Maintaining Relationships with OEM Suppliers

“Businesses are increasingly relying on their suppliers to reduce costs, improve quality, and develop new processes and products faster than their rivals’ vendors can. In fact, some organizations have started to evaluate whether they must continue to assemble products themselves or whether they can outsource production entirely.” –  Jeffrey Liker and Thomas Y. Choi via the Harvard Business Review

With such reliance and high expectations from suppliers, choosing the right one is vital, but continuing to nurture that relationship is equally as important. So, how can you do this and ensure these relationships remain mutually beneficial?

1. Communicate Clearly

Supply chain issues have made manufacturing less predictable and communication more important than ever. Communication is crucial for prototyping and quality – ultimately to ensure that your company gets what is originally expected.

Geography, a topic often talked about when choosing a supplier, does affect communication. Time zones, cultural differences, and language barriers may all create difficulties. It is crucial to make sure you and your supplier are on the same page and are open if any changes or unexpected issues arise. The better the communication, the faster and easier that solutions and a new plan can be put into place.


2. Be open with expectations

Be specific about what you are looking for. If you do this, a supplier has the opportunity to be honest about which of your product goals are realistic and will help manage the project in a professional way.

It is important to set expectations on the table from the beginning rather than to be disappointed in the end. Choosing the right supplier and having honest conversation results in risk mitigation and the likeliness that the partnership will continue in the future.


3. Be flexible for efficiencies and cost savings

Engineering is a value-added service that an OEM supplier can offer, so when product suggestions are made, flexibility to consider those suggestions is important. Know that the changes suggested are for your best interest and may lead to better product quality, efficiencies during manufacturing, and possibly even cost savings. Remember, you choose the supplier for a reason, so accept their help and ideas.


4. Trust your OEM supplier

OEM Suppliers are really important. They make it possible for you to focus less on the detail of manufacturing, continuous improvements, and setbacks (like the current supply chain crisis) and focus more on your customers.

Carefully choosing the right supplier, from capabilities to location, is vital, and growing the relationship is just as important; having the ability to trust your OEM supplier and know they are looking out for your business is everything.


The supplier you choose and the relationship that you develop with them should add value to your company and make the jobs of everyone at your company simpler. Improving supplier relationships is crucial to maintaining solid lead times and fulfilling promises made to customers.


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