1. Does your supplier have inventory constraints?
As a supplier ourselves, we know inventory is the most crucial aspect of the distributor you choose. To put it simply, the more inventory that a supplier stocks onsite, the quicker you will get your products and the more reliable they will be. A couple of factors that affect onsite inventory are how many times a year inventory is turned and what percentage of inventory is dedicated to the products you’re looking to source. For example, many suppliers may turn inventory five to six times a year. Look for a supplier with fewer constraints and that only turns inventory a few times per year. If a supplier’s products are not a good fit for your inventory demographic, constraints may come up at the last minute and lead to unnecessary stress during a routine order.
2. Is your supplier flexible?
Flexibility is one of the most important characteristics you should consider because your steel supplier should never dictate how you do business. Ideally, they will work with your production model and figure out how to work around it.
3. Does your supplier have the proper internal resources to service the account?
Adequate customer service is a value-added service that immensely improves the working relationship. If you need a fast turnaround on a product, you should be able to rely on your supplier to be responsive and accurately get your order processed and delivered as quickly as possible.
4. Can your supplier offer solutions in times of need?
The company you choose to work with should be knowledgeable and experienced enough to recommend solutions in times of need. Maybe your supplier recognizes another product that fits your application that you didn’t initially think of. They should be familiar with this and know your company well enough to go above and beyond for you.
5. Does your supplier have the logistical capabilities to deliver your products?
Having all of the above is a great start, but the final key to a great manufacturer is a strong distribution network. After a successful order, your supplier should have the logistical capabilities to reliably deliver your products to you. Specifically, ask if they have their own transportation fleet or if it’s outsourced, and if there are any limitations to the geographical span of the delivery network.