look needs to be undertaken in order to ensure the bid will meet the interests of both parties. Larger companies are adept at quoting complex bid packages and can leverage their supply chain to relatively quickly turn-around a quotation once the technical questions concerning the assemblies are satisfied. However, small companies where the manufacturing team is also responsible for the quotation process will be heavily burdened to ship product during this time and will struggle to provide even a partial bid.

This places a heavier burden on the sourcing team and forces compromises in timelines, completeness, or quality. From the supplier’s point of view an extension to timelines or a reduction in the items to be quoted with iterative and immediate feedback are ideal.

However, both approaches are problematic from the sourcing perspective. A partial submission doesn't provide the feedback to the client on a complete market basket perspective or demonstrate that the supplier is capable of meeting all needs and requirements. Furthermore, cherry picking assemblies that have high quantity orders and consist of parts that can be sourced at low cost is a common and understandable practice that gives a false pricing outlook for the other assemblies.

Feedback on a partial bid is also unreasonable from the client's perspective because it does not permit a complete analysis of the offering or a comparison between suppliers on a level field. It's understood that suppliers have preferred relationships for some components, but that pricing would net reflect their ability to provide competitive pricing across the full market basket.

Most importantly, if a supplier can't be bothered to bid on all items they are capable of manufacturing how can they be trusted to fulfill crucial orders in a timely manner.

Under close examination sourcing initiatives can present unique challenges in December, but there are also opportunities to end the current year with a bright outlook for the next year. The key is to set expectations up-front and remain flexible and understanding throughout the process to the supplier's needs while keeping the client's needs as a focus and driving force.
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Martin Przeworski

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