Have you ever given your print company the Supplier Challenge?

An illustration of a company's supply chain

Challenge your print supplier to improve your supply chain

I am always impressed at my four-year old daughter’s imagination.

She has a set of old plastic bottles.  These bottles are put to many uses.  This morning the bottles were a range of products in her shop.  Soon after, the bottles became a set of medicines to cure me when we were playing doctors and nurses.  And, finally, the bottles were used as a set of ingredients when my daughter cooked a meal for her dolls and teddy bears.

Do you sometimes wish print suppliers were as creative as this?

But creativity doesn’t always come automatically.  Sometimes you need to challenge people to be creative.

So that’s why it’s good to issue your print suppliers with the Supplier Challenge

The Supplier Challenge is a great way to solve your problems

The Supplier Challenge is a very simple process.  Write down a short list of your current challenges.  Then invite your print suppliers to a meeting and tell them what is bothering you.  And together, you can see if you can find a way to fix these problems.

By using the Supplier Challenge, you will develop a deeper relationship with your suppliers.  And at the same time you can use the print supplier’s expertise and creativity as well as your own.   With help from your print supplier, you achieve more when you try to solve print problems.  And you remain in control of your print buying.

If you don’t use this system you will find print buying more difficult.  You will not have the same control over your print problems.  These issues will become more time-consuming and you will achieve less.  And you may not resolve issues so effectively because you did not solve them in partnership with your print company.

So what does your print company know that you don’t?

As an experienced print buyer I am frequently pleased at how my print suppliers can help me.  Recently I talked to a supplier that was producing high value voucher books for me.  I wanted the voucher books to have a security feature.

I thought I had already come up with a good security solution.  But the print company managed to come up with three other solutions.  Two solutions saved money, and one was far more effective.  My client was delighted at the range of solutions that the print supplier and I were able to present.

What’s the best way to put the Supplier Challenge into practice?

Many people feel that a Supplier Challenge can be done by e-mail.  However, it is far better to have a face to face conversation rather than e-mail.  Talking creates a much more productive process because problems can be properly discussed.  So it is better to ask print suppliers to come in to speak with you.

However, it is not productive to have a meeting with a supplier without giving them a hint of what you want to talk about.  So when you ask the supplier in for the meeting, give them a list of your challenges.   And ask them to have a think about the challenges before the meeting.

And the meeting is rarely the end of the process.  After we have met, the supplier will usually need to provide you with prices and samples.

Here’s how a print supplier rose to my Supplier Challenge

I had already challenged the print supplier about the security of voucher books.  However, the client was also facing problems with late delivery of the books.  When the print supplier understood the extent of the delivery problems they changed the schedule.  This allowed the voucher books to be ready for distribution one day earlier.  The new timing meant that we could use cheaper distribution as well as making sure customers received the books on time.

Now we are using the Supplier Challenge to see if we can create more effective book formats together.

Here are three ways to get your own Supplier Challenge moving

–    Write down the three biggest print challenges that you currently face
–    Send these challenges to two of your main print suppliers
–    Invite the print suppliers to come in and discuss them with you

And while you are talking together, why not see if there is anything that you can do to help your print supplier to be more efficient.  After all, the most productive supplier relationships are two-way.

I like productive supplier relationships

These relationships make my job easier, and give me more time.  So I can spend more time playing with my daughter.

P.S. If you have found this article useful, you may also be interested in Print & Procurement’s supplier and client management workshops.  Click here to find out more about our supplier management workshop.

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