6 Reasons Why Suppliers Resist Continuous Improvement

I have often emphasized that a key purpose of supplier evaluation is to drive supplier performance improvement. Although it sounds logical in theory, why is it often so hard to do in practice? Here are 6 reasons why suppliers do not embrace their customers’ requests for continuous improvement.

  1. Some suppliers simply do not know how to improve. Many companies may have done little projects here and there and call them continuous improvement (CI). But the leadership has never been educated in what continuous improvement really is and no one in the company has been trained to do it. There may be a will, but there’s no way. Such suppliers will not be able to create or sustain a continuous improvement process.
  2. Some suppliers do not want to improve. They think they are operating well enough and don’t want to put in the effort to go further.
  3. Some suppliers don’t really understand the “continuous” part of continuous improvement and think they’ve improved enough and are done.
  4. Some suppliers try to talk the continuous improvement talk without walking the CI walk. They’ll show you a work cell here, a paint a few lines on the floor there, talk about a kaizen they once did, and voila, they are lean CI experts. Scratch below the surface, and they are actually in serious need of CI.
  5. Some suppliers are sensitive to customer criticism of their operations. Rather than being grateful to an outside entity for helping them uncover opportunities for improvement and for making more money, some firms take it as criticism and resist any change.
  6. Some suppliers feel that big company CI doesn’t translate to a smaller company. They especially do not want a big customer, whom they see as having bottomless resources, telling them, a smaller company with limited resources, what to do. Incidentally, these companies do not realize that their smaller size can give them the agility to make company-wide changes without needing lots of resources.

-Sherry R. Gordon

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