Time to examine your relationship with your customers.
How Do Your Customers Judge You?
- By your ease to work with?
Perhaps you offer stocking agreements to shorten lead-times, attractive payment terms, etc.
- By your responsiveness?
Maybe you offer scheduling flexibility, moving other orders to get theirs in on short notice, or you react quickly to issues they encounter.
- By your on-time shipment performance?
- By your quality?
In What Order?
This is an important question as there is always a hierarchy to these criteria. Chances are, though you might like to believe otherwise, these are probably in reverse order.
For some customers, on-time delivery trumps quality in the priority structure.
But not very often.
After all, what good is having cans if you can’t use them?
Usually, this is the kind of customer that demands “you have those cans there no matter what”, and then calls to say you need to send people to their facility to manually sort the shipment on-site.
Definitely, not an indicator of a healthy business relationship…
But the reality remains that for virtually all customers, one of these criteria holds the power to override all of the others.
Usually, it’s quality.
There’s no doubt that accurate order entry and a timely order verification is a great start, made even better when accompanied by a great stocking program to assure timely delivery on a short lead-time, with easy payment terms. But these are “soft benchmarks”. Important, but not dominant in the decision-making process. Not having them may constitute “reasons to exclude” in a supplier evaluation cycle, but having them does not necessarily make them reasons to include. And though they lay a great foundation for a lucrative long-term relationship, one reject at the customer’s site can undo all that hard work by the rest of your organization.
As one of my first bosses was famous for saying (in cleaned-up terms for printing), “One ‘Aww-crap!’ undoes ten ‘Atta-boys!’ ”
We’ve all heard it said that on-time delivery and perfect quality are the antes to get into any business, and can making is no exception. In fact, it’s the perfect example.
Everyone in the food packaging industry understands the time sensitive nature of the business. We are dealing with perishables here and we have precious little time to execute on our production plan – lest we have truckloads of spoiled produce on our hands! But like I said above, having a truckload of cans is worthless if you can’t use them. They might just as well be coil-stock.
So, your cans have to arrive “right on-time”, and “ready-to- use”.
We’re dealing with food here! There’s no room for error. As a result, many food packers require statistical data as proof-of-quality on each lot of cans that you supply.
They may require:
- Material certifications
- Inspection records
- Reject percentages
a. Often they differentiate between in-line (vision system) rejects and HFI’s
b. Reasons for rejects
c. Where caught in the process
d. Resulting corrective actions
- Even PM records on your equipment
Again, we’re dealing with food here. They are looking for reasons that they should trust the product you are supplying. After all, it is their name on the package when it hits the shelves, and their name that will be tarnished if your cans fail! Most of all, these criteria are hints as to how well your process is working and how well you are managing it.
It helps them to sleep at night.
No Rejects = Happy Customers
You can use this to your advantage. Showing them trends in the right direction – toward zero defects – is the one thing that can cement your relationship and keep the competition at bay.
So, catching defects is good.
Of course, controlling your process to eliminate defects before they occur is even better. Because nothing is better than zero defects!
So make it easy for your customer to do business with you, and then make it easy for them to keep doing business with you – by showing them that your product is “worry free”.
That’s the way to make, and keep, happy customers!
Get your free copy of our Process Temperature Control Case Study to see how one manufacturer was able to improve production and reduce issues via temperature control solutions.