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100 Great Supply Chain Partners 2014: A Handshake ... as Good as a Contract!

It's fair to say that some mouths dropped in some quarters when word got out that the vice president of supply chain for McDonald's in the UK said he had handshakes rather than formal contracts with key suppliers. In dispensing with the written word, the fast-food chain formed long-term relationships with its partners in food, packaging and distribution, and included them in planning – even helping to set prices and volumes. Said Warren Anderson, "We don’t have contracts, but we do have our very assured supply partnerships with our food and paper suppliers," he said. "A gentleman’s handshake is just as powerful here."

100 Great Supply Chain Partners 2014: A Handshake … as Good as a Contract!

In today's litigious society, Anderson's comments are astounding, and no doubt strike some as naïve and unnecessarily risky. But if nothing else, they speak to an ideal that most of us would love to see: not just a partnership in which a person's word is his or her bond but one where everyone is genuinely committed to the success of the venture and all of its participants. That means honest give and take and openness. It means investing your time, energy and, yes, money in the other party.

Legal probably doesn't want to hear it, but the four walls of a contract can create barriers to success because they delimit what a partner can do for the other side, even if they are prepared and eager to go above and beyond the contract language. On the other hand, a handshake means that everyone is all in, one for all, all for one. Or so Mr. Anderson apparently believes. In this, our annual 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue, we'd like to think others feel that way as well. Indeed, we'd like to feel that that kind of trust and commitment extends beyond a handful of folks in the United Kingdom. This, we do know: companies appreciated their partners in logistics and transportation services or in technology or in some other area under supply chain management enough that they were moved to nominate them for this issue. And we celebrate them and their partners.

The nominators clearly felt that their partners helped them in some important way to overcome real-world issues. They didn't merely do what they were contracted to perform; they did what was necessary to ensure that the relationship was fruitful and beneficial to everyone involved.

Because the companies you nominated went out of their way, you saved money, you brought efficiencies to your operations, or, possibly, you were enabled to win new business that otherwise you would have missed out on.

That's the kind of spirit that we celebrate in this issue every year. In the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue we recognize the valuable service provided to those who nominated them. In fact, thousands of nominations came in this year. Some companies, of course, had multiple nominations; for others, perhaps only one or two thank-you notes were received. No matter. Each nomination expressed gratitude for a partnership that allowed someone to focus on their core efforts while their providers took care of non-core responsibilities. Here's the reality: no matter how many appreciations any one company received, the fact is somebody was moved to send us a nomination. You can't force anyone to do that, and the action says a great deal about the value the nominating party places on the relationship. Sort of like how Mr. Anderson feels about his suppliers.

We can't run all of the compliments that rolled in, but as always we include some in what we call Spotlights. They are a quick way to give you a feel for the appreciation folks have for their partners. In addition, in every 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue we publish 10 case studies, which are detailed articles based on in-depth interviews with the parties. While these obviously deal with specific relationships, we feel they illustrate the trust, commitment, energy and concern of every one of the 100 partnerships we include in this report.

Nominations each year come from companies of every size and from every vertical, and the nominees themselves are involved in supply chain management in just about every manner possible. They aren't all household names; at least, not in every country. Some you know, others you probably don't. But that's a benefit of this issue. Someone has found a company previously unknown to you to be dedicated to the nominator's business success; now they want to tell you about them.

Here's a snapshot of how we put the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue together. It follows from a six-month poll of readers in which we asked logistics and supply chain professionals to nominate providers whose products, services and 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 focus on those providers who have so impressed their customers that they deserve to be held up as examples for others.

It's clear from the nominations that many clients see this as their opportunity to give a public salute to those partners who helped them achieve better results, to let people know who is genuinely trying to be a top-notch supply chain partner. In keeping with our theme, it's our sincere hope that the Spotlights and case studies in this issue point out services, technology, expertise and support that can strengthen your network in future.

When you look at the nominations carefully, you will see what are the 10 top issues in readers' minds.

What Do You Need in a Partner?

1. Reliability – Good intentions are simply not enough.

2. Excellence – This shouldn't be a goal to be achieved one day but an existing quality of any partner.

3. Value – Relationships are exceptional when they add value. What does your potential partner bring to the table?

4. Expertise – Wouldn't you want a partner who could teach you something you don't already know?

5. Problem-solver – Any partner who isn't proactive is one that is always running to catch up. Surely, you deserve better than that.

6. Continuous improvement – Does your partner recognize that one can never afford to stop learning?

7. Support – How can your partner support you? Do they have not only the training and tools but the desire to help your enterprise?

8. Positive attitude – You need a partner who thrives on the possibilities when obstacles inevitably crop up.

9. Global reach - You're global, so your partner needs to have a similar footprint.

10. Strong leadership – Who's in charge there – a manager or a leader?

Other points:

• The methodology for the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners nominating process is detailed on this page. Very simply, the companies listed here are entirely based on voluntary responses from readers. No one at SupplyChainBrain had anything to do with which companies were nominated.

• We have included 100 vendors simply because it is a manageable number. We actually received nominations for hundreds more. For better or for worse, the number 100 has become the standard for any list of this type. 


We want to thank everybody who participated in this edition of the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners nominations. These providers of products and services are true partners because they stood with you and helped you achieve your supply chain goals. By nominating them, you're doing more than merely acknowledging them. You're telling them, the world and your competition just what it is that you expect and require from a partner. You're saying that you are dedicated to strengthening your global network, and you know just the right folks to help you do that.

These are the kind of folks whose word – and their handshake – is their bond.

Thanks again, and we look forward to your participation next year.

Click here for the complete list of the Great Supply Chain Partners for 2014.
2014 Great Supply Chain Partner Case Studies:

Radisys- E2open
Nutanix - OnProcess Technology
Hershey Company - Llamasoft
DB Schenker - Integration Point
Granarolo - ToolsGroup
Stratasys - Chainalytics
Siegwerk - Transportation Insight
Microsemi - Steelwedge Software
Hollywood Feed - Voxware

Methodology for the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners Nominations

Methodology for the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners Nominations

The list of partners following this report is based solely on entries voluntarily submitted to, where the official nomination form has been posted since early this year. 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 website independently found a link to the official nomination form on the home page.

Nominations could only be made using the official web-enabled form that required nominators to identify themselves, their position, their company, their email address and a phone number where they could be reached to verify their responses. For their nomination to be counted, the participants had to provide adequate identifying information to verify their identity and their legitimate role in the industry. Nominations from participants selecting their own companies or closely allied entities were disqualified, as were multiple nominations from the same customer company.

Participants could nominate up to three companies and could support their nomination with as much or as little commentary as they wished. To provide more in-depth information for this report, some nominators were interviewed after they submitted their completed forms. We received thousands of qualified responses nominating over several hundred companies. The final list presented here includes the 100 companies that received the most nominations. In the case of ties, the nominations with the most detailed justification were selected.


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