In one of our recent posts, we advocated buyer jobs as one of the best places to start your supply chain career.

One of the key processes for this role is to research and select suppliers but you’d be surprised that one of the key problems that many companies face is just how to find that elusive brilliant vendor? Many companies can get stuck in a rut and fail to break

Here we list 10 common ways you might go about it, this isn’t by any means exhaustive and we’d love to hear your methods in our comments section below.

1/ Trade shows

One of the easiest ways of finding suppliers at trade shows. These industry gatherings usually offer buyers and suppliers a forum to meet. The nature of trade shows is that you’ll often get a chance to view products 1st hand whist having access to the potential supplier’s sales team. Trade shows also provide a great avenue of meeting industry peers and enhancing your market knowledge (they are usually a great place to see innovation). Keep a list of your industry trade shows handy and get those dates in your diary.

2/ Research major manufacturers

It’s a little obvious I grant you, but one of the first places many start is uncle Google. Search Engines can offer a great inroad in reviewing major manufacturers for the products your interested in and building up your initial list. Note that you’ll likely have a range of criteria that a simple Internet search won’t fully answer but it should provide an initial list of potential suppliers that you can then review in more detail.

3/ Search on required capabilities

If you’re looking for capability rather than product then again good old google is your friend. For example “sheet metal fabrication in wisconsin” brings up an appropriate list. (not only those Google finds through search but also those who are advertising.) Again this should give you an opportunity to do some research just have an advanced thought about your search terms and tailor them to your requirements.

4/ Talk to your non-procurement colleagues

Whilst your procurement colleagues may have a vast array of information don’t neglect other areas within your business, Design/Engineering, Production & Operations may have some good insider knowledge about your industry – indeed some of them may have worked at suppliers that you might be interested in.

5/ Look for trade portals

Many industries have online trade portals where you can research suppliers and in many cases send out RFQ’s. Industries like Aerospace & Pharmaceuticals are good examples of industries that use such tools – does yours?

6/ Equipment OEMs

If your looking for a particular service (or example sheet metal pressings) you can always research the resellers of the equipment used in the process, they may well be able to put you in touch with companies that have bought their equipment.

7/ Linkedin

Linked in can be a great place to research companies and talk to other individuals within your industry who may be able to put you in touch with appropriate suppliers.

8/ Industry Magazines
Every industry has a trade newspaper or magazine. These publications can be gold dust for buyers. Scour them for appropriate advertisements from potential vendors.

9/ Competitors
Have contacts within your competition? Who do they procure their products from?

10/ Consultancy services

Finally, there is a range of supplier sourcing consultancy services that offer specialist sourcing services. These can offer good value by helping you short cut the process. Industry specialists usually have an array of existing suppliers in their network that they can use to compete for your business.

So what sourcing tools & tips do you know, feel free to share in the comments section below.

As procurement professionals, we generally try our best to be effective. Our particular profession is one that tends to be systematic and regulated with a heavy focus on process and strategy. While that’s all well and good it’s common for things to go awry and for problems to occur. In all the years I’ve been in and around supply chain either in career roles it’s evident to me that some issues are more common than others. So below I’ve listed my 7 deadly sins for procurement. See how many you’re familiar with and as ever feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

1 Assuming that savings are a given

For many business leaders, procurement’s main function is to make savings. Perhaps THE most common trap to fall into is to embed over zealous savings targets into business plans and profit targets before procurement has had a chance to either make them or too often develop a strategy for them. Supply chain then makes risky decisions in order to realize the numbers with predictable chaos ensuing.

2 Not managing risk

Bad things happen in business. It’s a fact of life. Failing to recognize potential risks and then drawing up mitigation plans can not only result in challenges that are best avoided but in extreme cases can end the business. Managing risk should be at the heart of your supply chain strategy.

3 Ignoring true supplier lead time in planning process

Lead time sucks, we all want things quicker but it’s a fact of life that things take time to manufacture and assemble. Part of procurements function should be to hand off this data to the planning function to ensure that MRP systems are representative of reality and planning is accurate. A failure to do this effectively results in your best-laid production plans being wide of the mark and your business missing agreed customer delivery dates.

4 Not appraising suppliers before use

All suppliers look rosy on the outside but a failure to effectively appraise critical suppliers can lead to disaster. Supplier appraisals should draw out the pros and cons of using a supplier. A failure to identify potential problems before use could result in catastrophic supply chain issues.

5 Not building effective supplier relationships

Procurement is not transactional it’s all about relationships. THE key role of procurement is to build the right relationships. There are various elements in defining an excellent supplier, of course, the price is important but it is just one aspect, customer service, capability, strategy, behaviors also are important. An effective partner is far more useful to your business than merely being the supplier that delivers the cheapest product.

6 Bloated and ineffective KPIs

Data is crucial to supply chain effectively. I see time and time again companies that while recognizing the need to measure unfortunately measure the wrong thing or even worse spend days each month producing stacks of KPIS and data that serve little purpose and go largely unused. KPI’s and strategy should fit hand in glove and your monthly KPI review should generate actionable tasks that bring about quantifiable improvements.

7 Poor compliance to standards and processes

In the context of the supply chain, there are usually a variety of compliance requirements that the business should follow, specific rules or steps, export controls are a good example. Compliance might be driven by external rules or internal systems (that often support the external rules). Supply chains that fail to follow these processes can often put themselves in deep trouble.

So do you agree with our list? let us know in the comments section below.

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