When Elvis sang “A little less conversation, a little more action please” back in 1968, it’s a fair bet that he wasn’t referring to collaboration in the supply chain.
But he might as well have been. In fact, over the years we have had an immense amount of talk about moving from master-slave relationships, building partnerships and developing new routes to collaboration. And there is evidence of progress.
Nevertheless, in conversation after conversation with suppliers, I have been left with the clear impression that they have been caught out by customer’s responses to the recession – some badly some not so badly.
And the response to that has been an even greater determination to improve the level of collaboration. I struggle to count the number of times I have been told: “We must get much closer to our customers.”
There is no doubt that this can have benefits for both supplier and customer, but achieving it is clearly not easy.
A recent comment from Nicola Linkleter, executive director of procurement at recruitment consultants Badenoch & Clark, caught my eye: “With grocers looking to cut costs it is becoming more critical for suppliers to employ customer collaboration managers. As this type of role is still relatively new candidates with the requisite skill sets and experience are in short supply but increasingly sought after.”
Clearly, there are skill sets available that are not being fully employed in the supply chain to improve the level of collaboration – perhaps it’s time to see a new focus on this.
It would be sad if the second line of Elvis’s song were still relevant in a year’s time: “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me.”