Supply Chain And Manufacturing Success
We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child,” right? Well, it also takes a village to successfully produce high quality parts at Apex Spring & Stamping. Supply chain management plays a critical role through the entire process. The cross-functional collaboration between suppliers, production workers, processors, and customer service representatives are all vital to effective supply chain management. When I started at Apex, I was new to manufacturing but quickly realized that relationship building and detailed communication skills are vital to effectively and efficiently manage our supply chain here at Apex. It is extremely important to set expectations with others and communicate effectively to meet deadlines both internal and external.
Relationships Are Key In Supply Chain Management
Building trust with our customers is a core value at Apex. Our reputation for delivering high quality parts, at competitive prices, delivered on time, with providing premium customer service is our continual focus.
After the initial relationship between sales and the customer is made, our purchasing team begins our process of buying material. Thankfully we have a strong supplier base that includes a long history with solid relationships. I have been told on numerous occasions how much our suppliers value Apex as a customer, and we feel the same about them! This collaboration enhances our supply in both price and lead times. As a result of these relationships it is not uncommon for them to recommend another company who could supply us with material if they are unable to produce the items themselves.
I really enjoy coordinating with suppliers on a daily basis, and the relationship goes both ways. While I was training on the job, multiple suppliers were gracious enough to give me “behind the scenes” information that enhanced my training and learning experience. We work hard to build solid relationships simply because it’s good business, and it’s who we are. It also helps to produce a better product and a better experience for our customers.
Though it is only occasional, supply chain issues can happen. Issues that can cause hiccups in the process of producing parts and getting them to the customer on time. But, how we deal with these supply chain challenges is what makes us different. Communication is key! For example, when material is running late from a mill, our suppliers are communicating this to us right away. Although this is initially out of our control as a manufacturer, what we can do is collaborate internally, make adjustments, and create a new game plan. Another result of our positive relationship with suppliers, is that sometimes freight is covered and shipping is expedited to Apex in order to get our production line running as quickly as possible. Without the strong relationship with our suppliers, that would not be possible and would have negative impacts on our production.
Moving Supplies On to Manufacturing
Once the material is in-house, the cross-functional collaboration between internal teams is where the magic happens. Engineers, project managers, tool room members, quality assurance team members, production team members, and the shipping department meet to discuss the customer needs and how we can achieve our goals of delivering high-quality parts on time. Each person plays a vital role in the village that it takes to be successful.
Supply Chain Collaboration Continues
After parts are produced in-house, the next step in the process is collaborating with processing companies. The relationships I have made with our processing companies have been some of the most important in my supply chain role at Apex. Not only have I gained knowledge of what they do and how they operate, but I have gotten to know people for who they are.
Interestingly, my background is in education, and always included meeting and addressing “the whole child.” The same can be applied to other relationships in my work today! Bringing people skills like listening, communicating, patience, and kindness to this position has proven to be very effective and beneficial. For example, there are times when I need to push parts through heat treat, tumbling, and plating, in order to get parts back to Apex to be inspected before they are either assembled and/or shipped to the customer. Without building trust, respect, and communicating well with outside processors, the cross-functional collaboration would not work at all. Sure, you could make requests and pay expedite fees, and maybe reach your deadline, but would that be the most cost effective or lucrative way to do business? Our entire team at Apex doesn’t think so.
Honing in on people skills and making genuine connections with people is very important to our business and meeting our customers’ needs in the end. Cultivating trust and respect with outside processors really makes all the difference when needing parts to be turned around earlier than a quoted lead time.
Delivering On Our Promises
After parts are delivered from our suppliers and/or outside processing, the collaborative work continues. Between our shipping department and our customer service, the collaboration is spectacular. They work very well together to ensure our customers get exactly what they need when they need it. The communication flows between departments in an effort to keep our business running as smoothly as possible. There have been various “manufacturing miracles” requested and successfully completed within a very short time. I am always amazed by our wonderful supplier base and amazing team who can pull them off.
Supply chain affects all aspects of manufacturing, despite the ups and downs of the economy. Therefore, the cross-collaboration and hard work between various departments and workers both internal and external, are what continue to make Apex Spring & Stamping a trusted partner to so many of our customers!
Written by: Jay Kasper, Purchasing and Supply Chain at Apex Spring and Stamping