Customer concerns cannot be ignored when evaluating factors that make a supply chain competitive. If it is true that the customer is the “bread and butter” for the supplier, then the supplier must take many cues from the customer in order to provide a fully satisfying buyer experience. I contend that meeting a customer's needs and keeping them satisfied is the key to not just operating a viable supply-chain business, but assuring return business in the form of continual reorders.
Lest anyone should point out that I am only stating the obvious, let me qualify this statement by saying: To be competitive, a seller must not only know what a buyer wants, but how to capture the buyer in a field of other sellers, often selling the exact same product. This is particularly the case for the distribution network of electronic components.
This article concerns itself with why I as a customer would go to a particular distributor or supplier instead of another. If I can purchase an LM358 from four suppliers or component distributors, what factors decide where I am going to make my purchase? Depending upon the urgency of my requirement, price is not always the top reason.
Having been the 24th employee as director of materials at Digital Microwave (now Aviat Networks), being hired in a startup as a director of supplies with no direct reports just meant that I was responsible for all materials concerns, including purchasing, inventory, MRP, returns, etc. So, now I had to be the person in the company that made sure that all the parts we needed to build something were on hand at the time of the build, of good quality, and at a price that allowed us to make a profit.
Over the years I have thought of the following questions: What did I learn to expect of a good supplier? Why did some suppliers emerge as my favorites over time? How did they capture my business? In the second part of this report, I will list a few of the criteria that made my supplier hit parade.