Communication in supply chain management extends beyond your shipping and logistics teams.
Because vendors play a crucial role in the supply chain process, it’s worth your time to invest in reciprocal vendor relationships to everyone’s benefit. Doing so will increase productivity, decrease misunderstandings, and keep relationships running smoothly.
A vendor is a general term used to describe someone who supplies goods or services. Vendors can make up multiple parts of a supply chain.
For example, if you run a clothing manufacturing line and shopfront, one vendor may supply your company with textiles, and another vendor may provide your company with the shipping containers to deliver your completed product. Some vendors also manufacture the goods they provide.
As vendor management expert John W. Henke put it, “All of the major automakers could be making hundreds of millions dollars more annually if they focused more on improving their supplier relations.”
Applying your supply chain communication best practices to vendors just makes sense. Here are just a few ways you can improve vendor management (and your overall supply chain) through excellent communication. You can find these tips alongside 25 others in our free eBook.
Enhancing Vendor Relations: 8 Tips
Set Up Vendor Training and Onboarding
That’s right — training and onboarding isn’t just for your core team. Educate your vendors from the get-go about important processes, communication tools, or other necessary bits of information to help them start off on the right foot. Doing so will decrease miscommunications and help set the right tone for vendor relations.
Set Expectations From the Start
As they say, first impressions are everything. If you begin working with a vendor and don’t share clear expectations, it will be harder down the road to correct faults you never mentioned in the first place.
Your team can draft vendor guidelines to share with every new vendor your company works with. Vendor guidelines can run the gamut from doing quality control to best practices for booking shipments.
While going through the onboarding process, go through those expectations and give your vendors room to ask questions if they need clarification.
Ask for a Production Schedule
Even though a production schedule sits on the periphery of your supply chain, having one in hand can help you plan around your shipments. Ask for a production schedule ahead of time and set up a check-in process so you know that your goods will be delivered on time and in full.
Hear Out Vendor Recommendations
A savvy relationship manager knows how to use vendor relations to mutual advantage. According to a 2017 on supplier relationship management, up to 40% of vendors already have prepared, tailored industry-specific solutions for their clients.
Your vendors have specialized knowledge and experience with their end of the supply-chain process that you may have less awareness of. Seek out their thoughts.
Visit Core Suppliers
It’s all well and good to ask your vendors to accomplish something for you, but what if you don’t know what that ask entails?
Visiting your core suppliers helps support strong vendor relations because you understand their challenges and come together with creative solutions to solve them.
For example, when Shippabo’s CEO Nina Luu started out, she always made it a priority to visit her vendors. She did so to put herself in their shoes — and even once tried moving her company’s goods with a truck herself, just to learn how hard it is.
Keep Vendors in the Loop with Compliance
Your industry may have complex and even arcane compliance regulations to keep up with. Set a best practice of consistent communication across your supply chain — don’t keep your vendors in the dark because they're not an internal team. Let them know specific processes and conditions of safe use if you’re transporting sensitive materials.
Forecast and Communicate Needs Ahead of Time
Do you project your spring blowout to be especially popular this year? Or are you worried about a potential shipment shortage due to a volatile trade market?
As your team forecasts its needs for the coming quarter and beyond, take the opportunity to communicate your projections with your vendors ahead of time. Your vendors may also warn you ahead of time if something won’t go as planned.
Using supply models based on anticipated customer demand will help you both keep the supply chain running smoothly.
Ready for more? Download our eBook for 25 extra tips on improving communication.