I won’t regale you with the particulars of the supply chain crisis—we’re all familiar with them and doing what we can to keep product moving out the door as best we can.
It hasn’t been easy, and it’s come with some tough decision-making, including what to do when materials from your standard supplier aren’t available. For example, you’ve probably vetted some alternative component suppliers for insurance against all too familiar supply chain disruptions—perhaps a different material, or maybe a comparable part from a different supplier who quoted you a more favorable lead time.
Something about this situation got me thinking recently. While considering alternative materials, there are a series of questions you might go through:
- Does it meet the specifications of my product?
- Is it adaptable with my equipment or machinery?
- Is it easy to work with?
- Is it going to provide the quality and durability that my customers expect from our company?
These are all important questions, but the last one might be the most critical. Making a change to the way you develop or build your product can have an impact for the entirety of its useful life, well beyond your ability to get it out the door today.
With that in mind, there are a few particulars worth considering more closely as you work with your supplier network to best manage our present situation:
Field failure is one of a window manufacturer’s biggest concerns. Unhappy customers reporting a faulty product will understandably want it to be made whole. Making replacements is not only costly, but it can also interrupt your production schedule—and no one needs more wrenches thrown into their operations. What’s more, your reputation is at stake. Will that customer recommend you to their colleagues if a unit fails within a year of installation?
You’ll also need to identify the root cause of such a failure to prevent it from happening again. Let’s say you determined the root cause: a replacement spacer product you purchased as a stopgap measure between shipments from your regular supplier has proven faulty. Suddenly, you’re faced with the reality that you might’ve manufactured hundreds of windows with that same product—will those fail too? And will the supplier you sourced those components from stand by them? These are important hypotheticals to think through.
Beyond a commitment to the products you’re purchasing, consider the additional services that potential suppliers have to offer. It’s one thing to work with a vendor who will ship you a box when you need it—it’s another to work with a collaborator who is invested in helping you elevate your business.
Let’s consider again the instance of a spacer failure. Perhaps it was not the spacer itself that caused the performance problem. Rather, upon inspection, you discover the insulating glass unit was poorly assembled. And in fact, after spot-checking numerous units coming off the production line, you’re finding similar spacer application mistakes have been made with several units. No single person may be responsible for these errors, because on top of supply chain issues, you’ve also experienced a lot of turnover lately. Getting new staff up to speed quickly is not always simple.
What to do? Does your spacer supplier provide any kind of training on how to properly apply their product? Would they be able to provide technical assistance if you called them and told them about your manufacturing issues? Could they help audit your production process and help you identify any additional assembly issues you didn’t spot yourself? A “yes” to any of these questions could help you rectify any quality issues quickly and represents the kind of services that can prove invaluable in today’s challenging environment.