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Supplier business reviews (SBR) are not new, but a lot of supply chain managers overlook how valuable they can be, says Walpole.
The SBR at Chick-Fil-A began small, but it importantly involved departments outside the supply chain that also have contact with suppliers. "This has turned into a great avenue to share information and develop great relationships," says Walpole. "When a supplier can put a face with the name of someone he has been emailing or talking to on the phone, it creates a personal connection."
As relationships grew, so did the SBR process. Today it involves a series of sit-down meetings, usually over a two-week period in the fall. “We do it that way for a couple of reasons,” says Walpole. “One, we can protect that block of time for all the internal people who will be involved in the review. We want the supplier to hear direct feedback from each department affected by their part in the supply chain, whether it is distribution, supplier quality, food safety, purchasing – whatever,” he says. “We want to discuss such issues as how the supplier is being treated at the DC, whether their POs are being paid on time, and whether shipments are being damaged in transit.”
The information gathered is helpful in making subsequent decisions, says Walpole. “Internally, those involved in the process work together collaboratively to benchmark and see which suppliers are moving the bar forward and which have opportunities to grow. Then we can join together and create opportunities to help a supplier grow or collectively look for different suppliers that would better meet our needs.”
The sit-down meetings also are important for sharing plans and outlooks with suppliers, says Walpole. “We want them to know our plans so they can grow with us and we want to know about their growth plans – any possible mergers and acquisitions or new facilities – and what impact that will have on us in the coming year so we can be prepared.”
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