Choosing good supplier performance metrics

I’ve discussed previously how supplier performance metrics work best when they are aligned with and support overall corporate goals and strategies and reasons why they can fail. But the challenge remains of how to tell whether you’ve come up with a good metric.  There are many ways to look at a metric to judge how effective it will be. Here are a few basic questions to ask about a metric:

  • Does the metric support the expectations you have of your suppliers’ performance?

Firms need to define and communicate performance expectations for suppliers. Then they should measure supplier performance against these expectations. Thus, the metrics need to provide insight into whether performance expectations are being met. For example, if you expect your suppliers to be responsive when problems arise, how do you measure that? You many need to measure more than just the quantity of corrective actions (CARs) you’ve issued to a supplier. The metric may need to be CAR response time and how many CARs are resolved or closed. Or alternatively, track how quickly suppliers resolve performance issues by tracking when identified and when resolved.

  • Is the metric based upon reliable and credible data?

Disputes over inaccurate performance data cost time and money and they can result in distractions and misplaced focus. For example, if you measure suppliers for on-time delivery, is your data accurate? Be sure that items are not sitting on the dock for days before they are received. Or, if you measure product or service quality, having a common understanding of the definition and the calculation of the metric is necessary to avoid a distracting focus on the calculation rather than actual quality.

  • Is the metric relevant?

If you track a supplier’s inventory turns, what does that tell you? Do they have internal bottlenecks? Do they use poor inventory management practices? You will never really know from tracking their inventory turns. It is preferable to find metrics that provide more insights.

  • Is the metric actionable?

Some firms choose measurements simply because they are readily available.  Metrics calculations can expose problems, but cannot always lead to resolving them because it is unclear why a problem is occurring. For example, knowing a supplier’s quality performance is important. But you may need to track additional metrics to understand other dimensions of quality. Knowing why it is getting worse helps the supplier take action. Often underlying business practices will reveal the root causes of problems.

Sherry R. Gordon

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3 Responses to Choosing good supplier performance metrics

  1. Sherry, Your article offers excellent advice that extends beyond supplier metrics. I’d like to add that when reporting metric results, it’s best to include a legend or footnote explaining the source data, definition, and calculation to avoid the distraction and misplaced focus that you had mentioned. When this information isn’t included, it’s been my experience that people often misinterpret the metric and report different and conflicting results to management, causing your credibility to come into question.

  2. Adrian says:

    Great post – it’s always surprising how many organisations spend huge amounts of time producing metrics or little value. The key point for me is the last one. Metrics should tell you to do something for example if your on time delivery performance is low then what are you going to do with it? I always like the “plan – do – check -act ” mentality, the emphasis on the act!!!

    I’m also reminded of a mantra my old boss used to say – less charts and more parts!!

  3. Harvey says:

    Can anyone suggest a good supplier performance package that I can use? I’ve been in the industry for a long time learning while doing business. Now I am preparing for the APICS CSCP exam and I’m thrilled with what I’ve learned on top of my base of accumulated hands on experience. I would like to use a a simple, yet all-encompassing metrics form, template, or inexpensive software package to improve supplier and corporate results. My email is Thank you

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