One of the best ways to improve your suppliers’ performance, besides benchmarking and supplier scorecards, is through consistent and accurate communication. While all companies focus on phone calls and email exchanges as their main channels of communication, RFQs, POs, and engineering drawings are undoubtedly the most important communication lane between companies. It’s imperative you set yourself up for success by keeping all lines of communication wide open. In order to do this effectively, knowing exactly what your suppliers need from you on a PO will make communicating easy and stress-free.
Everyone understands there is a cost to incorrect information being communicated to a supplier, but incomplete or ambiguous information can systemically drag on your supply-chain and lead to increased cost and decreased agility. Before sending out your next PO to your supplier, consider these six critical factors that will make their lives, and yours, a lot easier:
1. Revision Levels – Your purchase orders and the information they contain should mirror the drawings they come with and include all necessary details. First, consider revision levels. Have they been changed? Are they correct? Do they match the drawing? Are they actually on the PO? Additionally, keeping your rev numbers consistent with previous rev numbers will help to ensure your suppliers’ supply chain remains efficient. Asking yourself these questions and keeping revision levels consistent will prevent you needing to field that confused phone call from your supplier.
2. Bending Rules – Being aware and understanding the capabilities of your suppliers’ press brake is very important. If you’re unsure about press brake capabilities, ask yourself the following questions: Are there any holes too close to the bend line? Are there rips required? Are these rips included? Understanding the mechanics and limitations of your suppliers’ press brake is important for you and your engineering team in order to interface efficiently with your sheet metal supplier.
3. Equipment Capacity – Your suppliers’ equipment has limitations – do you know what they are? Knowing this will help you order parts without having to compromise part integrity or quality. Do you know the answer to these questions: What is the max part size your supplier can laser cut? What is the max length they can bend? And at what type/thickness of material? If you don’t know, stop reading this blog and pick up the phone – you and your supplier need to talk more!
4. When Do You Need What? – Let’s be honest, terms like ASAP are overused and aren’t that useful. Not to mention, front loading due dates to ‘buffer’ for late delivery is very inefficient. Strong suppliers are capable of staging deliveries and shipments to be triggered when they’re needed, in addition to flowing that information back through their production planning activities to ensure their operation is tuned to their customers’ needs. Ask for what you want when you want it and open that dialog with your key suppliers!
5. Incomplete/Erroneous Information – Always double check a PO to ensure your supplier is receiving all the information they need in order to fulfill the order. Glance over the order once more before hitting send to see if anything is incorrectly displayed. Consider these things: Are there any markings on your drawings that are out-of-place or would be considered unexpected to your supplier? Perhaps indicating a grain-finish on carbon steel? Anything that forces the shop floor to hesitate and reconfirm because they’re not sure they understand what they’re looking at will slow your suppliers' supply-chain down.
6. Is it similar? – While it’s the suppliers’ responsibility to review all information, and make to the print, if you order the same parts regularly from a supplier and then make a very subtle change in terms of how something is bent or welded, there is a risk that this important difference will get missed on the shop floor because the operators will think they know what they’re looking at when in fact your requirement is slightly different. Use notes in the drawing to call out information you want the operators to be aware of.
About the Author:
Andy Mulkerin (General Manager of APX York Sheet Metal) has 20 years of experience leading advanced technology development programs and overseeing global manufacturing operations. He has managed production/operations within the chemical processing, electronics, and commercial nuclear industries. He has worked on multi-billion-dollar investment and infrastructure deals, as well as spent more than a decade advising US companies on how to successfully navigate the Chinese energy market. Andy led initiatives setting up fabrication operations in China to produce equipment to the ASME NQA-1 and NNSA’s HAF604 specifications.
Andy has successfully driven technology transfer initiatives for dozens of Western energy companies including Babcock & Wilcox, Bechtel, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Energy Solutions and TerraPower. Andy is a recognized global leader in the field of US-China nuclear energy strategy and has been cited by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Andy has collaborated on numerous initiatives with the US Department of Commerce and Department of Energy related to maximizing commercial opportunities for US companies in China. Additionally, Andy also was part of the core Blu-ray strategy team for Sony in Tokyo, Japan.
Andy has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.