The following blog comes to us from Megan Rey Nichols of Schooled by Science.

Moving successfully through life often means working to build and optimize relationships - successfully managing a supply chain is no different. In fact, relationships are crucial to a supply chain's stability and success in both the short- and long term. Knowing why this is, and having an understanding of the different types of relationships at work within the supply chain, can bring significant benefits to your organization and help keep things running smoothly.

Relationships With Suppliers

Suppliers represent some of the most important relationships you'll invest in. Whether your supply chain involves a partnership between two small companies or multiple larger ones, there's a lot at stake when it comes to building strategic, mutually beneficial and trustworthy relationships with suppliers.

Building healthy supplier relationships requires three things above all else:
·      Timely and honest communication
·      A spirit of collaboration
·      A similar vision for the future

An ideal balance of power between partners requires both to engage in good-faith communication about current throughput, future business direction and pertinent details regarding strategy. Sometimes, keeping in touch can be simple and straightforward, with points of contact from partnered companies simply comparing notes regularly. For more complex supplier relationships, exchanging regular communication and operational data over a software-based supply chain management system is more appropriate.

Suppliers represent the lifeblood of your supply chain. Withholding information from them or making unreasonable demands is the quickest way to undermine what should be a harmonious association. As an additional note, choosing your suppliers strategically, and prioritizing those that maintain a focus on the region they call home, can yield a partnership that puts more money back into local economies than a partnership with a larger or faceless multinational company.

Relationships With SaaS Partners

The timely flow of data has become essential for the smooth functioning of most of our industries, organizations and institutions. The process of exchanging data is a tool for strengthening your ties with the other entities you do business with. What about your relationships with the vendor supplying the software?

You might rely on SaaS vendors for automation of backend functions and supplying actionable business analytics, as well as tools for enterprise resource planning, sales forecasting, reordering of supplies, facility layout and redesign. As your business plans and in-house capabilities change, your relationships with software providers might have to change, too.

Are you paying for software licenses you no longer need? Have any of your workflows changed to the point where your existing planning software is no longer a good fit? Take stock of the service providers you rely on to get your work done and re-evaluate any relationships that don't seem to be delivering a satisfactory ROI. This includes finding a vendor who's better suited to the specific place within your supply chain.

Relationships With Regulatory Bodies

Every level of government, be it local, state or federal, must always be invested and involved in business, much as we like to pretend otherwise. In the supply chain, being mindful of the regulatory landscape, as well as your industry's relationship with the government and public interest groups, can help keep you from making avoidable errors and facing harsh penalties. It can also open doors for you, in the form of incentives and business grants.

For example, a working relationship with a local chamber of commerce — it's easy to find the one in your region — might yield discounts from other businesses or invitations to conferences and events. Companies may also be recognized or incentivized for their commitment to lean operations, inclusive hiring, environmentally friendly operation and regular re-investment in the community.

Relationships With Industry Voices

Never underestimate the value of a solid relationship with the trade press in your industry.
One of the ways even bit players within the industry establish a presence and a voice in the media is by knowing how to catch the eye of relevant influencers. It's not as easy as it sounds, though. In the supply chain and elsewhere, would-be customers are good at identifying paid mentions and product placement when they appear online. Trust is low in so-called native advertising and other kinds of promotions, so the quality of your referring content, and the context it finds itself in, needs to be unimpeachable.

The voices doing the reporting in your industry want to see businesses worth talking about, whether it's something novel about how you operate or the amount of rich educational content you offer on your blog or webpage. Produce link-worthy content tailored to specific media channels, answer common questions from your field on a public forum or stake out a pro-social or pro-environmental stance in your industry. All this can yield longlasting relationships with journalists and others who want to hear about how business is changing with the times. In what way are you exceptional — and who in the world might find it compelling? These are the people who can speak about your company in an honest, natural way.

With these things in mind, you should be well on your way toward building or strengthening the relationships your supply chain company relies on each day.

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