Yes, there must have been a conference I missed, because out of the blue I've been deluged with official letters from customers, large and small, that align nearly perfectly into two categories.
The first is a desire to change payment terms from Net 30 to Net 60, and generally includes colorful and flowery language about "how we're all in this together" and "our success is your success." Really? So my small company providing an ongoing cash loan to a Fortune-50, instead of investing in improving processes, equipment, and knowledge, is a partnership? What was my response?
I went on to explain that I wasn't in the banking business (especially these days!) and that there would be order entry delays if PO's had to be changed, and shipping delays if I put their Fortune-50 on credit hold. I was tempted to ask why they were following the strategies of the Detroit Three and whether they wanted the same results. I also suggested that any supplier who accepted Net 60 obviously had some extra margin, and perhaps there should be some pricing discussions.
The second category of letters has to do with "business continuity." Sure, we should all be concerned about that. But shouldn't we always and not just now? Medical device companies more than most I suppose since it is more difficult to requalify suppliers. In one case I am being "required" to provide notification of any changes to process, plant, or equipment… three (3) years in advance. Yes, in this dynamic economic environment. Look back twelve months to understand why that's impossible. These days my crystal ball extends out a few weeks. It must be the fancy smancy ERP systems those big companies have that are wiser than us mere mortals. So what was my response?
After a few days have any of those customers responded to my refusals? No again. Which tells me this is just an exercise, probably an edict from on high. Sure they'll suck in some suppliers that believe success is based on top line instead of long term bottom line. And those supply chain characters will probably get rewarded for those random successes, reinforcing that this is a good policy. The fruits of true long term partnership take longer to realize.
Customers can really have some strange ideas, and I guess these just follow that trend. I remember only a couple years ago when a different Fortune-50 asked me to set up a "redundant backup manufacturing location" a couple thousand miles away from California. They seriously, and I mean seriously, were concerned that at least my part of California would fall into the ocean some day. I tried to explain that if that happened, a loss of my components would be the least of the world's worries. They also didn't care that my sole source raw material supplier was just a few miles down the coast and had an actual view of the beach.
I do have one group of customers that are a bit more enlightened. They all have their flaws, but they are trying. For example, one is actually doing Net 10 to create a tighter relationship. It works. Another is improving overall communication, which means that formal notifications and such are no longer even necessary.
Sure a customer is a customer, but guess which ones I want to create long-term mutually successful relationships with.