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5 Ways Manufacturers Can Improve Their Business Partnerships

5 Ways Manufacturers Can Improve Their Business Partnerships

Learn how manufacturers can achieve success by building strong partnerships across the supply chain.

All your equipment could be running at full steam. Your team could be working with unparalleled speed and productivity. Products may be coming off the line without a single defect. You’d still be missing one crucial piece of the puzzle for success in manufacturing.

You need strong partnerships — from one end of the supply chain to the other.

Before you can produce anything as a company, for example, you need to establish partnerships with the right suppliers, who will sell you all the raw materials that go into making the goods in your particular market segment.

As your factory runs, meanwhile, there will inevitably be times when machinery malfunctions or needs to be upgraded. That’s when you call upon your partners in the vendor or service provider space, who can triage issues to minimize any potential downtime.

Then there are the partnerships closer to the customer level. These can include brand partners who sell the goods you produce directly. In other instances you might work through an intermediary, such as a third party that assists with assembling products in their final form or who customize it depending on an order specification. Resellers represent another strategic player in the manufacturing ecosystem.

Finally, manufacturing would be pretty pointless if you didn’t have reliable partners in the logistics and fulfillment space, such as transportation firms who can move products from the factory to the warehouses where they’ll be waiting for customers, or directly to customers’ front doors.

Most manufacturers take a great deal of care in who they choose as partners, and with good reason.

Every time you need to renegotiate an existing partnership agreement, or switch to a new partner, the impact on the bottom line can be significant.

Much like brands and consumers, manufacturers have come to recognize that partnerships are more than the contracts that specify their terms. They represent relationships they have with other organizations, and more specifically the people who work there.

The hallmarks of a healthy relationship your partners build upon the following best practices in smart manufacturing:

1. Enhance the accuracy of sales/demand forecasting:

If a manufacturer orders too much raw material and doesn’t wind up using it, they’ll either suffer the financial consequences or have to pass them on to suppliers who take it back.

It’s similar when transportation firms send out too many trucks to pick up products from a manufacturer. It’s a waste of time, which of course is also a waste of money.

The better manufacturers are able to harness data to forecast demand based on real-time information, the more they and their partners can move forward with confidence.

2. Extend visibility to channel partners

Resellers often augment a manufacturer’s existing sales force, but they aren’t always treated with the same level of communication. They get sent e-mail messages about business demand, for example, or they have offline conversations with manufacturing reps that don’t get captured for are forgotten,

Much as suppliers and logistics partners benefit from information like accurate sales forecasts, manufacturers should think about how digital tools could give resellers a greater line of sight into order volumes and customer opportunities.

3. Automate the most manual or repetitive tasks

Ask your team to rate their love of invoicing on a scale of one to 10, with 10 meaning they love it. How many of them are at the high end of that spectrum? If the answer is “none of them” the same is probably true of partners to whom you’re sending or with whom you’re exchanging invoices.

Being able to automatically update invoices is just one example of how onerous processes could be streamlined across the manufacturing ecosystem. Think about reviewing some of these areas the next time you’re set to renew a partnership, and explore the technologies available to help.

4. Build greater alignment across departments

If partners feel like the proverbial left hand of their manufacturing partner doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, they begin to worry. Or, to put it another way, if a partner is talking not someone on the manufacturer’s sales team, they shouldn’t be worried about whether someone on the marketing or operations team would tell them a completely different story.

Having collaboration tools that are easy to use and available anywhere are a way of breaking down the silos that can crop up in many kinds of organizations. A more aligned internal team will bring obvious benefits to your company. However it will also ensure that any of your partners can get the answers they need and, more importantly, trust what they hear. You should be looking for a platform that gives everyone, no matter where they sit in the company, a 360-degree view of what’s going on at any time.

5. Boost the ability to access actionable insight

A data-driven manufacturer is a dream partner — not only because they can accurately forecast demand, but to determine what to do when demand isn’t where it should be.

Analytics lets you take what would otherwise be static data and use it to identify trends and patterns to improve operations. This includes many actions that would make it easier for your partners to give you what you need to be successful.


Like any other relationship, the best manufacturing partnerships often come down to strong ongoing communication among all parties concerned.

This goes beyond the day-to-day updates about orders or repairs. It’s having a regular dialogue about what’s working, what’s not, and where there could be improvements to create greater efficiency, productivity and value.

When you manage partnerships well, you can achieve the same kind of loyalty that the most successful brands enjoy with their customers — and all the growth that comes along with it.

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