One thing’s for certain, in this otherwise entirely unpredictable world of supply and demand: companies looking to succeed in commerce today can’t do it alone.
Never before has there been a more pressing need for suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers to reach out to their universe of vendor partners that make up global supply chains. Customer demands for flawlessly reliable service are intensifying, and can’t be met without the cooperation and support of every stage that’s required to get product to market.
So when a buyer of materials, products or services encounters an especially valuable provider, it’s important to recognize that entity. Hence our annual focus on “100 Great Supply Chain Partners.”
The value of the list lies in the criterion for inclusion: vendors must be nominated by their customers. Such testimonials are the true measure of whether a company is living up to its marketing and P.R. claims. They tell us how providers are functioning in the real world.
What makes a “great” supply chain partner? Over the years, we’ve consistently identified 10 characteristics that make vendors stand out from the crowd. They’ll be familiar to anyone who manages global supply chains, or for that matter any type of business: reliability, service excellence, value, knowledge of the customer’s business, problem-solving skills, an attitude of continuous improvement, solid after-sales support, a positive “can-do” attitude, global reach, and strong leadership.
The crises of the last year and a half have only served to underscore the need for these stellar qualities. Businesses that made it through the pandemic and subsequent economic freefall did so in large part by relying on their networks of trusted vendors. Often they would be asking providers for a degree of loyalty, reliability and service that was unimaginable prior to the arrival of COVID-19. Even as the virus is subsiding — and at this moment, we’re not entirely certain that it is — the requirements for acceptable service are only growing more intense. Many of the shopping patterns and expectations that end-customers adopted during the pandemic are permanent. The omnichannel is here to stay. E-commerce will continue to grab ever-larger portions of retail sales. Sellers’ ability to deliver orders within a day or two will be taken for granted. Innovations in technology, especially in the areas of analytics, automation, digitization and artificial intelligence, will proceed apace.
Our annual issue on 100 Great Supply Chain Partners offers more than a list. In these pages, you’ll find a variety of actual case studies that drive home the nature of true partnerships in difficult times, and offer valuable lessons for others to follow. Drawn from testimonials by nominating businesses, they range over multiple industries and a wide variety of products and services. But all display the kind of attention to service that’s key to successful partnerships today.
Businesses looking to survive the next round of disruptions — and who can say what form those will take? — will continue to grapple with the challenge of ensuring supply chain resilience. They’ll be doing it with the help of solid partnerships. Global supply chain management is, after all, a team sport, and the contribution of each player is vital. Winning in the most challenging of times depends on recruiting partners that are nothing less than “great.”
This year's 100 Great Supply Chain Partners: