Procurement divisions have always played a key role in industry, whereas the strategic value of an organization's relationships with its external stakeholders, especially its suppliers, has often flown under the radar...
September 04, 2019 . 5min read
The customer-supplier relationship is a topic that frequently crops up in business books, at conferences, and in companies. In fact, the customer-supplier relationship is one of the cornerstones of a successful business. And the best customer-supplier relationships are good for both parties.
From the customer’s standpoint, suppliers play a vital role in developing and manufacturing products. Therefore, selecting the right supplier is critical. And your selection criteria should go beyond just technical capabilities. For high-tech industries like infrared imaging, your ideal supplier should deliver state-of-the-art know-how and scientifically-proven systems.
Read on to learn how to select a supplier that will support your development and integration projects, and how the right supplier can be a source of competitive advantage for your business. When it comes to rapidly-evolving technologies like infrared imaging, your supplier should also be your strongest ally!
A contract is not enough: Your supplier should be a true partner
Infrared imaging is technologically complex, which means that your relationships with your suppliers are strategic. The right supplier can help you mitigate financial risk, of course. When you partner with an expert at the leading edge of the technology concerned, you create opportunities to differentiate your products through enhanced (and relatively rare) features and capabilities.
Trust between a customer and supplier is especially important in a high-tech field like infrared imaging. And trust is vital to establishing a relationship that benefits both parties. To create trust, customers will often adopt a strategy of securing their relationships with a limited number of approved suppliers.
In other words, customers create and nurture true supplier partnerships, in which both parties are heavily invested.
For the partnership to be a success for both parties, the customer will often get the supplier involved in the product development process as early on as possible. Here again, this is especially important with rapidly-evolving advanced technologies like infrared. By getting suppliers involved in the development process early on, the parties share the costs (and associated risks) of developing new technologies and scaling them up for manufacturing.
At first glance, this type of relationship may appear perilous. However, just the opposite is true. The unwavering trust that underpins these relationships is extremely beneficial to both parties. Trust gives both parties the flexibility they need to respond to unexpected events, to seize upon opportunities as they arise, and to innovate.
A broad palette of services
Training centers: An effective way to deliver superior customer support
Customer support is one of the pillars of effective, long-lasting business relationships. In fact, with each project completed, the customer support knowledgebase is expanded. The new knowledge gained can also be leveraged to develop increasingly targeted services. Customer support also works closely with the R&D, engineering, and product departments to develop thorough knowledge of the capabilities that can be offered to customers.
Suppliers that have fully understood this principle offer effective services like training centers. The goal is to bring customers dedicated testing and training facilities to meet their needs.
This type of support is particularly well-suited to infrared technology. The training center is run by project managers with the appropriate technical competencies who support their customers’ product development projects. The project managers sometimes work on site at their customers’ facilities, assisting them with their infrared development projects, raising their awareness of the technical requirements of infrared technology, and training them on how to integrate infrared components into their products. The project managers then host their customers at the training center to test their components, validate the technical configuration, and improve the quality of the final product.
Here is an example:
A customer would like to complete lab testing for an infrared sensor integration project. They need to measure NETD, response time, and noise. The tests reveal that the aperture is too small and that the component cannot be integrated into the product as-is. The training center’s technical experts then work on finding an appropriate solution to the problem.
Continuing professional development: The key to a long-lasting relationship
Ongoing product training is not something that should be left up to chance. It is essential to maximizing the product’s lifespan and maintaining the quality of the customer-supplier relationship over the long term.
Often, the supplier will have a library of practical documents made available to the customer. These can include user guides and technical specifications. Some suppliers even offer a personalized extranet. These resources, combined with classroom training, help ensure that the customer’s employees acquire the knowledge and competencies they need.
Scientific and technical guarantees
For advanced technologies like infrared, your supplier has to be an expert. And their expertise should be backed by partnerships with leading research organizations. From the customer’s standpoint, high-level scientific and technological expertise is essential to developing new products and processes and to acquiring new technologies.
Partnerships with leading research organizations give your supplier the advanced capabilities they need to innovate.
Some suppliers even establish research contracts with these organizations and file patents to protect their exclusive rights to use a technology.
Leti, a CEA Tech institute, is one such research organization. Leti conducts pioneering R&D in micro and nanotechnology and is an active contributor to advances in infrared technology. For smaller companies, working with suppliers that are deeply committed to the development of their industry and backed by some of the top technological innovators in the world provides the guarantee of a strong, effective partnership.
Again, the best way to ensure that your project is a success is to involve your suppliers in your overall strategy. Some suppliers are even open to sharing risk and profits through special contracts.
But let’s take a few steps back. The first step is to carefully select your supplier. This means ensuring that you share the same vision and goals, of course. But it also means checking that your supplier can offer concrete guarantees (in the form of proven systems and processes) of support throughout your project.
But that’s not all. Your supplier must also demonstrate an ability to remain agile and responsive so that they can continue to meet your needs regardless of any events that arise during your project. This last point is particularly important in innovation-driven fields like infrared technology.
These are the foundations for an effective, trust-based relationship and long-term peace-of-mind.
If you have specific questions relative to your projects, talk to one of our experts. Claim your free, fifteen-minute call with a member of our customer support team now.