Sourcing fabricated components for your trailer, RV, utility truck, or other manufacturing or non-manufacturing business is about much more than price and conformance to print. Those are the minimum that every competent fabricator should provide. In our experience the most successful of our customers expect a whole lot more, and we delight in giving it to them.
Working with demanding customers has tested us and pushed us to raise our game. You could think of it in sporting terms. A weak opponent offers an easy win, but you don’t learn what you need to do to improve. Those lessons come only when you compete against the best. In the same way, our long and successful partnership with a leading trailer manufacturer has helped us become a better fabrication supplier. Here’s the story.
Expectations Spelled Out Clearly
When we started working with the leading OEM trailer manufacturer it’s fair to say we had some frank discussions. They weren’t shy about what they expected from us. Competitive prices and parts that met specification of course, but there were four additional points they spelled out:
- On-time delivery
- Superior quality
Let’s talk about what those mean and how we go about meeting them.
Successful manufacturers run lean, and our OEM trailer partner is no exception. They don’t want to hold components in inventory because that just takes up space, ties up money and risks them getting damaged. What they do want are suppliers that deliver the quantity of good parts needed, exactly when needed, every time.
This isn’t easy to achieve. It’s meant focusing intently on our purchasing and production processes, eliminating variation and unplanned stoppages, and being vigilant about detecting anything that might delay a shipment.
So where are we now? Our on-time delivery performance is in the 98 – 100% range. It’s good but we’re not complacent: there’s work to be done.
To us quality has always meant more than just maintaining dimensions within the print tolerances. It means supplying unblemished parts, finished with care and attention to detail. It means packing and shipping parts in ways that prevents damage and makes life easier for our customer, and it means getting all the documentation right and ensuring it’s legible.
Superior quality is about the total service we provide and that’s something we’ve stressed since our company was started in 1982. We think we’re doing well but we don’t stop looking for ways to do better. (And regular face-to-face meetings with our customer give us the feedback we need.)
Ever had trouble reaching someone you need to speak with? Voicemails never returned, emails vanishing into the ether? Well that’s not the Wiley way. We believe that open communication leads to increased partnership, which is why we’re always willing to talk.
It probably helps that we’re a smaller business with a family feel. We do our best to answer the phones and reply to every email as quickly as possible. If we don’t know the answer to a question we’ll find someone who does, and we’ll get back to you promptly. Being responsive is good manners of course, but it’s also an essential factor in building productive relationships with customers, whether they be trailer OEMs or others.
Persistence and tenacity are viewed as positive traits, but in manufacturing they can be a negative. Customer needs can change quickly, requiring increased or decreased volumes, alternative finishes, new packaging, or perhaps completely different parts.
Our OEM customer needed flexibility from their suppliers so they could respond quickly to changes in the industry. In response, we had to step up our game by creating a faster paced environment that let us react quickly to changes. This included hiring additional qualified staff to run three full-time shifts and putting professionals in place who focus just on the needs of this specific client.
Learning how to support our OEM trailer manufacturing customer has pushed us to work harder and do better. It’s been a journey and an experience, but has it been worth the effort?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. Our business with this customer has grown 10% every year since the relationship began. We’d say that’s a pretty clear sign we’re meeting their expectations. However, satisfying one customer is not where we want to be. We want every customer to have the same level of satisfaction, and that’s what this has taught us to provide.
So here’s the bottom line: partnering with this prestigious and demanding customer has pushed us to become a better metal fabrication supplier. It’s like a small college football team getting to play against Notre Dame: the experience is tough, even chastening, but the lessons learned help the team perform better.
If you’d like to know how we could support your business, please get in touch. We’d love to talk.