When you've got a good thing going, you want to shout it from the rooftops. Well, maybe not always. Maybe that only happens in romance, or in the movies. In business, it's often quite the opposite. Mum's the word, everything's a trade secret. Someone's solution has given you visibility a superhero would envy, a transportation provider has taken a major load off your mind, or a consultant has just saved you beaucoup bucks, and - what? You don't want to tell anybody about it. You see the relationship as giving you a leg up on the competition, and why should you steer them toward the folks who helped you out, right?
Which is what makes the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue so remarkable. Every company mentioned in here is real, and the officials that run them don't mind telling the world how much they appreciate what some trading partner has done for them. They know the same great product or service is, or could be, extended to others. But they have no hesitancy in thanking these vendors who provide them logistics, technology and other expertise.
True, these companies generally have their own great capabilities, customer service, innovation, product or can-do attitude. But no one can go it alone today, not in today's world. Everyone needs a partner some time.
The annual 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue is about this kind of relationship between vendors and their customers in manufacturing, retail, distribution or some other area. We've brought you 10 case studies this year that lay out in detail the kind of contribution that supply chain professionals feel their partners have provided them. Some of these relationships are relatively new, some are longstanding. But each is emblematic of how true partnership leads to a company's success.
We are delighted that the notion of competitive advantage hasn't kept these companies from sharing with you how their vendors have enabled them to compete any time, anywhere.
As always, the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue is global in scope. More than 2,700 nominations from companies of every size and description poured in from around the world. Equally, vendors in every area of supply chain activity - technology, transportation, consulting, finance, you name it - were nominated. Big names and small ones, too. It's clear that partnerships are not built just on broad and far-reaching networks; sometimes they rely on the customized services that only niche providers, tiny in footprint but mighty in spirit, are able to render.
Mighty or modest, these partners are celebrated in these pages for the results they have generated for their customers. These nominations clearly show that that's what they are after: a partner that can help them succeed, whether that's in productivity gains, inventory turns, cost containment, increased customer satisfaction, whatever.
The 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue is the result of a six-month poll of readers in which logistics and supply chain professionals were asked to nominate vendors and service providers whose technology, logistics, transportation or consulting solutions have made a significant impact on their company's efficiency, customer service and overall supply chain performance. The purpose of the list is to recognize those vendors that have so impressed our readers that they deserve to be singled out and to be held up as examples for others in the industry.
To be sure, this is a chance to thank those providers that have helped readers achieve better results, and to let the industry know who is making a genuine effort to be a supply chain partner. At the same time, comments included in the nomination forms are intended to emphasize which services, technology, expertise and support our entire industry needs for all of us to be more successful.
As mentioned, nominations were received for trading partners in every aspect of supply chain management, and many of those are represented on our final list. Regardless of what type of vendor a reader nominated, there are clear themes within the commentaries that accompanied most of the ballots.
The 10 most common qualities that users looked for in their vendors are:
1. Reliability - Without doubt, the single-most important element readers value is reliability. These readers' customers will not accept excuses for service failures, so neither should they. And when a vendor has proven itself to be rock-solid reliable, an enduring partnership is assured.
2. Excellence - While good performance is expected, the vendors receiving accolades for service always went over and above what was required.
3. Value & cost savings-Readers said their key motivation for purchasing any new technology or outsourced service was cost savings, but the most the important financial measure was value in terms of increasing sales, production or other revenue-related metric.
4. Expertise and knowledge base-Manufacturers and retailers increasingly look to their providers for best practices specific to their industry, market or product. Vendors that have this expertise quickly become trusted advisers.
5. Problem-solving-Year after year, this continues to be a major theme because companies experience emergencies. Partners that effectively handle such events are highly valued by their customers.
6. Continuous improvement-Companies want to see a plan for product development (especially in technology) so they know their needs will be met in the future.
7. Support-The downsizing of most companies means that they have greater dependence on their vendors to implement, train, maintain and support the technologies and service provided. The support component is almost as important as the technology or service itself.
8. Positive culture-The greatest accolades were bestowed on those vendors that took on any challenge and found a way to accomplish a goal without complaints or excuses.
9. Global reach-As supply chains become more global, companies of all sizes are looking for technologies and services that allow them to operate with trading partners all over the world.
10. Strong management-Nothing can damage the relationship between a company and its partners faster than an erosion of commitment from the partner's management. Leadership is monitored very carefully by companies that depend on their supply chain partners.
Finally, here are some important points to keep in mind:
• The methodology for exactly how the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners nominating process was conducted is spelled out on this page. However, very simply, the companies listed here are completely based on voluntary responses from readers. No one at SupplyChainBrain had anything to do with which companies were nominated.
• We have included 100 vendors just because it is a manageable number. We actually received nominations for more than 500. The companies included just had more, and more in-depth, nominations than the others. The comments offered for these unmentioned companies clearly reflect their customers' appreciation, but we had to draw the line somewhere. For better or for worse, the number 100 has become the standard for any list of this type.
• This year we've added another component, something we call Spotlights. In them, we simply let the comments of some of the satisfied customers of 11 providers tell why they nominated them as Great Supply Chain Partners.
We thank all of the readers of SupplyChainBrain magazine who participated in the 2009 edition of the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue. By voicing your appreciation for the vendors of technology and services that help you achieve your supply chain goals, you not only give them the recognition that they deserve, but you point out to all vendors the qualities that you admire-and expect. That effort helps the entire industry. Thank you again, and we look forward to your participation next year.
Sony Ericsson Calls Up Cost-Saving Packaging, Distribution Solution
Fujitsu Company Makes a Better Choice in Critical Parts Delivery
Deacom Puts Finishing Touches on ERP Implementation for SEM
Once Elemica Tackled the Hard Part, the Rest Was Easy
Del Monte Closes the Loop in Intermodal Services Program
GlaxoSmithKline Healthcare Puts All DCs Under One 3PL's Control
Power-Products Company Needed to Energize Regulatory Compliance
It's Smart to Have Accurate Warehouse Data
Unilever Looks to Improve Short-Term Forecasat Accuracy
Transplace Gives Sunny Delight Complete Logistics Solution
Click here to see the complete list of 100 Great Supply Chain Partners.
Methodology for the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners Nominations
The list accompanying this report is based entirely on the entries voluntarily submitted to SupplyChainBrain.com, where the official nomination form has been posted since the early spring. Over the last few months, many readers received emails asking them to participate and directing them to the form. Other readers and users of the web site independently found a link to the official nomination form on the home page.