Christopher Staub is a corporate raw materials coordinator with Advanced Food Products. Part of his job role is to ensure proper supplier documentation is in place for incoming raw materials. As a current TraceGains user, Staub offers his tips on how to help with supplier document management.
What’s the best way to collect supplier documentation? You might read that sentence and think there is no best way…and you would probably be correct. There really is no best way to gather documentation other than sending a representative out to a supplier’s facility for an audit and document gathering. But we simply don’t have enough personnel to go that route.
Let me preface this by saying that one year ago, we had almost all of our supplier documentation in order, but it was already outdated, with some documents even as old as 2002. We needed updated information, and so began my journey of document collection…with plenty of pains along the way. For example, one of my least favorite tasks was explaining to a supplier the process of scanning a document to an email and then adding that scanned document as an attachment to an email. The best part? After this time-consuming process, I found out that the supplier could have simply attached the digital copy to begin with. This ultimately gave me quite a few headaches, but, to be honest, I think the actual aching came from me banging my head against the wall. Of course, this was a rare case. On some occasions, suppliers would actually have an efficient two-day turnaround on large quantities of documents. This was the perfect scenario! In the end, we managed to gather roughly 95 percent of all the documents my company requires, but as my example above illustrates, it was no easy feat.
With that being said, I would like to offer these tips to help you with your supplier document management.
1. Ensure Reference Numbers Are Consistent
Nothing is worse than getting responses from suppliers informing you that they cannot provide the documents you requested because they don’t know what materials for which the request was made. This is simply because your reference numbers aren’t matching theirs. To avoid this conundrum, make sure the ingredient name and part numbers that you have in your system match that of your suppliers. This will save you a lot of time and back-and-forth emails in the long run.
2. Approve and Store Documents Quickly
Typically, I try to approve and store new documents within a day of receiving them. If you are collecting a large amount of documents, you don’t want to get behind in the reviewing/approving process, especially when you have automatic emails going out to suppliers. You will not gain any bonus points if the supplier has to send you an email stating that the document in question was sent over a month ago simply because you did not have the document reviewed and stored correctly.
3. Accept Many Different Document Forms in Different Formats
Action Forms and questionnaires are great for collecting and extracting data, but will be rendered useless if a supplier does not/refuses to fill them out. It makes sense when you think about it… If I were a supplier, I wouldn’t want to fill out multiple questionnaires from hundreds of different purchasers–that would be exhausting. To help remedy this situation, I suggest setting up your systems to accept any supplier document in as many file formats as possible, so long as the document satisfies your requirements.
4. Keep Emails Clear and Concise
When you do need to email a supplier, make sure emails are as clear and as short as possible. With suppliers presumably receiving a significant amount of emails daily, it’s imperative that you get to the point as quickly as possible. Don’t make it the supplier’s job to sift through an agonizingly long email. Keep it simple.
5. Make It Personal
When all else fails, give the supplier a call. And while we do live in a digital age, sometimes a simple call will make all the difference and produce results. I’ll admit, I am a Millennial and would rather send a text or an email versus having to call someone. But the fact is, calling works.
Do you have additional tips regarding supplier relationships or document management? Leave a comment below and share.