On the tenth (work) day of Christmas my supplier said to me “oh… well, uh, when were those specifications issued?”
Changing specifications are just a fact of life in the world of manufacturing. In the software world we used to say, ‘requirements are like water; they are not firm unless frozen.’ Screw holes are moved, bolt patterns change, and weight is reduced. This is part and parcel of manufacturing. If your supplier makes and delivers batches of the same part throughout the year it is almost guaranteed that at some point that they will have to deal with a specification change.
How you communicate that change matters almost as much as the change itself. To keep up with the fast pace of change in today’s business world, we must transform the way we think about supplier communications. No longer is it about just managing suppliers. The goal here is collaboration, not just obedience.
When there is a change in specification, proactive communication is critical. Communicating ahead of time gives your suppliers plenty of notice to make changes between production runs. This cuts down on waste and stress for everyone involved.
Collaborating with suppliers to work for the greater good of all instead of just tolerating each other helps to develop strong relationships with your suppliers. The long-term benefits of these relationships are increases in quality, efficiency, and customer service, and who doesn’t like better customer service?
The reality is that to be successful, your suppliers need information from you. When they are successful you are successful.
But what about when non-EDI trading partners need to receive updated specifications? What about when a supplier communication needs to include documents that don’t exist in classical B2B EDI? One of the main barriers to achieving true b2b collaboration is that without B2B eCommerce infrastructure, important supplier communications are easily lost. ‘When did you issue those new specifications?’ the supplier asks. ‘Well before you started the current batch. We can’t accept these’ you respond. Now begins the reject process…