High Risks in Your Supply Chain that You May be Blind To

The benefits of outsourcing production processes or services to suppliers are many: it can provide a better product or service than you would be able to produce internally; it can increase your efficiency; it can allow you to focus on core areas; and, of course, it can reduce your overall costs. Meanwhile, it also creates additional risks companies may not be factoring into their own business formula for success.

Lack of transparency

Suppliers are often reluctant to share information they may see as proprietary or confidential but it’s essential that they give reasonable assurance that they have plans in place for business continuity and that they are regularly maintaining and testing these plans. Their process may include a wide scope of operational dependencies so it’s valid for regular assurance and audits from clients.

Sufficient monitoring and alerts of operational outliers or different-from-expected production or delivery is also a basic requirement. Many clients now require automatic monitoring and timely technical reports. If your organization is not already formally requiring this from your key suppliers, introduce it into your relationship. Conjoined tests and validation exercises are valid trust builders and can improve expectations and transparency in the vendor-client relationship.

Unclear contracts

Relationships with critical partners frequently begin with a trust or “handshake” agreement on delivering a small service with little risk but develop over time into a critical dependency. When contracts are not fully formed or re-addressed as the relationship matures, both parties can end up with unfulfilled expectations and negative results.

Secondary suppliers

It’s a global market and many of your suppliers have their own suppliers – around the globe. In fact, those that are delivering value to your suppliers may be receiving value from you or someone like you. It is a small world, afterall. The key is to understand relationships that are imperative to you and their dependencies. Are several of your vendors relying on the same supplier for a raw material? Do your vendors require the same level of standards you do from their partnerships? There are many layers of business these days and it’s difficult to see the supply chain clearly across several (perhaps as many as several dozen) variables. In short, you need to know your suppliers as well as you know your customers.

Quality control

Don’t forget that because today’s global supply chains are so interdependent, the number of organizations that influence your product multiplies the complexity of product quality. Each organization carries their own process methodologies, operational policies and strategic initiatives. Each piece of these creates another layer of complexity. It’s easy for a small part to become obscure and the detail less defined, resulting in a poorer level of product. Clear service level agreements and carefully systematized audits are needed to set and maintain standards of quality.

In conclusion, many risks that come with supplier relationships can be minimized through establishing clear expectations early in the relationship and continuing to clarify those expectations throughout the working contract.

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