How to prevent your supplier review from going off-track

Have you ever been to a meeting and wished that you were somewhere else?

I often want to be somewhere else within three minutes of a meeting starting:

There is no control at the meeting.
The meeting discussions seem to run round in circles.
The discussions focus on those with the loudest voices.
And the discussions and the whole meeting seem like a total waste of time.

At the end of the meeting, nothing has been achieved, except bad tempers.

Bad tempers need to be avoided at supplier reviews
In last week’s piece I outlined some of the advantages of a supplier review.  I also explained how companies that did not use supplier reviews were at a disadvantage.  And the gains for companies that used supplier reviews.

But companies don’t make these gains if they run their supplier reviews badly.

Supplier reviews are only effective if they are run well
If a supplier review is run badly, then they will achieve nothing.  Badly run supplier reviews may damage relationships.  Badly run supplier reviews mean that you will not have any control over your supplier management.

A well run supplier review will enhance supplier-client relationships.  Buyers will have control over their supply chain.  Therefore buyers will achieve more at their supplier reviews.

So how do you run a supplier review effectively?
I have found that supplier reviews work best if they stick to a simple six-stage agenda.  I have set out each stage of the agenda below.  And the first stage is the company update.

1.    Company updates
Company updates are a chance for the printer and the client to share information with each other.  The printer and the client need to know how each other’s companies are developing.  This is important because the printer and the client can understand how their relationship is developing.  For instance, is the printer winning new contracts?  If so, how will the printer’s success affect the buyer?

One printer once told me they were placing a press.  I knew that this press replacement could cause a hiccup in their production.  And it certainly did cause a hiccup at the printer.  I was very glad that I had made sure that I had alternative printers standing by!

After the company updates, it is time to move to the review of action points.

2.    Review of action points

This is an opportunity to make sure that everyone has progressed action points after the last meeting.  And to check that progress on issues raised in the action points has been as planned.

Once the action points are ticked off, there may be specific issues to consider.

3.    Specific issues raised by each side

At some point in a relationship there will be specific issues that cause problems.  The supplier review is a good opportunity to talk about such issues in a positive atmosphere.

Note that the issues at the supplier review can be raised by either side.  A supplier review should be a two-way process at all stages.

So KPIS (key performance indicators) should be two-sided as well.

4.    Review of KPIs

If both parties are using KPIs to measure each other, now is the time to review them.  Any problems are out of the way, so KPIs can be discussed without any operational issues derailing a considered discussion.

Once the KPIs have been discussed, there is no more reviewing to be done.  The meeting can move from review to improvement.

5.    Improvement projects

Ideally the improvement project stage should be the most in depth part of the meeting.  Hopefully, the previous stages will have all been managed quickly and there will be no problematic operational issues.  So the focus of the supplier review can then be on the improvement projects stage.

Improvement projects should focus on reducing cost (not price) and increasing efficiency.  Are there more cost effective ways of production?  Are there ways to increase the speed of ordering?  Both sides should think of projects that reflect speed and efficiency before the meeting.

Hopefully this stage will raise some good projects.  But when this stage is complete, it is time to wrap up the meeting.

6.    Action points and dates for next meeting

It is always important to make sure that someone is responsible for each action that is agreed at the meeting.  The action point should also have a deadline.  And, talking of deadlines, the date for the next meeting should be set now.  If a date is not set now, there is a danger that everyone forgets to schedule the next review meeting

How do you make sure that the review meeting keeps to this agenda?
I would always recommend that the agenda is sent to everyone before the meeting.  There should be a chairperson who is responsible for making sure that everyone keeps to the agenda.  Finally, the chairperson or another “volunteer” should take minutes.  The minutes make sure that all the action points are remembered.

Minutes?  Action points?  This sounds way too formal!

A supplier review meeting does not need to be formal.  A supplier review meeting can be as informal as you like.  But a supplier review meeting does need to have structure.  The six-stage agenda is designed to bring structure, not formality, to the meeting.

The structure should also ensure that both sides get an opportunity to say what they want.

A supplier review should not be seen as another round of printer-bashing

In fact a printer can easily turn the same agenda into a customer review.  I am always surprised that more printers do not choose to ask key customers to attend reviews.

But whether the printer or the supplier requests the meeting, it is vital that both parties have a chance to contribute to the agenda.

Here are three steps to make sure your supplier review runs to an agenda

–    Send agenda to other party and obtain their feedback
–    End round a final agenda before the review
–    Make sure there is a chairperson running the agenda at the review

Follow these three steps and say goodbye to supplier review meetings where everyone wishes they were somewhere else.

P.S. Print & Procurement run supplier and client management workshops.  Click here to find out more

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