6 Reasons Supplier Ideas Can Be Science Fiction

Are your suppliers’ ideas just science fiction — ain’t never going to happen? Recently I wrote about ways to get your suppliers’ best ideas. Some firms actively solicit them.  Here’s the challenge: what do you do with supplier ideas once you have them? Ideas are great. They are kind of like recipes. You can collect boatloads of delicious recipes. But you have to actually make them to enjoy them. Or, as my grandmother used to say, “You can’t eat recipes.” Likewise with ideas. You can collect them, praise them, and share them. But in the end, what’s the point if you don’t use them?

Here are 6 reasons supplier ideas can be science fiction and not get implemented:

  1. The idea impacts departments outside of your own over which you have no control or influence. If you’re in Purchasing and the supplier has a value engineering idea, then you need buy-in and resources from engineering and possibly other functions outside of your own. Some firms are so entrenched in functional silos that they just don’t have the business processes in place to make such changes happen.
  2. NIH (not invented here). Some companies are not able to adopt ideas that don’t originate within their own four walls and are quick to reject even great ideas that don’t come from within. Some larger firms suffer from a superiority complex in relation to their suppliers and cannot fathom a supplier idea being better than what they can come up with themselves.
  3. Rigid thinking. This is part of NIH. Engineers may feel that they’ve developed the perfect specification that cannot deviate, even if loosening it would work just as well and be more cost-effective. The reasons for this resistance can be loss of face, i.e., how can a supplier have a better idea than we have?
  4. Previous failures, both real and imagined. There are always those who will claim that an idea was tried before and didn’t work — and not just supplier ideas. These are the blockers and concrete-heads who typically try to stand in the way of new ideas, often for no good reason other than a fear of or resistance to change.
  5. Time and resources to implement. Some firms don’t have (or perceive that they don’t have) the time and resources to implement new ideas, no matter how good.
  6. Asking for ideas to make suppliers feel good. Some companies think that asking suppliers for their ideas promotes better customer-supplier relations. Asking for the ideas is only step one. If a customer never implements any of the ideas, then this can backfire and just aggravate suppliers. Rest assured that supplier ideas will stop coming if asking them is only window dressing.

Asking for suppliers ideas needs to be more than science fiction if companies really want to save time and money and gain competitive advantage.


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