Open communication, loyalty and trust remain the cornerstones of our industry. They are also at the root of each successful partnership between a distributor and a manufacturer. And they remain at the forefront of the traits we must rely on when faced with a challenge in satisfying the end-user. An emphasis on these values helps the distributor and manufacturer resolve a common bone of contention…freight issues.
We have all seen similar situations. After careful inspection, the distributor’s customer uncovers a problem. A true partner will work with the distributor to resolve the issue quickly and as painlessly as possible. The only acceptable outcome is a quick resolution. However, by communicating and working as true partners, the problem might have been avoided in the first place.
Communication Skills Reduce the Number of Freight Issues
Distributors often rely on the manufacturer for information about which carriers perform best. The ability of the manufacturer to communicate that information may reduce the incidence of damaged freight which will invariably impact the end-user’s satisfaction with the purchased product.
The manufacturer is responsible for supplying the end-user with equipment that arrives on time, via the correct carrier, and in good condition. This role is complicated by a few basic issues, foremost among them is communication. Processes for providing freight quotes and estimates, selecting appropriate carriers and estimating transit times both for distributors and for end-users should be continuously refined.
Most manufacturers have the freight contacts that are necessary when the distributor and his or her customer require an informed choice about the best carrier to work with. The manufacturer who is a true partner will remain involved in the process from start to finish, communicating with and guiding the distributor in an effort to eliminate surprises.
The manufacturer should be capable of developing and fostering close relationships with those carriers who exhibit a willingness to care for the end-user’s product. Such mutually beneficial relationships help ensure the viability of the partnership between the manufacturer, the distributor and his customer. As an extension of the manufacturer’s relationship with the carrier, the distributor can and should develop his or her own relationship with the carrier who has a track record for successfully delivering the manufacturer’s products. In fact, the manufacturer should provide the distributor with a list of his preferred carriers. This list will assist the distributor who is often a third party to most freight transactions, to educate himself and to make better decisions about who is going to help him to satisfy his customers.
Communication Skills Help to Provide Quick Resolution
Choosing the right carrier for the job is only half the story, of course. Sometimes, what actually arrives at the customer’s dock bears little resemblance to the pristine rack featured on the pages of The MHEDA Journal. In order to reduce the amount of time damage investigation requires, protocols for returning, inspecting and replacing damaged material can be created. In many cases, the manufacturer can and will obtain and supply the necessary documentation to customers or distributors looking to pursue damage claims. As long as the customer marks damage on the proof of delivery, a speedy and cost-effective resolution is usually possible.
In the delivery of product which is bulky, extremely heavy and difficult to maneuver, surprises require an immediate response. Uncovering the information needed in order to expediently resolve the issue takes valuable minutes away from the distributor, from his or her customer, from the manufacturer, from the shipper and from the carrier. A checklist of required information should be on hand and distributor personnel should be taught how to handle the problem before it happens. The manufacturer and the distributor’s ability to communicate clearly will reduce the likelihood of less than ideal solutions to the problem.
Material handling equipment does not always travel well. In the case of pallet rack, it is built to stand motionless, fully loaded and assembled; it is out of its element lying horizontal (and, depending on whom you believe, “partially assembled”) on a flatbed truck or van. Our industry’s need to move large amounts of product demands that these problems be solved. More important, the role of the manufacturer in a partnering relationship with the distributor dictates that these challenges are resolved in as painless a fashion as possible.
It comes down to a strong and competent ability to communicate—both manufacturer and distributor—to prevent these challenges, and when they happen, to make right by them.
(The author would like to thank Paul Kowalski, inside sales representative for the distributor channel at Interlake, for his assistance with this article.)