Why Is Supplier Management So Difficult? (and 3 ways to make it easier)

After visiting dozens of food manufacturers and listening to QA Directors, one of the biggest pain points for quality leaders is supplier management. While being a critical component of ensuring the safety and quality of your products, supplier management can be an absolute nightmare. From onboarding new suppliers to tracking non-responding suppliers, the challenges are numerous. Let’s dive into why supplier management can be so challenging and provide three practical ways to make it easier.

The Challenges of Supplier Management

1. Diverse Supplier Base: In the food industry, you often deal with a multitude of suppliers, each providing various ingredients, packaging materials, and services. Managing this diversity can be overwhelming, especially when each supplier has unique requirements and standards.

2. Stringent Regulations: Food safety and quality regulations are continually evolving. Keeping up with the latest requirements and ensuring your suppliers comply with them is a daunting task. For example, one QA leader mentioned that a recent microplastic requirement just went into effect, and now she needs to track down new documents from suppliers.

3. Data Overload: Supplier management involves an enormous amount of data – from certificates and documents to product specifications and audit results. Keeping this data organized and readily accessible is a significant challenge.

4. Risk Assessment: Assessing the risks associated with each supplier and ensuring they meet your safety and quality standards can be time-consuming and complex as well as working with other members of your organization with different priorities and metrics of success than food safety.

5. Communication: Effective communication with suppliers is crucial, but it can be difficult to maintain clear, consistent lines of communication with all your suppliers. Without a genuine relationship, supplier management becomes difficult.

3 Ways to Make Supplier Management Easier

1. Automate Onboarding

The onboarding process for new suppliers is often labor-intensive and time-consuming. To simplify this, consider implementing an automated onboarding system. Automation can streamline the collection of necessary documents, certifications, and information, making the process faster and more efficient. Additionally, automated onboarding systems can be tailored to your specific requirements, ensuring that new suppliers meet your standards from the outset.

The Allera Way. Send your customized template out to your suppliers with all their requirements instantly via email. These documents are uploaded, stored, and tracked for completion.

2. Automate Expiration Dates, Changes, and Notifications

One of the most critical aspects of supplier management is keeping track of expiration dates for supplier certifications and product specifications. Missing an expiration date can lead to compliance issues and potential risks. Implement a system that automates the tracking of expiration dates and sends notifications well in advance. This proactive approach ensures that you can take timely action, whether it's renewing a certification or finding an alternative supplier.

The Allera Way. Automatic notifications for expired (red light) or soon to expire (yellow light) that go to you and your suppliers.