It is no secret that supply chains have taken a significant hit during this COVID-19 crisis. Consequently, this unprecedented time is causing disruptions for companies and the suppliers they work with. If you are concerned about the impact this COVID-19 outbreak could have on your vendor and supplier relationships, there are some steps you can take to ease the disruption. 

Developing a strategy to manage the difficulties brought on by COVID-19 can help you still receive the goods you need while protecting everyone involved. 

So, read on for our tips on effectively collaborating with vendors and suppliers during this time.

Know If Your Suppliers are Classified as Essential Workers 

This designation can vary by industry, but grocery, medical, and a variety of tech suppliers are likely to be classified as essential. This classification exempts them from most shelter-in-place travel mandates and allows them to deliver supplies to where they are needed. If your suppliers are not deemed essential, then this could create a gap in you receiving the supplies you need to run your business. So, taking the time to understand what their classification is can help you develop alternatives if they cannot physically deliver your supplies. 

Keep the Lines of Communication Open 

Whomever your point of contact is, make sure you have a direct line of communication with this person. It would help if you designated someone on your team to maintain consistent contact with this supplier or vendor contact. You may also want to think about scheduling a weekly check-in as policies impacting suppliers and deliverers are rapidly changing. A weekly meeting allows you to inform them of any changes, update them on supply needs, and discuss any new safety protocols. 

Inform Them of Your Safety Practices 

It is crucial that you inform your suppliers of your strategies to maintain safety for any of their delivery staff. Discuss any steps you are taking. These tactics could include: 

  • No-contact delivery 
  • Requiring in-take staff to wear masks and gloves
  • Asking for delivery workers to also wear masks or handle any paperwork at a distance

Everyone wants to maintain safety, and working with your suppliers to ensure this happens shows that you care about their staff, which strengthens the relationship. 

Keep a Closer Eye on Inventory 

Now is the time to keep a sharper eye on your inventory. This step is where strategies regarding things like ABC analysis come into play: categorizing items based on their impact on costs, as well as how much profit they bring to the company. You also need to compare and contrast just in time inventory management with keeping supplies of safety stock on hand. The dynamic nature of COVID-19 is impacting consumer tastes and preferences, so it requires agile inventory management strategies as well as quicker decisions based on current sale patterns. 

Experiment with Cross-Docking 

Cross-docking is the practice of having incoming orders loaded onto outgoing trucks without being placed in the warehouse. Not only does this speed up the supply chain, but also it frees up warehouse space and reduces contact between your staff and suppliers. Whether you decide to use cross-docking or not, this may also be the time to experiment with other types of delivery protocols to increase safety and efficiency. 

Inform Suppliers of Any COVID-19 Related News in Your Area 

Your suppliers may be headquartered in an area that does not have the same situation regarding COVID-19. Therefore, it is crucial that you inform them of ways the virus could impact delivery. For example, if there are strict shelter-in-place orders, ensure that suppliers know delivery workers may need a form proving they are essential workers. Also, if any of your staff has had any contact with the virus or are infected, be sure they are aware of any additional protocols they need to take when sending delivery staff to your facility. 

You Can Decrease the Disruption 

Again, everyone is feeling the weight of COVID-19, and small businesses are being uniquely impacted. The goal for your company should be to ensure the safety of your staff and the suppliers that are delivering goods to your warehouses. The more flexible your approach is, the better the chances are of keeping an adequate supply of products so you can better serve your customers. So, see how the tips above can help you develop a plan to coordinate effective strategies and communication practices with suppliers. 


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