Thanks to the general overview, you now have a good idea of who your potential supplier is. You have a handle on the supplier’s culture, values, customer service, and growth plans, as well as how they’d fit into your current matrix.
So now, it’s time to learn what the supplier does.
This means you’ll examine: (1) the supplier’s product development process, and (2) their expertise in sourcing. (That is, of course, is assuming the supplier is a product-based organization.)
Questions to Vet Product Development
Who (or which resources) does the supplier have available for designing product?
Where are these people based? What is their background?
What does this team need from you?
What product sampling resources are available for development?
How quickly can they design?
What are the specialties of the factories?
What are the machines, techniques, skilled labor, and materials?
How are these specialties advanced or elevated?
And now, three questions behind the questions you’ll need to reflect on:
How innovative is the product development team?
Do they have the skills and resources needed for the job?
Do they have the capabilities to grow with you?
Questions to Vet Sourcing Expertise
What expertise does the supplier have in sourcing raw materials?
How big is the sourcing team?
What is their experience?
Where are raw materials or fabrics sourced from?
What product or fabric relationships exist?
How far back into the supply chain will the supplier be able to track source materials?
Where are the supplier’s primary factories located?
Is the supplier looking for new production locations or new partnerships?
What is driving this research?
What are the benefits they are looking to achieve?
How does the supplier gain efficiencies in procurement? What are some recent examples of this?
How are the prices for raw material negotiated?
I recently wrote how expertise in sourcing and transparency in production can dramatically reduce the cost and risk to your business. Therefore, if you don’t have a ton of expertise in these areas, then by all means, make sure your supplier does.
And Now, A Word About Manufacturing
Beyond these questions around product development and sourcing, you’ll also want to find out about the supplier’s expertise in manufacturing.
Now, manufacturing is a very technical subject, so if you don’t have a lot of knowledge in this area, consider hiring someone who does. This expert can validate that your potential supplier has the manufacturing capability you’ll need to keep your business running smoothly.