Forget Public Relations, Invest in Supplier Management

There’s an antidote to all of the negativity going around surrounding supply chain practices (AHEM, the complete inability of British retailers and restaurant chains to keep horsemeat out of burgers). Still, antidotes are not panaceas. And even before treatment for the underlying malady of supply chain traceability indigestion, it’s worth considering what Spend Matters believes to be a set of powerful statements from Forbes Contributor Cecilia Rodriguez in a recent column.

Rodriguez frames her argument suggesting by suggesting that “social media are simply a vector by which information is shared … So no amount of chatter monitoring or reassuring tweets from PR people addresses the underlying facts. The virus is the truth, and it’s going to get out no matter how expertly companies handle a portion of its revelation. In fact, the horse meat scandals — just like the unsafe or unfair labor practices that have preceded them — are proof that your supply chain is at least as interesting to your stakeholders as your latest, miraculously brilliant marketing campaign.”

She is also right to note that “social is not about engagement,” and “social media are more interested in your supply chain than how you brand it. You should be, too.” Rodriguez’s overall argument – rush, don’t wait, to read the entire column – is powerful stuff for companies that would sooner spend millions of dollars annually to monitor and engage external parties in a social conversation than make the right investments in supply chain traceability, risk management and related on-boarding and vendor management practices.

To paraphrase Rodriguez, what you don’t know about your supply chain these days is of more interest to those on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ than what you control and shape through media meddling and social engagement. This brings us to the antidote:

  • Reallocate effort, dollars and brainpower to not just shaping social conversations but impacting behavior in the physical supply chain
  • Work with consultants and third-party providers not just to define optimal cycle times for category sourcing and e-invoicing activities, but to find out what is truly best in class for supplier management practices
  • Invest in the right sets of supplier management toolsets to control onboarding, certification management and supply chain assurance
  • Identify the right set of industry partners (if applicable) to work with in setting standards for supplier practices and compliance expectations and the means by which vendors will be measured and monitored
  • Don’t take supplier claims on face value. Just recently, our network site MetalMiner discovered metals companies making potentially false claims about conflict minerals compliance on their websites. Don’t trust – validate.
  • Engage supplier management BPOs such as Achilles and Helios to manage these activities on your behalf (ideally with like-minding companies who can help set industry standards)
  • Build the right business case for supplier management programs and engage stakeholders in quantifying the overall costs of supplier non-compliance
  • Stay up to speed on the latest strategies, technologies and programs to monitor supply chain risk, vendor management and related areas

Spend Matters readers have access to tons of free research on the topic of supplier management and supply chain risk and business practices in our free research library. Selected titles and links are here:

Spend Matters PRO subscribers have access to even more insight into the topic including recent research briefs:

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