How to retain the best Vendors

Strategies for finding, securing, and retaining the best vendors.

In business as in sports, it’s best to have top-level professionals for staff, consultants, and vendors who fully understand all stages, processes, and manufacturing options (specialities by country, by province/state, city, county), culture, languages, and regional business practices?  Manufacturing in a 3rd world country has many challenges and opportunities.

China is the largest manufacturing country in the world for apparel, footwear, accessories and has 65 dialects, many different cultures by region, manufacturing complexities, and the challenge of understanding the product and people (strengths and weaknesses) for that province (state). It’s a published fact, that only 10% of Mainland Chinese can speak the main Mandarin language (Putonghua) fluently.

Your Existing Vendors

Lets look at your existing supply chain, why did you choose your current vendors?  Was it because::

  • They specialize or manufacture (represent) lots of different products?
  • They are an agent who has many vendors that you trust?
  • They are a wholesaler or an actual factory?
  • They have great policies about outsourcing and dishonest practices?
  • They have qualified staff requirements (expertise, training, specialty)?
  • They have the proper equipment for the types of products you manufacture?  
  • They have frequent maintenance and servicing on their machines?  Have you seen the service reports?   How many yearly?
  • Of their established sewing process?  (Flexibility, Materials, Production, Queuing, Finishing)
  • Of their “Perfect Order Fulfillment” and “Repeat Order” effects
  • This supplier has a QA or QC department, how do they record, report findings, and provide solutions?  Are you notified about major issues? 
  • They have the proper equipment for an inspection?  Is it being used?
  • You liked the culture and language in that region?  What and when are there national holidays

The importance of your “Supplier Choices”.  Are you buying from that vendor because it’s more convenient?  Or is it better for the brand image and the ultimate consumer experience?

How does the component, process or finished product fit into your budget to maintain your margins and ensure your consumers are getting what they want at the price they are willing to pay?

It’s about truly understanding your available product options, the required processes for all stages of making your yarn fibre, to spool/fabric and to the manufacturers and/or component vendors’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Who is on your team?

The importance of the team, having qualified, vetted, and validated staff, contractors, vendors, and manufacturers to support each stage of finishing and GTM (go-to-market) strategies for the products you are having produced and sold to protect and re-enforce your personal, design, brand, and corporate integrity and image?

It is essential to have timeline calendars that are realistic and complete, highlighting which department or individual is responsible for what and how much time is allocated for each stage?   Is the flow of information perfected to ensure a smooth transition throughout all stages?   Is there a double check in place to make sure the process before was done properly, completely, and on schedule?

Validating, Vetting, and qualifying

Validating, Vetting, and qualifying is essential for onboarding a new vendor.  Once the new vendor is onboard, it is important to fully train and educate your new vendor(s) about your corporate culture, acceptable business practices, your policies, procedures, systems, manuals, and workbooks.  Well at the factory it’s a good idea to speak to the owner, senior executives, pattern makers, merchandisers, sewers, and watch how the business operates.  

It is also important to ensure the migration and implementation of systems, processes, and performance measures are set up properly with a thorough understanding of expectations.

Aligning, reinforcing, and managing everyone with the intent, purpose, roles, responsibilities, and vision of the brand and the stage they are responsible for to ensure that products are effectively and efficiently, delivered at a quality that represents the personal, department, brand and corporate integrity.

What are your established performance measurement tools (KPI’s) to ensure you are constantly improving the product, people and service experience?   How do you implement lean processes to help improve the work environment for the people making your products and constantly improve the quality, price, and timelines?

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