How to build a smart supplier management system?

Supplier control can be an arduous process for most companies. The documentation required for compliance needs to be regularly assessed and approved to ensure its relevance. As a business scales, so too will its need for greater oversight in terms of compliance.

This means more staff-hours and resources, that could be spent elsewhere are spent focusing on your suppliers. It is no surprise that as a business grows it will seek to automate this early, yet crucial, step in its processes.

How do you make the leap from a paper-based system to a smart system? There are three things that any company can do, starting today, to move away from the daily grind to letting automation improve efficiency.

1. Delegate work to your suppliers

Smart companies and individuals delegate tasks effectively. This is why Safefood 360° and many other solutions offer a Supplier Portal where your suppliers can complete work autonomously, such as responding to corrective actions, completing questionnaires, submitting documents, etc.

Effective delegation allows you to focus your energy better on reviewing and monitoring processes while they are occurring.

2. Use automatic notifications and alerts

One of the strongest tools in the arsenal of the would-be Automator is the ability to stay alert to the latest developments as they happen.

If you are a Safefood 360° user and not already maximizing the use of the Alerts module, especially in the area of Supplier Quality Management where many processes repeat over and over, you are wasting a great opportunity.

In these actions, the process is similar to a dialogue between you and the supplier, where each take turns in completing work.

Examples of smart alerts that are easy to set up

  • Your document expires and needs to be reviewed and re-uploaded.
  • When a supplier forgets to complete a questionnaire, the system chases the supplier to remind them it is outstanding.
  • The supplier completes work that requires your team to review it.

However, not all events in your system are equally important. Every single document expiry should not trigger an email notification; otherwise, your inbox would be swamped with hundreds of messages that you might, eventually, start ignoring.

I personally recommend customers use a tiered approach when it comes to configuring alerts:

  • Low priority – use the software dashboard: Events like expired documents can be pushed to the software dashboard as dashboard alerts.
  • Medium priority – send it to your inbox: If a supplier submits a response to a CAPA, a copy of the response is emailed as a PDF to your Supplier Quality Management team.
  • High priority – push it to your phone: If a high-risk complaint is logged in the system, a SMS is sent to the Technical Manager alerting them immediately.

3. Automate document expiry and review

The number one process that everyone should automate is the tracking of document expiry.

Imagine if you have 200 materials to manage, and 5 documents related to each material. Suddenly, you have 1,000 documents that all need to be controlled, approved, and reviewed at different times. This is a recipe for disaster if you don’t automate the tracking of document review.

Safefood 360° allows the supplier to assign each document an expiry date at the point when it is first uploaded. When the expiry day arrives, the system automatically reaches out to the relevant party to review and re-upload the document. This means there is no need to worry about keeping track of when your documents are due for expiry, as you can now stay informed, and only take action when it is needed.

Example of a highly automated document review workflow

  1. A supplier is working through the Supplier Portal, completing a questionnaire that also contains requests for documents such as their HACCP plan and GFSI certificate.
  2. The supplier is asked to assign an expiry date when a document is uploaded. If a supplier forgets the date or doesn’t have it to hand, your team can add the date during document approval.
  3. Once the supplier has uploaded the documentation, a notification is sent out to your team letting them know to approve the new documents or ask for replacement documents.
  4. When the document eventually expires, a new document review is created in the system automatically. An email is sent to the supplier encouraging them to re-upload the document. Simultaneously, a dashboard notification is sent to your Supplier Quality Management team. This approach, with two alerts, covers both situations, those instances where the supplier needs to do something and your team is responsible for the document review.
  5. If the supplier fails to respond within a week, a reminder email can be sent to them.
  6. If the supplier completes the document review, a dashboard notification is sent to your Supplier Quality Management team acknowledging this.
  7. You can build any number of reminders and escalations by creating additional notifications. This allows the system to automatically chase the supplier for documents.

This example shows a smart use of delegation through the Supplier Portal. Automated tracking of review dates and automatic notifications are two quickly configurable steps in Safefood 360° that can create a smarter environment, where the wheels keep continuously turning, with minimal effort from management.

The overall benefit

Automation and smarter systems mean the level of upkeep required from your staff is significantly lowered, allowing them the freedom to focus their time in more important areas.

Implementing a smarter supplier management system is a step that takes relatively little time to establish, yet continuously returns dividends to your process.

With some minor configuration, you can see immediate improvements in efficiency.

If you aren’t already doing it, you should start today and you’ll begin to notice the differences. I promise, you won’t go back.

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