In purchasing, finding the right supplier to deliver the right part, at the right cost, and at the right time, is the name of the game. Finding that supplier is a constant process of discovering new partners and evaluating current ones. In that process, dozens of stakeholders within an organization generate tons of data via supplier interactions – e.g., sending emails, answering phone calls, issuing RFQ packages, and receiving quotes – which is invaluable for current and future sourcing efforts within an organization. And tracking supplier interaction data properly will determine whether your sourcing process is successful or not.
Why You Should Be Tracking Supplier Interactions & Supplier Engagement
By tracking this data, organizations immediately reduce timing and risk in the supplier assessment process, especially in those processes that require input from multiple departments. In fact, up to 25 percent of the supplier interaction data generated has overlap between different stakeholders, which is a major time sink. This waste isn’t always noticeable, but it rears its ugly head in situations where there isn’t much time available to begin with, i.e., scenarios where the supply chain is significantly distressed. When you need components or raw materials in short order, it’s frustrating to try to find the contact at a given supplier and call them only to find out that one of your team members already did this the week before. Implementing a supplier interaction tracking system can prevent this costly overlap.
The overlap isn’t always a situation where two people are looking for the same information at the same time. More frequently, associates in purchasing or engineering spend a lot of time seeking answers to a question the organization, collectively, already has an answer to. For example, when Alex in purchasing calls a potential supply partner asking for quotes for 100,000 stamped components, he might not know that Kelly in engineering talked to that company a month ago and learned that the company isn’t taking on any new stamping business for the remainder of the calendar year. This type of circumstance is a classic information silo problem that results in the wasteful activity. To make matters worse, Alex probably isn’t even aware that any of his time was wasted. Multiply this wasteful activity by dozens of associates and the cost of failing to implement a supplier interaction tracker begins to surge.
Tracking Suppliers for Better Decisions
Wasted time and resources aren’t the only things supplier interaction tracking systems help to improve for sourcing operations. They also allow purchasing teams to make more informed decisions and add value in the supplier assessment process. With all of the data generation described above, suppliers actually create a footprint within your organization, and understanding this footprint helps you identify which suppliers are worth engaging, as well as how to properly engage them to get the best cost and timing possible in a given situation.
Having the knowledge of each supplier your organization has interacted or engaged with is a powerful tool that helps sourcing programs find success. Supplier interactions contain insights into a supplier’s performance, customer service, pricing, and even their negotiation tendencies. Having a quick and easy way to access this data could mean the difference between departments making subjective declarations about a company’s customer service and departments confidently evaluating suppliers on an 80 percent response rate calculated by checking whether calls were returned in the supplier interaction trackers. Objectivity in supplier assessments saves money and reduces risk.
Supplier Interaction Tracking Methods
Companies can track supplier interactions in several ways including simple, dated methods like using a spreadsheet that’s visible to all stakeholders, or smarter methods like cloud-based software. But whichever method your team uses, it must be easily accessible for all stakeholders, in a centralized location, and there must be a process for ensuring that the associates generating the supplier interactions are adding them in accordance with an agreed upon set of rules and practices.
Implementing a successful supplier engagement tracking system in an organization helps make sense of all the noise generated by the day-to-day purchasing, operations, and engineering activities, utilizing the information generated as a tool for making better, faster sourcing decisions. Supplier interactions are more than just costs of doing business, they’re important lessons learned that can be built upon to avoid costly wastes of time, like double-contacting a supplier, or contacting a supplier that’s notoriously difficult to get in touch with. Understanding the ins and outs of not only the current supply base within an organization, but also of the potential and backup supply base, is critical to sourcing success, and that success isn’t achievable without properly tracking supplier interactions.