My Supplier Said to Me: Let’s Start That Batch Over

On the twelfth (work) day of Christmas my supplier said to me ‘Sorry about that. I’ll go find out what happened, but in the meantime, let’s just start that batch over.’ 

Yesterday, we wrote of the story that is all too common. A supplier screwed up (pun intended), and they’re hoping that you won’t hold it against them. What you do at this point is really up to you depending on the needs of your business. 

Whether the batch is scrapped and the cost of covering it becomes a football that is being tossed back and forth until an agreement is reached, or the supplier does the right thing and just eats the cost without much fuss, it doesn’t really matter. Let’s talk about the conversation to resolve the root of the problem. 

An RCCA is a Root Cause and Corrective Action discussion. It’s a broad term used to describe a conversation– not just a transaction or blurb, but a complete conversation between two parties – between company and supplier. Its purpose is to do collaborative investigation research to determine the root cause and formulate a plan to prevent it in the future, and it is not supported by EDI.

Though unsupported, it’s an incredibly important part of an overall continuous improvement strategy where issues are analyzed, and process improvement is made based on analytical results. So, RCCA is much more than a blamestorming session, RCCA is a cooperative conversation between company and supplier in order to resolve a problem.

RCCA involves containment of the issue in both the company and supplier environments so that the scope of the issue is controlled, the impact is limited, and the costs are managed. Utilizing RCCA brings about long-term quality improvements and is a critical element of b2b collaboration. 

Once again, we see where EDI, though it has stood the test of time, is limited in its capacity to meet some of the needs of modern business communications. How do you handle RCCA communications? Phone? Email? Webex? Something else? Let us hear your thoughts, we would love to know what works for you when EDI doesn’t…

My Supplier Said to Me: New Specifications?

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…

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