Over the past year, I have shared thoughts on several topics that are front and center in the minds of supply chain professionals. I’ve talked about supply chain resilience, the importance of digitization, transparency, sustainability, regionalization, skill sets, and designing supply chains for the future. But there is one crucial topic that is often taken for granted but is critical to success: trust.
Businesses come to Flex to help them manage their product production and supply chain. Trust is an inherent part of every engagement, and we take these relationships seriously. Trust is something that you earn over time and needs constant attention once acquired. Noted author Stephen Covey captures the importance of trust with this quote: “Trust is the glue of life…. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Trust is essential for supply chain professionals because of an important philosophical shift we’ve seen in almost every industry. Rather than focusing exclusively on cost and efficiency, premium brands are now prioritizing agility and resiliency within their supply chains to help them manage the current supply challenges. This is not a simple shift. In this blog, I’ll break down some of the best practices my team has learned in creating buy-in and trust from global premium brands.
A single version of the global supply chain
Transparency is a vital component to building trust between premium brands, suppliers, and manufacturing partners. Because the supply chain is dynamic and often chaotic, it’s vital for global brands and their partners to see the world through a common lens. The Flex Pulse supply chain visualization tool empowers our team with real-time visibility into inventory levels and provides factory floor insights, amongst other valuable insights. We can share information from our system with organizations to gain a standard view of the global supply chain that helps us collaborate to solve problems.
The biggest challenges in supply chain management are visibility and access to accurate demand forecasts. The current semiconductor and component shortages are being compounded by higher than usual forecasted demand and requested safety stock. Transparency enables supply chain professionals to make strategic decisions rather than decisions based on fear or lack of information.
Preferred suppliers are invaluable
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with suppliers that I connected with immediately. These suppliers aligned well with my company’s values, operations and were pleasant to work with. Most importantly, we were able to work together to solve significant challenges and deepen our relationship. Supply chain professionals must create and nurture a group of preferred suppliers that they know deliver quality and can even help them out of a jam from time to time.
Trust among our suppliers is a vital component of an organization’s day-to-day operations. Supply chain professionals can build trust with suppliers through fundamental — though vital — things like delivering timely forecasts that work within manufacturers’ lead times. Suppliers should know an organization’s accurate demand to keep manufacturing lines running and trust that a supply chain professional isn’t padding their data. Relationships are a two-way street, so being an excellent partner to preferred suppliers will enhance their performance for your organization.
Trust as a change agent
Trust can also be a catalyst for change. Sustainability is a cornerstone of Flex’s long-term strategy and our suppliers’ trust was vital when we released our ambitious sustainability goals earlier this year. The executive team realized if we were to create meaningful change within our supply chain, we would need the full support and buy-in of our supplier network. We had communications with each of our preferred suppliers to outline our goals and how they could contribute. We followed up with in-depth guidance and training to fully explain our process and their role within it.
Communication creates trust
Honest communication is the foundation of trust and requires constant care and feeding. At Flex, we try to have direct conversations with all our customers about the strengths and weaknesses of our engagements. Relationship breakdowns are most often caused by a lack of communication between both parties. Misalignments in expectations, goals, or timelines can cause small fissures that become large cracks if unattended to in a timely manner.
The ability to have difficult conversations, particularly those related to semiconductor limitations, — is vital to successful long-term engagements. Partnerships built on trust enable supply chain professionals to better empathize with their counterparts and work through difficult times together. Without that connection, organizations can only operate at a transactional level. To raise their game, however, supply chain professionals need to cultivate high-value relationships with their partners.
This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to communications. Supply chain professionals must build two-way feedback loops to create accountability, responsibility, and flexibility within their operations. Next month, I will share more with you on this topic so stay tuned.