You’ve down-selected to just 3 or 4 suppliers from the replies of the requests for information (RFI), what now? Jump right straight ahead to sending them a request for quotation?
Not quite yet. There is one thing you can do to save you from wasting precious and limited time on paperwork, i.e. drafting the request for quotation and reviewing their replies later: perform a site visit, or also known by factory tour, plant tour and more.
Why is site visit capable in helping you save your time? What more can you get from a factory or plant tour? This post has all the answers you need.
3 main purposes for site visits
When we talk about site visits, we usually refer to sites visit with the following 3 purposes:
Source for an ideal supplier
Site visit can be a valuable experience for you to see for yourself the operational capabilities, manufacturing procedures and company culture in a potential supplier. This is especially important if you are to work with a supplier for the first time. Because you can always see something different from what you can see on the websites, business proposals and company pamphlets.
Assess or evaluate your current supplier
Factory visit can also be a fruitful tour where you can assess or evaluate your supplier‘s capabilities and decide what you need to do to improve your current cooperation situation.
Learning and teaching
In other cases, a site visit can be a vehicle for you and your supplier to share advanced knowledge and best practices. In this way, your connection with your supplier will be tighter and closer and your supplier will very likely grow into your future needs.
In this post, we mainly focus on the first type of site visit, i.e. the site visit that allows you to decide if you want deeper business engagement with the potential suppliers.
Why should you do a site visit?
As mentioned above, site visit is a great way to save you time from drafting and reviewing the request for quotation. Adding to the advantages, it’s a great way for you to collect the information you need to decide whether to work with the supplier, or how to work with them in the future.
Here is a list of reasons why you should consider doing a site visit when you can:
- Site visits allow you to gather both subject and objective information of the potential suppliers;
- Factory tours allow you to have interactions with the people who’ll be responsible for your project or product;
- Plant tours allow you to verify the accuracy of the proposal;
- Factory tours provide you with more updated information than that on the company brochures, more insights into your supplier’s operational capabilities, and how big their potential would be in meeting your needs;
- Site visits allow you to decide how likely you are to work with the visited suppliers;
- Factory tours gains you insights of how the manufacturers usually work, so you may have a better judgement with future potential supplier selection;
- Plant visits allow you to have the opportunity to gauge the possible risks you might face if you decide to work with the supplier;
- If you’re a project manager, the site visit could be a great asset in telling your potential supplier’s qualification and capabilities in fulfilling your requirements.
Key questions to ask your potential supplier
Site visits or plant tour could be quite time and money consuming, and the last thing you want is to make it a daily tour to the factory. So, to make the most out of the site visit, i.e. find the ideal supplier for your product or project, here are some of the critical questions that you need to bear in mind:
When you’re observing the manufacturing process
- Do you see yourself working with the manufacturing supplier? What can you visualize with you working with a supplier with the manufacturing organization capability?
- Are they comfortable with you walking around and asking questions about their production? How willingly will they commit to your product and improve their capabilities?
- Do you see the production planning board, indicating the actual production capacity of the potential supplier?
- Do you see clear work instructions that are straightforward and clearly outline the production processes? Since many manufacturers take orders from many different products, and it’s important that they have clear instructions for the products.
- Do you see the maintaining information of the equipment used in the factory? Equipment maintenance periodically is of great importance to the quality and consistency of the products.
When you’re talking to the potential supplier
- How will they deal with seasonal order spikes? Do they have risk mitigation plans or emergency plans for such events?
- Do they outsource their production to sub-tier suppliers? If so, how can they make sure that they have the control over the whole supply chain?
- Who will be part of your project team? Will the people that you have had conversation and interaction with join the team? If not, what should be done to guarantee that your requirements are fully understood by the new comers?
In all, site visit is a great way for you to see for yourself how capable is your supplier in meeting your needs. If you don’t have the resources, time or the opportunities to do the site visits by yourself, feel free to reach out, and we’d be more than glad to help you out.