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Best Practices for Selecting a Supplier

Jan. 17, 2013
Environmental awareness Reliability Product alignment Innovation Value

Evaluating and selecting a supplier is critical to your foundry’s success. Price is certainly an important factor to consider, but it is not always the most important part in your decision. There are dozens of factors too, but these are the five essential considerations for you to weigh when evaluating current and prospective suppliers.

Environmental awareness —Environmental awareness has become more than just a talking point: It is a requirement in modern manufacturing. When choosing a supplier, it is important to know its commitment to sustainability. Does it offer an environmental platform? Does it offer products made from renewable resources? Does it offer recycling programs?

Offering a sustainability report is a good indicator of a supplier’s commitment to the environment. A sustainability report demonstrates responsibility to the environment and community.  A good supplier takes initiative to show that its concern about the future of your business by leading with safer, more environmentally friendly products. And, often these new products are introduced ahead of environmental regulations, e.g. lower VOC limits. Also, this supplier can help your EH&S department with permitting and compliance, potentially saving you the cost of hiring environmental consultants. Thus, suppliers sensitive to environmental issues have a far-reaching impact that can save you time and money now, and in the future.

Reliability —Another important trait to be considered when selecting a supplier is reliability. A reliable supplier is consistent and flexible in addressing unforeseeable events.  Important details that should be considered include commitment to metalcasting, on-time delivery, consistent product performance, superior technical support, and knowing that your supplier “will have your back.” Reliable suppliers have a record of fulfilling customer expectations. They are willing to partner to improve current conditions and often aid in new product or process development. The suppliers’ capabilities should be well aligned with the foundry’s needs to ensure success.  In the end, the reliability of a supplier should facilitate operational and competitive advantages.

Product alignment — A vital part of manufacturing the highest quality parts at the lowest cost is aligning the product with the process. There may be many product options for a given process, each with advantages and disadvantages. A supplier with a history provides a great asset for a foundry finalizing its product selection. This experience and strong product knowledge will help to determine which is best for your specific process. Once aligned, let the cost savings begin!

Innovation — With many variable and unique processes to each foundry, the relationship between buyer and supplier is partnership. Selecting a supplier with a history of innovation is important to a lasting partnership that targets future growth. Innovation is shown by how effectively the supplier adapts to changes in the industry, often leading the market with technological advances. The latest technologies keep foundries as efficient as ever and can keep foundries ahead of environmental regulations. Innovation not only applies to product technology; it can be shown in other facets of the organization.  Look for suppliers that have applied advanced tools (such as Six Sigma methodology) in both internal and customer processes. Innovation also can be shown through an interactive website that highlights a supplier’s latest products and services, along with offering a customer interface.  Product alignment and innovation go hand-in-hand and should be on your list of selection criteria. 

Value — Suppliers should bring value to your business. Value is a nebulous term and can be defined in many ways and most likely will be different for every customer. Perhaps a better way to ask whether a supplier brings value is, “What does my supplier do to help my business make money?” Value can be found in on-time deliveries, consistent product quality, flexible business transactions, on-site service, inventory management, simplified order entry and payment systems, freight options, and helping you to find creative solutions with your customer projects.

Environmental awareness, reliability, product alignment, and innovation all provide value for your business.  It is important for you to communicate your needs. A good supplier will engage you, and in the end bring value to your business.

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