Building a Strong Supplier Relationship - The 5 EssentialsThere’s never been a more important time to have strong supplier relationships—here are the 5 key indicators showing that they are on the right track.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chain landscape has changed. Companies have seen their supply chains disrupted at a scale unlike anything witnessed in a long time. With that said, there are a number of steps companies should be trying to take for the sake of overcoming the impediments that comes with a global pandemic.

One of the most significant among them being strengthening their supplier relationships. Whether these relationships are new or old, what matters is that they display mutual value. In this trying time, it’s as critical as it’s ever been that companies build something with their suppliers that lays a foundation for a resilient supply chain. For now and the future.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights the 5 most significant markers of a strong supplier relationship.

Mutual Respect

No relationship can be long lasting in its success without a feeling of respect going both ways. Part of this respect will come from a company’s and a supplier’s reputation. If they’re both in good standing, a degree of underlying respect will emanate from that. However, respect is also a mindset. If supply chain leaders don’t go into talks with their suppliers with integrity, even a healthy reputation might not be enough to keep the respect from diminishing in the relationship.

Collaboration

Collaboration plays an integral role in supply chain success. As such, it’s no surprise that that extends to suppliers as well. It doesn’t matter how strong a supply chain is independent of its suppliers. Nor does it matter how reliable a supplier is if they aren’t aligned with their customers. Companies and their suppliers have to have a shared vision.

It is only through that collective vision that each party can get the most out of their relationship. What’s more, by not allowing the relationship to devolve into a back and forth struggle, a company’s supply chain efficiency goes up considerably.

Transparency

Communication is central to a healthy relationship. As obvious as that might be, what’s a little less so is how to go about communicating effectively. Perhaps the most vital component for doing so is transparency. In no small part it’s important because it shows respect, which, as mentioned earlier, plays a huge role in a healthy relationship. It also shows trust, good faith, and a great deal more.

The following from an article by Supply Chain Dive explains,

Transparency means full disclosure of any obstacles, intentions, limitations and issues you’ve discovered — in-house or anywhere in the supply chain — as soon as possible. It’s also productive to offer, in good faith, to work together to fix them.

Technological Investment

Supply chains always need to be innovating. Now as much as ever before. Moreover, that innovation has to be holistic. That means including suppliers in any advancements that are being engineered. Investing in the latest and greatest in technology together is not only mutually beneficial from the standpoint of what the technology brings. An added positive that arises from it is that it creates a sense of shared prosperity.

Attend to Yourself First

Finally, perhaps the most straightforward mark of a strong supplier relationship comes with internal competency and success. After all, if a company is profitable to work with and gives a supplier a competitive edge, then that’s as strong a reason as any as to why a supplier will want to continue working with them. The same is true the other way around, in the case of a highly successful supplier. In success, a stronger relationship is formed organically.

5 Supply Chain Trends to Watch Out For

With supply chain companies having to continually respond to the needs of their respective markets, it’s critical that they stay cognizant of the many structural and operational advances being made in order to remain competitive.

Customers’ expectations about what supply chains should look like in terms of responsivity, transparency, and flexibility are greater than ever. As a result, supply chains are evolving faster than ever to meet and surpass those expectations. In turn, this evolution means monumental changes to the technology, management, and operations of supply chains.

Globecon Freight pointed out the scale of these changes in an article earlier this year,

Supply chain management is undergoing a significant transition that will change the face of shipping and logistics.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics identifies 5 prominent trends taking place and set to take place in the world of supply chains.

Digital Transformation

The need for supply chain operations to be digitized is stronger than ever and will only grow going forward. If supply chains are going to take advantage of the many technological innovations today and in the coming years, they need the infrastructure for it. That means making their operations digital. By undergoing a digital transformation, supply chain companies can lay the groundwork to make their technological progress iterative, not singular. Technology will keep advancing and it’s crucial supply chains keep abreast of it.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation

Both AI and automation are set to greatly boost efficiency, lower costs, and drive profitability in supply chains. They can work individually or hand-in-hand to improve a range of supply chain processes. These include (but aren’t limited to) warehouse management, forecasting, data collection, equipment maintenance, and waste reduction. AI and automation are only going to become even more powerful, adaptable, and precise in the future. Thus, it’s inevitable that their presence will only grow in supply chains.

Transparency

More than ever before, customers expect to know the state of their product from beginning to end. This means that supply chain companies need to ensure that their chains are as transparent as possible. This is set to be achieved in a variety of ways, including blockchain, transparency mapping, tracking materials, and third-party certification. Blockchain in particular is primed to play a major role in supply chains going forward, as it is a database that’s data cannot be altered. Moreover, the data that’s entered in a supply chain blockchain needs to be verified by everyone in it.

Real-Time Tracking

Building off the demand for transparency but also the continual need to be able to check on the integrity of a supply chain is the advent of real-time tracking apps and devices. These can be wearable devices that employees wear, helping them with a variety of tasks that are then instantly available for review. For example, a warehouse employee can use a device to input data regarding inventory. This data in turn can be viewed by the inventory manager. Additionally, apps can be made available for customers and those overseeing the supply chain, so they can see the data being collected along it to make sure it’s proceeding smoothly.

Customer-Specific Supply Chains

A generic, one size fits all supply chain is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Supply chains are growing increasingly segmented for the sake of customers. In order for customer needs to be met more precisely than before, supply chain companies are recognizing that each supply chain should be uniquely geared to them. In practice, that means dealing with customers directly (a direct-to-customer approach). It also means setting up supply chains to be pliable enough to proactively respond to customer interests.