Supply chain issues have been plaguing the global economy for some time now and look to continue into the future. While some supply chain delays may be hard to control, having a system of effective supply chain communication is one key to keeping your products flowing through the manufacturing process smoothly.

No matter the quantities or frequencies of orders, suppliers must understand the stakes, demands and constraints of working within the supply chain. Those requirements must then trickle down to their own suppliers and ultimately to the raw material supplier. Every part of the supply chain needs to communicate successfully to keep products on the market and ready for consumers.

These five tips can help your company effectively communicate with suppliers and customers and prevent delays caused by insufficient material information or miscommunications.

Tip #1: Communicate Early

Communicating with your supply chain as early as possible is key to making sure your production stays on schedule. Delays in communication can lead to delays in production, so communicating early is a crucial step.

Clear and detailed specifics should be communicated at the time a contract is negotiated so there are no possible doubts about the requirements. Any changes to requirements should also be communicated as soon as possible to prevent delays. Likewise, if suppliers have questions about the requirements, they should present them to their customer as early as possible.

Tip #2: Communicate Clearly

Companies should make sure their requirements and specifications are communicated with clear detail to prevent confusion. Requirements that leave room for questions can lead to materials that will not work for the product and/or do not meet compliance regulations. This can delay production and cost both the supplier and the customer valuable time and resources.

One way to help with clear supply chain communication is to provide suppliers with a resource manual. This can contain a birds-eye view of the project, state the clear expectations, address potential issues and answer frequently asked questions.

Tip #3: Have A Clear Point of Contact

If a supplier has a question or an issue, and they need to contact their customer, they need to have a clear point of contact. Talking to different people about the same question may lead to different answers, creating confusion and possible production delays.

Ideally, there should be one point of contact that can answer most questions and forward any other questions to right department. Suppliers should know exactly who this point of contact is. Companies can provide point of contact information in the resource manual (from Tip #2) they provide suppliers. If a material database, such as the International Material Database System (IMDS) is being used, the contact can also be listed there.

Tip #4: Make Sure Materials Are Reported Accurately

Failing to comply with regulations can create costly issues in a company’s supply chain. A supplied part that can’t be used in a final product because of compliance issues means not only the manufacturer is without a part, but suppliers will have to spend time and money to provide a new material that meets requirements.

Companies should make sure their suppliers know the regulations that need to be met from the beginning. They should also make sure their suppliers know exactly how to meet those requirements — for instance, by using a specific database like IMDS in the automotive industry.

One way to make sure regulations can be easily met is to ask suppliers to provide a full material declaration (FMD) for each material. This will give companies a complete picture of everything contained in a supplied part or material, making reporting easier and more efficient.

Tip #5: Educate Suppliers

If companies use a specific reporting system or method, educating their suppliers on how to use it will be mutually beneficial. While a supplier may be initially overwhelmed by using a new system, providing the supplier with documents and/or training can help build a successful business relationship and overcome potential hurdles.

Companies should also emphasize the added value of the systems they use. Data systems aren’t just beneficial to the customer requiring it; they also help suppliers report their data more efficiently, make data updates easily and meet requirements accurately.

Get Support

Successful supply chain communication is crucial when it comes to keeping your products on the market, especially as companies face widespread global supply chain issues.

If you need support communicating with your supply chain, understanding requirements from your customers or implementing reporting systems that work for your team, contact Tetra Tech’s compliance experts at imds@tetratech.com. From program implementation to online training to reporting management, our team can help you at every stage of compliance management.