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purchasing points P Developing, Maintaining Long-Term

Supplier Relationships Bob Mueller Jr., Joy Global Surface Mining, Milwaukee

maintain a good long-term relation- ship with a casting supplier.


What Do We Make? Understanding an original equipment

manufacturer (OEM)’s product line can be a wonderful way to open the door separating you and your supplier. Take time to invite your supplier’s employees to visit your plant and see what you do and what you make. Do not limit this invitation to

executives, but work to include shop- fl oor supervisors and key employees who are producing your cast product every day. I worked in a steel casting facility for more than 20 years, and, over time, parts become just parts. Once in your facility, these employees can view your cast product as more than just a metal casting, but a real part with a true end use. Now these employees can tell others in their shop about what your part does and how it is used. T e new vision you create with these employees and the level of ownership that it will bring can pave the way to a strong working relationship that will last forever. Be sure to stop and visit these em-

ployees during supplier visits to off er and receive feedback on your parts. You will be amazed at the diff erences these rela- tionships can make with your supplier.

Be Knowledgeable One glaring weakness that can aff ect

cast component purchasing is a lack of knowledge about the manufactur- ing process. It will be nearly impossible for you to understand potential issues at your casting supplier unless you are

s we look forward to what we all hope is an- other prosperous year, let’s take a look at what it takes to develop and

educated in the production of castings. T e American Foundry Society off ers a series of helpful classes that provide a basic understanding of the process, but don’t hesitate to utilize suppliers as an additional source of knowledge. Cast component manufacturing is an in-depth process, and your under- standing of it will help keep open lines of communication with your supplier. A lack of understanding leaves pur- chasing agents frustrated and without a clear understanding of the informa- tion coming from their casting source.

Expectations Establish a clear set of expecta-

tions with your supplier early in the “

suppliers, and it can be embarrassing. We are all people who go to work

every day to do the best job we can. We are taught when young not to act in a way that suggests we’re better than someone else. We have all heard the saying, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” T e Golden Rule holds true in your relationship with your supplier. Hollering, threatening and “pulling rank” are tactics that are more likely to put you, your account and your company in a poor light, in the eyes of the supplier. Work with your supplier’s people, and

Treat people the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule holds true in your relationship with your supplier.”

relationship. T is does not warrant behavior that in some way indicates you (the customer) will always be right and they (the supplier) must always bow to your requests. T is is a time to express your deliv-

ery, quality and pricing expectations, which will drive the account and play a key role in developing your relation- ship going forward. As in any relation- ship, open and honest communication is critical. Work to establish this with your supplier and you will fi nd your relationship always in good standing.

You Catch More Flies With Honey

I have always worked hard to de-

velop and maintain strong relationships with my casting suppliers. I also have been on the other side. I’ve seen how other purchasing agents treat their

try to understand their problems and issues in a way that is positive. When issues do come up that require a more serious conversation, handle them in a man- ner that does not make you appear to be a tyrant. Every issue you encounter can be cor- rected if dealt with in a professional manner. You and your supplier are a team pursuing the same goals: on-time

delivery, quality levels within specifi ca- tions and a solid working relationship that grows the business. Your ability to work with your supplier can be either a catalyst or a wedge in this process. Maintaining a good, solid working

relationship is a process that involves both you and your supplier. T ere is no need to lay down to your supplier’s demands or allow your suppliers to run your account. I advise you to treat them in a professional and courte- ous manner that helps nurture your relationship. Acting as the ruler has its time and place, but acting as a true professional should be a daily behavior. Good luck and happy sourcing. 

Bob Mueller Jr. is senior supplier quality engineer, cast product and casting supplier development, for Joy Global Surface Mining, Milwaukee. He has more than 30 years of casting experience.


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