When you look across your pool of industrial component suppliers, how do you gauge their value to your organization? Do you measure suppliers primarily by their pricing, their delivery speed, or perhaps their responsiveness?
Different readers will of course have different answers, each specific to their individual business and expectations. But placing these everyday factors aside, most readers will agree that they 'just know' when a supplier is a true partner to their business, as that supplier possesses attributes and offers benefits miles beyond their competitors.
It's often the case that defining this partnership and explaining how it was forged is not as easy as knowing it exists, sometimes chalked up to both groups being in the right place at the right time. We believe that partnerships can indeed be intentionally forged, and in this article, we'll outline the steps and virtues of establishing supplier partnerships rooted in strategic value (with emphasis on instrumentation supply).
Generally speaking, all suppliers provide value to some proportion of their customers. In these cases, value is simply whatever facet of a transaction that benefits the buyer the most. This is inherently different than strategic value, which we can define as follows:
- A heightened benefit between a buyer and a supplier that promotes specific, important organizational objectives in each business.
- A future-oriented investment, setting up both parties for success tomorrow based on their efforts together today.
- Especially within industrial supply, strategic value has an additional function of sharing technical risk across both parties, given the nature of the advanced equipment and systems in play.
The Strategic Value of Instrumentation Partners
Now that we have an idea of what strategic value in industrial distribution means, let's take a look at examples of how this value can be developed between partnering suppliers and buyers.
- Lower Procurement Overhead - partner suppliers can help establish routine procurement practices, automatic ordering, and easy purchasing system integration that altogether lowers a buyer's overhead burden in completing orders.
- Faster Project Timelines - suppliers that can get ahead of buyer orders help drastically reduce overall project timeliness, exercising options such as pre-built inventory, established direct shipping routes, proactive training, factory pre-commissioning checkout, and even onsite support to augment your team’s manpower.
- Standardized Instrumentation Designs - reducing the variation and quantity of different sensors supplied to a buyer cuts down complexity and the risk of errors for both parties. As such, a partner supplier will be eager to review a client's range of needs to look for opportunities to standardize products.
- Expeditious Commissioning - a key benefit of supplier partners is how much each party learns about the other's needs, practices, and product details. Over time, the effort needed to complete projects together reduces thanks to this familiarity, and commissioning time reduction is one key example.
- Flexibility - partnering buyers and suppliers tend to have earned a greater degree of flexibility with each other, knowing that any special request or urgent accommodation will not be taken advantage of. For example, sometimes buyers will ask for flexibility in substituting urgently needed part models, and other times sellers will ask for flexibility in bundling shipments together to reduce shipping complexity.
- Reduced End-Client Cost of Ownership - buyers can offer greater benefit to their end-users by providing direct manufacturer support from their partner suppliers, more thorough documentation, direct training and service consulting, and more, all serving to make owning the buyer's equipment less costly to own.
- Short Term Tactical Reactivity - when buyers come across a clear-and-present opportunity, they can rely on their partner suppliers to do everything possible to jump on it. Suppliers with dedicated inventory and pre-established pricing free the buyer to pursue the opportunity immediately, not delaying for price and stock checks. Further, partner suppliers can help review the application and provide valuable insight, increasing the buyer's chances.
- Long Term Strategic Improvement - supplier partnerships truly shine over the long haul, where the supplier and buyer can use their shared history to learn, adjust, and improve holistically. With an eye to the future, supplier-buyer partnerships can collaborate on where each business is headed, allowing both parties to evolve together for mutual success.
Assessing Instrumentation Vendors to be Great Long-term Partners
All of the above benefits were written to favor the buyer, but each item benefits the supplier equally well. Having a partner buyer where sales volumes are relatively predictable, pricing is firmly established, and transaction systems are proactively coordinated early on makes supplying that customer much easier and less involved over the long run. With both parties equally motivated to establish long-term partnerships, how might that process start? It takes three broad steps:
1. Buyers should generate a list of their most important long-term organization objectives, looking for which items can be directly influenced through their instrumentation procurement processes. For example, if a buyer plans to triple their sales volumes over five years, they would capture an interest on their list to find an instrumentation supplier that can support this growth with an agreeable volume and pricing plan.
2. When contacting instrumentation suppliers to gauge interest in a partnership, buyers should also evaluate synergies that exist between groups, looking for inherent business similarities that signal long-term alignment. For example, if the supplier manufactures their own instrumentation and keeps abundant stock volumes at all times, the buyer will benefit from heightened flexibility, reliability, and support, further bolstering their organizational objectives.
3. Once a potential instrumentation partner is identified, engage for a test transaction that evaluates as many procurement functions as possible, especially the intangible ones that do not directly drive a business objective. Is the supplier's documentation easy to read and readily available? Are order confirmations provided automatically, as well as shipping updates? Is the supplier's technical support easy to reach and work with? From these findings, buyers can frame a clear impression of if the supplier embodies long-term strategic value.
As a veteran-owned small business, Whitman Controls is dedicated to supplying premium quality, reliable, technologically advanced instrumentation for use in nearly any application.
Our Bristol, CT manufacturing facility embodies over 40 years of engineering, fabrication, and customer service expertise, serving both end-user and manufacturing customers nationwide through direct and distribution channels. Our values drive us to provide the highest level of servant partnership that you can find. To discuss your applications or to learn more about our capabilities, please contact us at (800) 233-4401, via email at [email protected], or online at www.whitmancontrols.com.