We talk a lot in our blogs, our website and with our customers about Supplier Engagement – it is something we believe in passionately. We have seen that by working more collaboratively with suppliers as ‘One Team’, private brand retailers can achieve more, more efficiently and more quickly. As a result, conversations that happen within the One Team often turn to change resulting in initiatives such as action-on-salt or action-on-sugar; existing and new product development (EPD and NPD); different products or initiatives with some degree of project or change management.
However, one of the places that Supplier Engagement consistently adds greatest value is around product quality. It is less about change management, but management of the status quo.
Quality can be measured in many different ways but one of the most important measures – especially for consumer products – is consistency. If a consumer is to buy a product over and over again and to trust the retail private brand behind the product, they expect consistency. It should look, smell and taste the same every time.
An essential part our Affinity™ platform is visual management. We work with retailers to define key performance indicators (KPIs) which are shared both internally with technical and product management, as well as with private brand suppliers. For change management projects these can show on-time performance to plan. For EPD/NPD it could be critical path dashboards to show development timelines and to show the measure of performance such as specification accuracy.
But these KPIs can also include product consistency. We work with retailers to share information on quality and therefore consistency. Whether this be depot QC, kitchen consistency panels or customer feedback, this can all be used to provide up-to-date feedback to suppliers on the performance of their different products, and if appropriate, their performance against targets or category benchmarks.
In previous blogs we have shared the three pillars of successful supplier engagement: communication, support and transparency.
Good communications ensure that retailers and suppliers are aligned as One Team around a common objective. Clear goals. Clear policies. Motivation and understanding are essential to getting more things done right, and right first time. Importantly within Affinity all communications are measurable in terms of delivery rates, read rates and call to action so that private brand teams can actually measure that their suppliers are (or are not) engaged.
Support is therefore also essential. Tools such as supplier self-help which makes information on process, policy and standards available 24/7 to suppliers.
But transparency is one of the most important, especially when it comes to quality. To collate information on non-conformance and to use this as part of a quarterly review will do little to change day-to-day quality, whereas to collaborate with suppliers and share product performance and customer feedback in a transparent way will help align private brand teams and suppliers around a common goal, which is quality products which consistently delight customers.