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Partners or pawns? (Part 2)

Posted: 07/25/2016 - 23:38

(To read the first part of this article, click here.)

Almost a week had passed since my meeting with Jeanette and her team, and I was still reeling from the conversation. It was just so hard to comprehend how a large company can afford to alienate its supplier community. Just as I was about to hit replay on the entire situation, the phone rang.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Hey there, Dean. It’s Tino. How have you been?”

“Doing well. I was up visiting your colleague Jeanette last week.”

“That’s a very sad situation. I spoke to her several weeks back, and she wasn’t doing very well,” Tino said.

“I don’t think she’s doing much better at the moment either.”

Tino and Jeanette both worked for Wilkinson Solutions as site managers. Jeanette’s customer was one of the big three out of Detroit, whereas Tino’s customer was one of the Japanese transplants.

“I’m calling to see if you are going to be in the neighborhood anytime soon,” Tino said.

“I’ll be in your area the week after next. What’s up?” I asked.

“I’ve got a great story to share with you, or better yet to show you, if you can spare me an hour or so on your next trip,” Tino responded.

“That’d be great. From the sound of your voice, it must be pretty exciting.”

“Very exciting. My team and I have become true believers in the 3Ps that you continually preach,” Tino stated.

“Preach? I prefer the words ‘convey passionately,’ if you don’t mind, Tino.”

“Keep your shirt on, Dean. You know what I mean,” Tino exclaimed.

I did know what he meant. Tino and his team had been following the 3P Principles, focusing on understanding the purpose for why his customer outsourced their work, then aligning their processes to that purpose, and engaging their people to deliver on the purpose through those processes. Hence the 3Ps: a simple method to ensure an inside-outsourcing service provider is aligned with its customer’s needs. Something else also struck me as I thought about Jeanette, as she was also a huge proponent of using the 3Ps. In order for the 3P principle to work, you need to be a partner with your customer and not a pawn of your customer.

“Tino, I will see you the week after next.”

“Sound goods. I will inform the team you’re dropping by,” Tino replied, and the call ended.

Tino met me in the lobby of the plant with Steve, the area manager for paint. Tino and his team provided services in the paint shop, weld shop, general assembly, and plastic shops. The services included general cleaning, industrial cleaning, technical cleaning and some light maintenance. Tino and his team’s services were absolutely critical to plant production. Any misstep, and the plant lost production time.

“Dean, we know you are tight on time, so we’re going to head directly to the paint shop,” Steve said.

“What are we going to see?” I asked.

“Last year we met with the plant management team after our annual review to better understand some of their issues and concerns, and to see where we could be of support. Our customer’s paint shop team was struggling with their jig program,” Tino explained.

“Jig program?” I asked.

“You remember. All of the metal devices they use to hold open doors, trunk lids, hoods, and gas lids during the painting process,” Steve replied.

“Yes, and if I recall correctly, the jigs are a major source of contamination if they are not cleaned well and frequently,” I said.

“The plant had been spending north of four million dollars on the program, and the jigs had to be sent offsite for cleaning,” Steve stated.

“And that resulted in damage to many of the jigs and a loss of inventory,” Tino added.

“So here is the exciting part,” Steve said, pointing to a production line with a dip tank.

“We’d been experimenting with a chemical which actually melts the old paint off the jig, and, with a low pressure rinse, restores the jig to a like-new condition,” Tino explained.

“Look at these two jigs before and after,” Steve said, pointing to two jigs on the quality inspection table.

“Impressive,” I said.

Tino and Steve went on to share how they had approached their customer with this new idea. Hand-in-hand with the customer’s engineering group, a plan was put together and a cost analysis was done. This idea, as presented by Tino and Steve, was going to save the plant two million dollars a year while increasing the frequency of cleaning – higher performance at a lower cost.

“Great story, and also a great example of what happens when you implement the 3Ps,” I said, looking over the cleaned jigs.

“The paint shop guys are ecstatic,” Steve said.

“How did purchasing react?” I asked curiously, still troubled by what Jeanette had faced over the past 12 months.

“We prepared a proposal to provide the services and presented it to them, along with a timeline for implementing and ramping up the services,” Tino said.

“After the presentation they told us to go ahead, thanked us numerous times for bringing them the idea, and asked us to provide a quarterly update of our progress,” Steve added.

“So you were given the work without going out for bid?” I asked.

“Absolutely. Purchasing saw it as a way to increase our revenue and allow us to move some of our team into these newer higher-paid positions,” Tino explained.

“Amazing,” I said.

“It is a win/win for both us and them,” Tino stated.

“Even better, it is a win/win/win for the paint shop, purchasing, and you guys,” I said.

“Well?” Tino asked.

“Guys, very impressive. A great story of what happens when you abide by the 3Ps, and your customer treats you like a partner,” I said.

As I drove from the plant, my mind wandered to Dickens’ story A Tale of Two Cities. In this situation, the story could be called ‘A Tale of Two Customers’, where one group treats their inside-outsourcing service providers with gratitude and dignity, and the other treats their providers like pawns. It doesn’t take a genius to understand which is the better route to go.

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Comments

I have had the "Tale of Two Cities" experience frequently within the same company, so I don't necessarily think it's the company as opposed to the individual. I usually engage with my clients at a fairly high level, usually the CEO, but I work at lower levels and my relationship is as an agent. Few of the clients know the official relationship, I'm just another consultant. What that means is that I run into individuals who have a tendency to act like what I suppose Jeanette ran into in your story.
Because of my unique relationship and had the ability to listen and even push back a bit when the individual was just dead wrong and felt too comfortable playing the bully role. I'd let them play their role and when they were done I'd give them a lecture they never expected to hear from a consultant, I wasn't particularly nice about it. I would tell them exactly what I felt like during their lecture, tirade or whatever it was and that at the end it was clear to me that they were not acting in the best interest of their company. Shen didn't even take the time to ask me who I was consulting for. Well, she was secure in her horrible performance, because I didn't make any impact until I suggested that we were at an impasse and that that was the way things happened sometimes, but we had to get a resolution. I told her I was going to arrange a meeting with her boss and the CEO to see if we could resolve the issue. Absolute deer in the head lights look, she couldn't believe I could/would do that. I explained again how I felt as a vendor during her lecture and that I many have had a perfect solution, but based on her behavior I might have walked away. How was that good for the company? She did make a change and the relationship actually worked out. The problem here was that no one had ever confronted her. Believe me, there are a lot of "Jeanette's" out there who could benefit from a good scare.

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About The Author

Damian Scallon is the Managing Director of the Inside-Outsourcing-Institute, the author of The Outsourcing Conundrum and Fieldguide to The Outsourcing Conundrum, as well as a columnist for Outsource Magazine. Damian pioneered the early inside-outsourcing services and has stayed committed to this field for the past forty years. HIs current focus stems from a belief that a competitive advantage is gained through strong partnerships.