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100 Great Supply Chain Partners 2010: Executives Reveal How Providers Play a Big Role in Their Success
100 Great Supply Chain Partners 2010: Executives Reveal How Providers Play a Big Role in Their Success

Far be it from us to say that Aristotle got anything wrong, but ... the sage has been quoted as saying friendship is essentially a partnership. Maybe so, but we think there is a crucial difference. A friend is someone you know and like. Depending upon a number of factors, a friend can be someone you trust and and who can be counted on to help you in good times or bad. But doesn't' that describe a partner as well? We don't think so.

Aside from the fact that a partner may not be someone you're particularly fond of, a partnership is based on mutual interests, not mutual likes and dislikes. A partner associates with another in a joint endeavor usually sharing its risks and profits. And that's the big difference, it seems to us. A partner is not someone that you necessarily share the intimate and personal with. There's a healthy distance between you and the partner, which helps him or her tell you what you need to know to ensure the viability of the alliance. A partner brings an expertise to the relationship that you would not otherwise have. Finally, a partner is someone committed to helping you advance in some manner because your success, or failure, is the partner's as well.

Which brings us to the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners. In this special issue, we again celebrate those companies that have been nominated by their partners as someone deserving recognition because their product or service has been of great value to them. Whether in logistics, technology or consulting, these 100 selected companies have aided, advanced, improved - choose your word - the supply chain management of their clients. We salute them, and those readers who took the time to nominate their partners. It goes without saying that they know the whole world will see the identities of their supply chain partners. When so many go to such extremes to keep that information secret, it is remarkable that these folks would come forward and say in effect, I want everyone to see who has been working alongside my company, guiding and instructing us, and sharing the trials and triumphs because we have a vested interest in each other.

This is not to say that the readers who "named names" don't have their own capabilities; of course, they do. Many of them are tops in their areas, whether that's manufacturing, distribution or retail, and regardless of the vertical they specialize in. But no one can do it all;  not well. So, they turn to the expertise of others.

We've featured nine such relationships as stand-alone case studies to illustrate the kind of partnership we're talking about. Some of these alliances are relatively new, others have been ongoing for some time. We think each demonstrates how true partnership leads to a company's success.

In addition, the Spotlights are another component of this report. In them, we've culled comments from some of the nominations. We feel these remarks, unfiltered and straight from the shoulder, attest to the value brought to these relationships in a way that a case study doesn't.

As always, the scope of the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue is truly global. We received more than 2,800 nominations this year from companies of every size and description. The nominees are active in every facet of supply chain management. Some of these vendors are household names, many are not. Some have networks with global footprints, others can fairly be described as niche players with highly customized approaches to service.

Whether they toil in the limelight or in relative anonymity, they were nominated because of what they do to help their partners succeed in productivity boosts, inventory turns, reduction in costs reduction, increased customer satisfaction, or some other area.

The 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue results from a six-month poll of readers in which logistics and supply chain professionals were urged to nominate 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 list's purpose is to recognize 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 Wanted in Providers

1. Reliability-Without doubt, every year the single-most important element readers value is reliability in their partners. When a vendor has proven itself to be solid in this area, a lasting partnership follows.

2. Excellence-Doing what's expected is good; service over and above what's required is excellent.

3. Value & cost savings-The main driver for purchasing any new technology or service is cost savings, but the most the important financial measure is value in terms of increasing sales, production or other revenue-related metric.

4. Expertise and knowledge base-Providers must incorporate best practices specific to their industry, market or product. Trust fails when you can't demonstrate this.

5. Problem-solving-Partners must take charge and solve problems or risk losing the customer.

6. Continuous improvement-You can't rest on your laurels. Customers demand to see a plan for product development (especially in technology) so they know their future needs will be met.

7. Support-Customers outsource to those who have the expertise, so they depend on vendors to implement, train, maintain and support the technologies and service provided. If anything, readers say, support is almost as important as the technology or service itself.

8. Be positive-This might be called a can-do attitude. Vendors that took on any challenge without complaint are highly valued.

9. Global footprint-It goes without saying that companies looking to do business around the world need partners with global reach.

10. Strong management-Commitment is key to a longstanding and fruitful relationship. Customers carefully monitor the leadership of their supply chain partners.

Some additional points to remember:

The methodology for the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners nominating process is spelled out on this page. However, 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 just because it is a manageable number. We actually received nominations for more than 400. The companies included just had more, and more in-depth nominations than the others. The comments offered for the 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.

Conclusion

We thank everyone who participated in the 2010 edition of the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners program. These vendors of products and services are true partners because they stood with you and helped you achieve your supply chain goals. By putting their names forward, you do more than recognize them for a job well done. You point out to everybody - especially their competitors - what you expect and require from a partner. That benefits the entire industry. Thank you again, and we look forward to your participation next year.

Click here for the complete list of of Great Supply Chain Partners for 2010.
Spotlights on Some of The 100 Great Supply Chain Partners

2010 Great Supply Chain Partner Case Studies:
DSC Logistics Turns to RedPrairie for Workforce Management Tool
A Special Delivery Is Required for Some Very Special Bedding Products
Provider Enhances Efficiency of Kraft's Transportation Network
Colorado Craft-Beer Maker Brews Up High Levels of Customer Service
Alice.com and OHL Partner to Deliver CPG Goods Direct to Consumer
American Tooth Gets to the Root of an Insurance Problem
Horizon Group Gets Command & Control Through Partnership with Ultra Logistics
Growth at Giant Apparel Company Brings Big Change in Its Forecasting
Yamaha Gets Up to Speed on 10+2 Filing Rule

Methodology for the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners Nominations

The list of partners following this report is based solely on entries voluntarily submitted to SupplyChainBrain.com, where the official nomination form has been posted since early in the 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 web site 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 identify 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 more than 2,800 qualified responses nominating over 400 different companies. The final list presented here includes the 100 companies that received the most qualified nominations. In the case of ties, the nominations with the most detailed justification were selected.

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