At many companies, supply chain interactions with the customer begin and end with making sure that the products are delivered when and where the customer wants them. At Avery Dennison, however, supply chain managers don't just focus on getting product to the customer, they also serve as an extension of the sales force.
Avery Dennison, which is one of the largest manufacturers of pressure-sensitive materials like labels, is both bigger and more supply chain-savvy than many of its customers. In fact, members of the company's Supply Chain Services Group often find themselves serving as logistics consultants and teachers to their customers, said Kent Packer, director of supply chain services, during a presentation at CSCMP's 2010 Annual Global Conference in San Diego.
Avery Dennison's supply chain specialists use sales calls as an opportunity to learn more about their customer's supply chain by asking questions like: What about your business or supply chain drives you crazy? What's holding you back from success? What are your inventory turns? How can we help you?
If the customer reveals, for instance, that it's struggling with stocking problems, the Avery Dennison specialist might walk the client through basic inventory management concepts like kanban or just-in-time delivery. From there, the discussion might turn to ways in which Avery Dennison's delivery services can help the client cut down on the volume of inventory it's holding (35 percent of Avery Dennison's offerings can be delivered in 24 hours). "We tell them, 'Let us be your warehouse,'" said Packer.
Programs such as this can not only help you make additional sales but also make you indispensable to your customer, said co-presenter Stan Fawcett, a supply chain professor at Brigham Young University who has been researching customer engagement. During the presentation, Fawcett noted that more and more companies are seeking to rationalize their supplier base. A supplier that engages its customer and makes itself indispensable has a far greater chance of keeping that business, he said.
On a personal level, interacting with the customer can also help supply chain professionals advance their careers. In a separate session at the conference, Deverl Maserang, vice president of North America product supply and logistics for Chiquita Brands, told the audience that what's keeping many supply chain managers from advancing into general management roles is a lack of experience with the customer.
Maserang credits his own involvement on the sales side as part of the reason for his recent career advancement—he was tapped to take on additional general management responsibilities in February. For those logistics managers looking to follow him up the corporate ladder, Maserang has one piece of advice: Start asking to go on sales calls.