Supplier Collaboration - What Does It Mean To You?

June 24, 2014

Over the past several years the term "Supplier Collaboration" has become popular. However, this phrase can mean different things to different companies.

There are various forms of Supplier Collaboration. The level of Supplier Collaboration depends on the commitment you are willing to make. Are you culturally able to do what it takes to truly collaborate with your suppliers? Would you be willing to make changes to your organization and how you manage your business? Can you make technology changes?

The word "Collaborate" by its definition is something created by working jointly with another or others. Supplier Collaboration can be as simple as e-mail or face to face meetings with the supplier. In today's world this would not be considered true collaboration. In order to have true collaboration you must be able to share information, competencies, skills, intelligence and risks. Collaboration is definitely a cultural change in most companies. It requires a high level of trust between the two parties. The idea is to get to the point where you consider your supplier as a partner in your business. You want to make sure you can determine improvements that will have a measurable, positive financial impact for both organizations.

The ultimate Supplier Collaboration would be to have an end to end solution. This generally involves some form of technology. A supplier portal is one of the best ways to exchange information and build a tight relationship with a supplier. Data can be shared in one place for both to access. Collaboration gives you the ability to understand the capabilities that exist on both sides and share the risks and benefits.

IEWC has recently started Supplier Collaboration projects with some of our key suppliers. They have involved workshops with the supplier where various people from various departments get together to brainstorm how processes can be improved. This is not a one way street. We work with our suppliers to determine what we can provide to them that will be an improvement for them. By keeping track of our supplier's performance we can determine some areas for improvement. By soliciting feedback from others in the supply chain, we can help improve other processes such as receiving, compliance and inventory management.

IEWC continues to work toward Supplier Collaboration to improve decision making and allow for efficiency and continuous improvement.

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