How to spot full-service providers from product distributors: A one-stop solution supplier checklist

Simon Beaumont
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Supplier juggling not only takes up time and resources, but it can also leave you open to risk and inconsistency of service. Maybe it’s time to trade it in for a one-stop solution?

At a recent health and safety event I found myself in deep conversation with a large organisation. It seemed they were facing a common scenario for countless businesses: Sourcing all the different categories of products they required from multiple suppliers.

Unsurprisingly, this ‘supplier juggling’ was causing both the procurement and health and safety departments particular concerns. Also unsurprisingly, they wanted to eliminate these issues as soon as possible. I suggested it would be beneficial to have a further conversation with me about consolidating all their product needs under our one-stop solution offering.

It’s not the first time I have had an organisation talk openly with me about the issues that using multiple suppliers causes. It won’t be the last.

Out of control supplies

Out of control supplies

The problem is that supply chains can grow quickly, especially during rapid growth. New roles are created, new dangers faced, new requirements added, new standards need to be met… the list goes on.

On many occasions, the sourcing of products is independently executed by different departments and category managers, which means new suppliers are constantly joining the supply chain.

Before they know it, the business is juggling too many suppliers and simply cannot keep track. When I speak to those facing this situation, they find that this causes uncertainty about delivery, costs, safety, and product allocations. They also face an inconsistency of service, and staggered responses to enquiries and delivery. Let alone the added administration of all the different invoices coming in.

Consolidation crossroads

At this point businesses need to decide: Do I continue down this road, or do I source my supplies from one distributor?

There are several common terms for this solution that suppliers use - “One stop shop”, “managed PPE solution”, “supply consolidation”, etc. But do they all actually offer the same thing underneath? Or are some of them saying little more than simply, “we sell every type of product you need to buy”? This is why the decision to consolidate – and who with - should be a carefully considered and interrogative process of supplier analysis.

I believe the right candidate should deliver ALL this…

  • Simplified ordering and buying
  • Reduced safety risk and liability
  • A consistent and steady service level
  • Consolidated invoicing and time saving
  • Better control over product quality
  • Reduced delivery and shipping costs
  • Improved accounting and reporting
  • Reduced administration costs
  • Rationalised and standardised ranges
  • Support with improving cost-in-use
021 business decision

You’ll notice I said, ‘should deliver’, not ‘will deliver’. That’s because if the supplier isn’t the complete package - distributor, safety expert, account manager, order management software provider, advisor partner, product finder, innovator, sustainability provider, on-time in-full supplier, and customer service role model - you might be missing out on a benefit that you really need. A benefit that would have undoubtedly been available from at least one of your supplier partners if you had stuck with the multiple supplier model.

A 10-point one-stop solution supplier checklist

So how can you ensure you’re asking all the right questions in your supplier research – or tender process - that will cover everything you currently need and might need in the future?

My advice is to use a comprehensive one-stop solution supplier checklist - like this one. You can use this to assess which (if any) of your suppliers can provide all you need to be the genuine full solution provider you deserve, not just simply a decent distributor of products with a few extra services.

10 point checklist
  1. Are they able to source and supply every and any type of product?

This is your first expectation. If you are going to consolidate, then your supplier should be able to get their hands on any product. They should also have strong relationships with big brands and have their own supplier partnerships that stretch in all directions across the supply chain network.

  1. Will they provide you with an online order management platform or portal?

A good online order management system is an essential tool to any multi-site business. It should give you visibility and control over spending patterns and products usage. Tower’s CtrlCloud platform for example is designed for role-specific ranges and allocation to ensure safer and better buying.

  1. Does the supplier have all the necessary accreditations and memberships?

There are associations, memberships and accreditations that provide reassurance and prove a dedication to safety and continuous improvement. For example, Tower is a registered BSIF member, which ensures our products meet standards, comply with regulations, and are properly marked.

  1. Will you have access to a dedicated account manager and trusted expert?

One of the key benefits you need from your one-stop solution supplier is a personal relationship with an account manager that has a unique knowledge of your business. Our teams are not just sector experts, they are also dedicated to being there when our customers need them for any support.

  1. Do they develop and manufacture product solutions to safety problems?

There’s no better way to prove expertise than by developing a solution to solve an issue. Safety risks and product needs can change all the time, so your supplier should have a history of providing unique solutions such as our FireBear range and Flowmaster Fresh Air Breathing Apparatus.

  1. Can they provide an in-house workwear and uniform branding service?

Having a branding service is an essential benefit you need from a supplier. Their process should start with selecting garments that will display your logo in the best way to look professional and on brand. Our service for example offers embroidery and heat-seal, to create a unique look for each business.

  1. Do they have on-time-in-full distribution with scaling up capabilities?

It’s important to have the ability to deliver products within the UK, but does the supplier have other distribution centres around Europe that will support your business growth? Tower has three centres in the UK, but we also have distribution networks stretching across Europe and America.

  1. Is a complete product review part of their supplier partnership model?

Surveys show that a third of businesses look to their supplier for product information. Being able to leverage this expertise through a comprehensive review of product management, needs, usage, maintenance, buying, and safety, can make a huge impact on your business’s costs and processes.

  1. Can they provide sustainable products and end of life recycling solutions?

Sustainability has become a top priority. Businesses need their supplier to not just provide sustainable products, but also support their sustainability goals and provide solutions that help them reduce their carbon footprint. It’s also worth seeing if they have an inclusive recycling solution too.

  1. Do they provide a cost-in-use or lifetime value calculator for products?

I am a firm believer in helping businesses look beyond the initial cost price to see the benefit of opting for better quality products that last longer and increase employee satisfaction. Your supplier should be able to compare the annual cost of products as well as just the upfront costs.

I hope you find this checklist useful. We use this at Tower to ensure we’re in the best position to provide the ultimate one-stop solution. It also means our partnership model usually suits larger companies, who benefit from long-term gain and oversight over product use, spend, and allocation.

If you want to know more about how Tower partnerships work in real-life situations, then download our Tower case studies. You can also fill out a contact form, or call the team on 01202 718000.

Simon Beaumont
Simon Beaumont
Divisional Managing Director - National Accounts

With over 20 years experience driving “best-in-class” operating standards and solutions, Simon works in partnership with customers as a trusted advisor and sustainable expert supplier.

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