Supplier control can often be one of the most challenging tasks for companies.
The documentation required for compliance, to both retailer and technical standards, needs to be regularly assessed and approved to ensure its relevance.
These demands only increase with time as a business scales, so too will its need for greater oversight in terms of compliance.
This typically means more staff-hours and resources, that could be spent elsewhere, are spent focusing on your suppliers and ensuring all is in order.
It is therefore no surprise that as a business grows it will often seek to automate this early, yet crucial, step in its processes.
The challenge that they are posed with therefore is, how do you make the leap from a paper-based system to a smart system?
There are three crucial steps that any company do, starting immediately, that will allow them to move away from the daily demands of their supplier system to a system which drives efficiency and frees up resources for other areas of their working day.
1. Delegate work to your suppliers
Smart companies and individuals delegate tasks effectively.
Doing so allows tasks to be completed at source and can help avoid scenarios where unnecessary time is spent completing actions where the more knowledgeable party can do the work in, potentially, a fraction of the time.
Delegating the work to your supplier also allows presents you with an opportunity cost as you may have more pressing business-enhancing projects on your plate in other areas of the business where your expertise might be needed.
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.
More importantly for you, this means you can begin to eliminate time sinks as you no longer have to chase suppliers or wait to hear from them as they collate the answers you need before continuing with your day-to-day.
Effective delegation of this work 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 and informed 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 the work.
Examples of smart alerts that are easy to set up
- Your document expires and needs to be reviewed and re-uploaded.
- If a supplier fails to complete a questionnaire, the system can chase the supplier to remind them it is outstanding.
- The supplier completes work that requires your team to review it.
However, it is worth noting that not all events in your system are equally important. Every single action should not trigger an email notification; otherwise, your inbox would be swamped with hundreds of messages that you might, eventually, start ignoring.
As a rule of thumb, we typically 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 Corrective Action Protective Action, 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, or team member responsible, 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 act when needed.
Example of a highly automated document review workflow
- 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.
- 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.
- Once the supplier has uploaded the documentation, a notification is instantly sent to your team letting them know to approve the new documents or to reject and ask for replacement documents.
- When the document eventually expires, a new document review is created in the system automatically and 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.
- If the supplier fails to respond within a week, a reminder email can be sent to them.
- If the supplier completes the document review, a dashboard notification is sent to your Supplier Quality Management team acknowledging this.
- You can build any number of reminders and escalations by creating additional notifications. This allows the system to automatically chase the supplier for documents.
The above 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 and resources required 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 make today, 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. We promise, you won’t go back.
Disclaimer: This blog is not legal advice and should be considered educational in nature. You may implement this advice at your own risk.