Vendors — The Underutilized Resource
Are we getting the most from our vendors and manufacturer’s representatives? Sure, we purchase product from them, call when we have a problem, and expect them to keep us supplied in a timely and cost-effective fashion. But are we really mining that valuable resource?
One of our vendors contacted me recently about showing me a new line of tools that his company was promoting. As we do not carry tools in inventory, I instead suggested that he show it to our field forces, the knowledgeable end-users. We made it clear from the beginning that this was not to turn into a sales pitch but was to be purely for informational purposes. After discussion with the Public Utilities field supervisor, a date was set for a tool and paving component meeting or class to be held in the Central Stores warehouse.
It was a very informal affair. We made a pot of coffee, and the vendor brought donuts and a wide selection of tools and paving components. He proceeded to demonstrate and explain his products to our field forces, who asked questions and took an active part in the demonstration.
Afterward, I asked the crews for their opinions on the morning and its worth to them and received positive feedback and suggestions for future topics. We eventually developed a plan to hold sessions every couple of months on topics suggested by the vendors and field crews, to be agreed upon by the vendor, the water department, and Central Stores, that would be of interest and value to the field forces.
Presenters will be on an informal rotation, mostly depending on who it suits at the time. One of our vendors even suggested that we include the fire department in our fire hydrant sessions so they would better understand the proper way to care for them. When asked about this, the deputy fire chief in charge of training was very interested. Since that initial meeting, the concept is now in the process of also being expanded to include facility management personnel sessions with janitorial service and supply vendors.
All of this came from a vendor wishing to show a new product line and perhaps make a sale. It has become a low-cost education and information resource, and Central Stores has found another way to provide a service to our end-users. Who would have thought? Talk to your vendors and see what else they have to offer besides product.
About the author
Jeffrey Moyer, CPPB, has been with the city of Harrisonburg, Va., for 19 years and spent 15 years in inventory management in the private sector before that. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.