Relationships still need work
The bpma’s latest survey into supplier and distributor relationships shows there is room for improvement.
Conference delegates were the ﬁrst to hear the results of ﬁndings from a bpma two-stage research project conducted by independent specialist FACTS International. In all, 270 recipients completed the survey from both suppliers and distributors with the aims of understanding some of the challenges both parties have in improving standards.
“The level of understanding of processes in the industry varies greatly from distributor to distributor”
The survey focussed on the order process, the selection of a supplier partner and building the relationship. Of those surveyed 60% of suppliers felt that distributors have unrealistic expectations of what’s expected in the manufacturing process, however when it came to supplier service levels in the areas of quoting, proof approvals and shipping, 70% felt aligned.
Shipping of highly bespoke/imported items is where distributor expectations standards are not aligned. Distributors expect 10-20 days, whereas most suppliers are likely to estimate 20 days or more.
Distributors and suppliers see eye-to-eye on the timescales visuals should be delivered to but a lack of information provided to suppliers can delay the creation and delivery. One supplier commented: “In our experience, the vast majority of occasions when we cannot quote, or more commonly supply a visual, it is down to lack of information of inadequate artwork being gathered by the distributor.”
Another supplier said: “The level of understanding of processes in the industry varies greatly from distributor to distributor and among individuals in organisations. We encourage distributors to visit our site and this helps grow the understanding of what a wide and varied range of skills and processes are involved. It is all about training.”
When it comes down to exploring what’s important for distributors when selecting a supplier, suppliers believe it is price, however in reality price is signiﬁcantly lower in the order of highly important factors.
Throughout the survey there are many anecdotal statements suggesting a lack of understanding between parties. Can suppliers help distributors manage their client expectations? Can distributors work more effectively with customers at the start of the process to allow sufficient lead times?
Compliance at only 3% and environmental best practice at just 1% were factors that do not feature heavily when it comes to distributors choosing suppliers. From previous work commissioned by the bpma, we know that the lack of knowledge of compliance among end-user buyers is high, but never the less eight out of ten said it was important to buy compliant products, highlighting the big issue with the EE power charger scandal last year.
In relation to key services that distributors want, they say online quoting and real time stock availability is important whereas suppliers feel delivery tracking information and detailed product specs are more important. Building relationships is vital throughout the supply chain.
Another commenter said: “So much of the industry is focussed on the quick delivery standard items that are not unique and relatively dull. With a little more time spent feeding vital information down the chain quickly to suppliers we can design and supply much more bespoke products that are better branded and have a greater impact with the target audience. Failure to do this ensures more of the same continually gets thrown at audiences who become less and less responsive.”
Eighty-eight per cent of distributors felt it was important for bpma distributors to support bpma suppliers.