Production isn’t always perfect in the world of manufacturing. When your vendors are missing deadlines, producing sub-par work or not communicating well, the finger-pointing tends to go horizontal, with each vendor claiming the others did not live up to their promises.
This is neither productive nor helpful since everyone has the same goal of creating a superior product. This is especially important in manufacturing, where your reputation is staked on your latest finished product.
Whether you’re building houses, fabricating machine parts or producing textiles, vendors are your lifeblood -- how do you ensure that everyone gets along?
Choose the right vendors and focus on relationships
This is an easy first step that mitigates potential relationship issues down the road. Don’t ever include feuding vendors in the mix. Even if this means forgoing your top picks, it's worth it in the long run since you’ll have a smoother workflow.
Once you assemble a good team, make sure to establish a strong working relationship with each vendor individually. You'll have more relationship capital going into the project. Treat all vendors as valued team members (within reason and adhering to confidentialities), with a vested interest in the same end goal. Motivate them accordingly.
Get everyone together to kickoff the project
When everyone feels like they’re on the same team, finger-pointing tends to disappear -- it’s a lot harder to blame other vendors once they’ve established personal connections. Assemble all team members for a face-to-face planning/project kickoff meeting so all vendors hear the objectives “from the horse’s mouth”. To eliminate confusion document the results as well.
As the general project manager, you’ll handle all decisions. Make this meeting’s attendance mandatory to get the job, and be ready to compensate them for their time. It will pay off in the end, as you’ll get kinks worked out early and ensure that everyone’s personalities mesh. You can discuss:
- Project objectives
- Scope of work, including clear definition of everyone’s roles and responsibilities (see next point)
- Important milestones and deadlines
- Foreseeable challenges
- How similar problems were handled in the past
- Proper communication channels moving forward
- Measurements of success
With this meeting, you’ll proactively handle potential problems and give vendors the permission to work things out without your acting as the go-between.
Clearly define everyone’s roles
Both internal and external stakeholders need know their roles. It’s difficult to fulfill jobs when your vendors are unsure of their exact responsibilities; the blame game starts when no one has accountability. By clearly setting expectations and objectives upfront you ensure all vendors are on the same page and take ownership of their respective parts.
If you also take the time to anticipate potential pitfalls, you can head them off now. Do some 'if/then' scenarios to combat any issues that might arise.
Hold an annual meeting
Adding your vendors to an annual meeting is a natural fit when you’re reviewing budgets or planning for the upcoming year. Again, getting them face-to-face is critical! In-person interaction helps build trust and cooperation, while eliminating communication disconnects and confusion.
As you talk through your company’s overall objectives and mission, you’re bringing vendors on board as a team. At your annual meeting, you can review each vendor’s role, recap how the relationships have been working and brainstorm ideas on how to enhance them in the coming year.
Engage a third party
During the course of the project you can handily manage vendor issues. But, if these continue to occur or escalate, it might be time to bring in a third party. A consultant helps dismantle tensions by keeping things fair. Since consultants hold the best interests of your company in mind, they won’t take sides, or get stuck in the vendor finger-pointing. They also have expertise in these exact situations and know how to diffuse them efficiently and effectively.
The other option is to switch to a third party to handle all your needs -- this eliminates the vendor blame-game entirely. From print work and digital marketing to eCommerce and fulfillment, Ironmark has the expertise to add value to each area of your business. To learn more about how to consolidate all your vendors, contact us here; we’re happy to help turn that finger-pointing into handshakes.