Dane Taival, vice president of service and customer care for Trane – North America, recently lent his expertise to a panel discussion at Interlog 2014, an aftermarket supply chain conference, held June 23-25 in San Diego, CA.

Taival explained the importance of allowing distribution colleagues to participate in aftermarket customer success by graduating from a “supplier” mentality to a “partner” mindset.

Taival enumerated ways that trusted supply chain partners can be brought closer together under a collaborative umbrella, and described what he has found to be the best internal practices and motivational philosophies to improve efficiency among distribution partners.

Topics Taival covered included:

  • What is a distribution “partner,” and what differentiates a partner from a “supplier” or a “vendor?”
  • Qualifications and selection processes.
  • Measuring progress.
  • Key aspects to ensure good communications.
  • Guiding principles that are being used inside companies for managing networks of partners, suppliers and vendors.

“I explained that not every company you work with must be elevated to the level of ‘partner.’ If you’re most concerned about price, or availability, or performance to a certain specification, a ‘supplier’  or ‘vendor’ relationship may be very appropriate, and fit the needs of a business at a particular time,” Taival told Contracting Business.

Taival said a supplier or vendor is elevated into the “partner” category when a greater commitment and investment is made by each supply/distribution participant.

“If, for example, in our manufacturing business, we’re working with a major supplier, and discover that we need to get costs out of a product, we’ll have what we call a ‘rapid improvement’ event with that supplier," Taival said. "We’ll look at how they’re operating, and find a way to work together that can help them reduce their own costs. Can we implement process simplification, or automate some processes? That’s collaborative problem solving."

Taival also addressed the importance of mutual understanding of customer needs, which tends to be stronger and more valued at the “partner” level of cooperation.

“A ‘partner’ would know that Trane, operating as an equipment manufacturer providing products into the marketplace, must do certain things in certain ways, in order to successfully serve contractors or building owners. The ‘partner’ supplier who understands that dynamic can often provide a higher level of service to us that’s more consistent with a ‘partnership’ as opposed to a ‘vendor’ relationship," he explained.

Taival offered the event’s approximately 200 attendees examples of how Trane is in turn sensitive to supplier needs, and how it proactively works to improve supply relationships.

“For example, in our parts and supplies business, we have a vendor management program in which we measure on-time delivery, which is a key variable. It helps us manage availability to customers who would come to us for parts and supplies. Are we meeting price targets? Are our components meeting performance specifications? That’s a standard measurement, practice and process we follow, with scorecards.

“For those vendors who are not performing well, we have what you might call an ‘intervention process’ or workshop session, to determine the root causes for the performance problem, and find a way to resolve those issues," Taival continued.

The problem, he said, could rest solely on one party, or, both might need to make some changes, to improve cost and efficiency.

“Is there something going wrong that’s fully in the supplier/vendor area of responsibility, or are we, as the customer, somehow creating issues that make it difficult for the supplier company to perform? Taival explained. “If so, we have to look at making some changes. We talked about the vendor management process we have in place, and the escalation process we use when there are problems or challenges.”

The presentation, which included a question-and-answer session, was Trane’s second consecutive appearance at Interlog. Taival’s co-presenter was Bruce Shadmehri, vice president, support operations for NetApp.

Taival added that while these service and supply concepts aren’t exactly new, they require constant attention, and are areas of importance and attention for Trane managers, in order that Trane can become a more efficient service provider and vendor in its own right.