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Few of us will ever know the thrill of launching out from a safe perch, letting go of the trapeze bar with the hope of grasping the strong hands of a partner reaching for us, then swinging to safety. And for many of us, that's okay. Leave the back-and-forth swings and somersaults, high above the ground, to the professionals. They can be the ones to let go of the safety of the bar and spin their bodies in the air before meeting the other half of their death-defying duo. If they want a bird's-eye view of things below as they float suspended at the apogee of their swing, fine.
A lot has happened in the world of trapeze performance since the mid-19th Century when Frenchman Jules Leotard more or less invented the art. Performances have become more and more stylish and lavish, not to mention, daring. And for most of us, it’s trilling enough to remain earth-bound and simply sit and watch these aerial acrobats show off their balance and coordination. Indeed, to display their artistic partnerships.
But consider for a moment the crucial elements that go into this art form: courage and fearlessness, and constant exercises to build strength and agility, certainly; and total trust in one’s partner, undoubtedly.
If ever there was a partnership that depended on reliability, it must be when flying through the air with the greatest of ease, then being brought to a safe landing. But in a more mundane sense, every partnership depends on trust and reliability. Absent that degree of certainty, relationships crater — and so do the projects and endeavors built upon them.
That’s certainly the case in business. If anyone in any company knows that no enterprise exists by itself, it’s the supply chain manager. He or she realizes that the interconnected nature of business today means that you must exercise the greatest of care when you decide to team up with someone. You’re vested in one another, and that two-edged sword means you succeed or fail together.
To be sure, business has always meant working with others; clearly, there could be no trading of any kind were that not so. But the complexity of our businesses these days has changed the dynamic completely. First of all, we usually aren’t speaking of a single one-to-one relationship. No, today’s supply chain often is more of a web, with numerous partners linking with many others. Each one of those partners has to be fully knowledgeable of the goals of the transaction, and committed to them. That carries many risks, not least of which is the sharing of sensitive data. No wonder, “reliability” is the key word in describing any relationship today.
As it happens, these partnerships generally come into being only after the parties have very carefully studied the others' histories and accomplishments. Relations of any real vintage can exist only if reliability and ethical stances are baked in from the start.
Success is in sight, and probably guaranteed, when you know a partner's word is good; that they mean what they say and will carry out promises made. You simply can’t enter into contractual relations only to be left hanging mid-air, waiting for your partner to come through. It’s bad enough when non-performance hurts you, but it can be disastrous for your company if that undependability injures another business partner.
Truth be told, when your partner is there, on time, ready and able, it can be a lifesaver for the deal. It may even look like things were accomplished with the greatest of ease. Perhaps a thank-you note of sorts would be appropriate.
That, in essence, is what our annual 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue is, a great opportunity to say thank you for the commitment we’ve described above. Over the years, we’ve heard time and again about the importance — indeed, the indispensability — of reliable relationships, ones built on trust. And our view is that they should be trumpeted; they should be made known where possible.
So we created this venue where companies can express their appreciation for their partners in logistics and transportation services or in technology or in some other area under supply chain management by nominating them as Great Partners for this issue.
Sometimes there are non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements about some partnerships; we get that. But where companies can publicly thank those who have helped them so greatly, this is the place to do so.
It’s important to realize that the nominators had to believe that their partners not only helped them tackle and overcome real-world issues but in doing so they often exceeded what the contract stipulated; they did more than what was necessary to ensure that the relationship was fruitful and beneficial — for everybody.
They may very well have helped the nominators save money. They could have brought operational efficiencies. Perhaps they even steered the nominators to new business. Any one of those possibilities is a positive, and is deserving of recognition.
In the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners issue we recognize these and other valuable services provided to those who nominated them. In fact, once again this year, thousands of nominations came in. Some companies, of course, had multiple nominations. What matters is that 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.
Think about this: no matter how many appreciations any one company received, the fact is somebody was moved to send us a nomination. You can't make anyone do that. When they do, it says a great deal about the value the nominating party places on the relationship.
We could fill the entire magazine were we to publish all of the compliments that were sent in. That isn’t feasible, so what we did is highlight a number of relationships in the form of case studies. These 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 are received each year 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. Quite frankly, we think it’s a plus that the companies aren't always household names; at least, not in every country. Some names you will readily recognize, doubtless others are new to you. But that's another benefit of this issue. Someone has found a company, previously unknown to you, to be reliable and dedicated to the nominator's business success; now they want you to know it.
Here's 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 or 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 case studies in this issue point out providers of services, technologies, expertise and support who are so reliable that you and your network can depend on them in the future.
When you look at the nominations carefully, you will see what the 10 top issues are in readers' minds.
What's a Partner Got to Have?
1. Reliability. It isn’t enough to mean well, to want to be top-notch; hope is not a business model.
2. Excellence. Their motto should be: we do everything with excellence.
3. Value. Qualitatively and quantitatively, what does your potential partner bring to the relationship?
4. Expertise. If your partner doesn’t know your business as well as you, should he or she be your partner?
5. Problem-solving skills. You need a take-charge partner, not one looking to you for the answers.
6. Continuous improvement. Your partner must value ongoing education for his/her team.
7. Support. What after-sales or post-implementation support is your partner able and willing to give?
8. Positive attitude. You need a partner who sees challenges as opportunities.
9. Global reach. Does your partner’s reach match yours? Stay-at-home partners need not apply.
10. Strong leadership. Is your partner reading the manual on leadership — or writing one?
-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 year's 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 that you expect and require reliability from a partner. Business deals and transactions are meant to succeed. That happens when your partner is committed to the proposition that reliability really counts.
Click here for the complete list of the Great Supply Chain Partners for 2017.
2017 Great Supply Chain Partner Case Studies:
How Arysta LifeScience Got Control of Its Spiraling Logistics Costs
A Five-Way Partnership Develops a New Way to Track High-Value Shipments
Metal Fabricator Has Moved Into Role of OEM
Fitness Equipment Maker Gets Its Supply Chain in Shape
When Growth Mandates Change: Blue Diamond Reevaluates Its Supply Chain
Tech Data Bolsters Suppliers Through a Working-Capital Marketplace
When a Small Company Needs Help in Hauling Big Equipment
TV Home-Shopping Retailer Benefits From EDI Managed Service
Manufacturer Finds Acquisition Brings Unlimited ERP Seats
Methodology for the 100 Great Supply Chain Partners Nominations
The list of 100 Great Supply Chain Partners is made up of solutions providers who have received multiple nominations from their customers and/or whose customers agreed to be interviewed by SupplyChainBrain for a published, in-depth case study.
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