5 Questions Before Selecting an Inventory Management Partner
by Mary Iannuzzi on July 17, 2019
Outsourcing the manufacturing of components can save a business time, money and resources. For the buyer or supply chain professional, it is often a stressful and laborious process. The right vendor, however, can make outsourcing easier and more efficient than in-house production. Consider the five questions below when choosing a new supplier to build a relationship with.
1. Do their lead times account for shipping to the warehouse and from the supplier?
Don’t be quick to judge lead times in a quote without reading the fine print. Have a conversation with the supplier about what type of shipping is or isn’t included in lead times, as well as any options available should you need a rush order. Begin an honest dialogue about the rate at which lead times are met and what protections they have in place to ensure they are not exceeded. Inquire whether the supplier uses a certain shipping company or whether they can work with your preferred company.
2. Can they accommodate your inventory system and approach?
Purchasing at a good price is only half the battle of outsourcing. Making sure those parts get to you at just the right time is as equally important. If a vendor has a rigid, no-exceptions release policy, you may have to take on inventory when it’s not ideal for you. Alternatively, a company with more relaxed policies may not be the best choice if you need parts in a truck within hours of an email. Ask about supply chain initiatives such as Just-In-Time or Kanban scheduling. Even if you don’t use these programs currently, you’ll be setting yourself up for better service than expected.
3. What is their service level agreement for responding to customer requests or concerns?
Hearing something you don’t want to hear is frustrating. Not hearing any response to your questions, needs, or ideas is infuriating. Pay close attention to the responsiveness of a supplier as you begin to explore a potential partnership. Ask what expectations are held of account managers in terms of response time and what kind of customer support or alternate contact options are available if you are unable to reach your primary contact. Communicate your expectations of timely responses clearly and be sure to reciprocate your own standard to the other end of the line.
4. How can you monitor the status of your inventory?
Responsiveness of sales people is important, but some days are better without human contact. Ask potential vendors about their digital record keeping. By now, they should have a website which keeps track of inventory and orders in real time. Many suppliers offer customer logins so you can check the status of your inventory in their warehouse or facility at the click of a mouse.
5. What kind of storage options and pricing do they offer?
Like that old sofa you don’t have room for but can’t bear to give away, sometimes you just need a little extra storage. When you’re sourcing orders of a year’s worth of parts, warehousing services can be an incredibly valuable tool. Off-site warehousing helps you save money by ordering in larger bulk while avoiding inventory bloat and benefiting from the ease of 2-3 day shipments. The cheapest, easiest, and safest way to do this is usually by working with a vendor that also offers warehousing, in some cases free of charge.
With the ease of quoting parts online and email communication, it is easy to skip the process of properly getting to know a potential supplier. Invest time early on to find a vendor who treats you like a business partner. You’ll save money and countless headaches in the long run.
Michigan Manufacturing International partners with American companies to source custom mechanical components and assemblies. Our supply managers live and work in five low-cost regions, maintaining decade-long partnerships and ensuring quality before parts leave the supplier. Logistics, warehousing, and engineering are handled at our headquarters in Stevensville, Maryland. Our business model offers a single partner solution to sourcing abroad, providing the cost savings of purchasing internationally with the ease of buying from an American supplier.
If you are looking for a supplier to outsource mechanical components, take a look at our website, then give us a call, leave a comment, or send an email. We would love to get to know you.