Getting your manufacturers to help you meet the challenge
A slow Wednesday afternoon is drawing to a close when the phone rings. The account you’ve been cultivating for the past year is on the line and needs you to help him implement the project you quoted for him at least a half dozen times. Great! The effort finally is paying off! Then comes the bomb. He needs it operational in ______ (fill in the blank with an impossible lead time)!
Deliveries requested in advance of standard, stated lead times are the norm rather than the exception in our industry. Speed is king when companies realize there are savings to be gleaned from automation or facility improvement. So the gauntlet is thrown down and distributors must react—which means the manufacturers they represent must react as well. These high-pressure, quick-turnaround orders can be successful for both if communication and cooperation remain at a high level throughout the process.
Many factors relating to fast deployment can be mitigated before the order. Ease of pricing and extensive product training by the manufacturer can ensure that the distributor has the tools to provide the right solution at the right price before the PO is received. Changes after the fact are the biggest time traps in the process.
A clear definition of what’s being ordered is the most important first step in meeting tight shipping dates. Communication at this point is critical between manufacturer and distributor. What exactly has been sold? What exactly are the expectations? Many projects are phased implementations with multiple shipments. Determinations need to be made concerning what products are needed and when.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The distributor may have a plan in mind, but the manufacturing schedule may not allow for that precise sequence to be met. Maybe there’s a way to implement the project in a different order of events. Some orders need nonstandard items that are not “off the shelf” or require purchased items. This also can be a hurdle. As much information as possible has to be shared and understood in the first pass among all three parties in the transaction—the distributor, the manufacturer and the customer.
The manufacturer should flag quick turnaround orders as “hot” or “rush” and pay special attention throughout the order entry, engineering, build and ship process. This is the manufacturer’s opportunity to shine. Proactive contact should be the rule. The manufacturer should not wait for the distributor to call and ask about the order status. The manufacturer should reach out to the distributor and let him or her know what’s happening, at least weekly. This is true for the manufacturer’s customer service personnel and particularly the account manager or salesperson.
Commitment to the End
If the manufacturer provides the distributor a high level of assistance throughout the process, ultimately it will help the distributor maintain control over customer expectations and meet deadlines. Proactive communication is a necessity. If a change is requested in either the content or the schedule, the distributor must contact the key people at the manufacturer immediately.
As the shipping date arrives, procure reliable carriers that can guarantee the delivery date and time, along with availability. The same type of assurances must be gathered from any trades or subcontractors who may be involved in the execution of the project.
Turn Challenges into Profits
Quick deployment projects can be a real advantage for distributors and manufacturers who can meet the challenge. A reputation for meeting deadline crunches should translate into more business and potentially higher profits for the top performers. Keeping the circle of communication intact is the key.