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5 Tips for Better Supplier Document Management

Chris Staub
March 10, 2020

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For many companies, finding, qualifying, and managing suppliers, items, and ingredients are manual and disjointed processes. Documents are filed away, and the data they contain can’t be used for insight or easily accessed for an audit. TraceGains Supplier Management can help by digitizing and automating your supplier and sourcing programs.

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What's the best way to collect supplier documentation? You might read that sentence and think there is no best way - and you would probably be correct. There is no best way to gather documentation other than sending a representative to a supplier's facility for an audit and document gathering. But we don't have enough personnel to go that route.

Let me preface by saying in 2014, we had almost all of our supplier documentation in order, but it was already outdated, with some documents even as old as 2002. We needed updated information, and so began my document collection journey, with plenty of pains along the way.

One of my least favorite tasks was explaining to a supplier how to scan a document to an email and then add that scanned document as an attachment to an email. The best part? After this time-consuming process, I found out that the supplier could have attached the digital copy. That process ultimately gave me quite a few headaches, but, to be honest, I think the actual aching came from me banging my head against the wall. Of course, this was a rare case. 

On some occasions, suppliers would have an efficient two-day turnaround on large quantities of documents - the perfect scenario! In the end, we managed to gather roughly 95% of all the documents my company requires, but as my example above illustrates, it was no easy feat. With that said, I would like to offer these tips to help you with your supplier document management.

Ensure Reference Numbers Are Consistent

Nothing is worse than getting responses from suppliers informing you that they cannot provide the documents you requested - they don't know what materials you asked for because your reference numbers aren't matching theirs. Make sure the ingredient name and part numbers you have in your system match your suppliers' requirements. An extra step now will save you much time and back-and-forth emails in the long run.

Approve and Store Documents Quickly

Typically, I try to approve and store new documents within a day of receiving them. When collecting many documents, you don't want to get behind in the reviewing/approving process, especially when you have automatic emails going out to suppliers. You won't earn any bonus points if the supplier has to tell you that they sent the document in question over a month ago, and you didn't have the document reviewed and stored correctly.

Accept Many File Formats

Action forms and questionnaires are great for collecting and extracting data but are useless if a supplier does not/refuses to fill them out. Suppliers are overworked as it is; they don't have time to fill out multiple questionnaires from hundreds of different purchasers. Set up your systems to accept supplier documents in as many file formats as possible, so long as it satisfies your requirements.

Keep Emails Concise

When you need to email a supplier, make sure emails are as clear and as short as possible. Suppliers receive a mindblowing number of emails daily; you must get to the point as quickly as possible. Don't make it the supplier's job to sift through an agonizingly long email. Keep it simple.

Make It Personal

When all else fails, give the supplier a call. While we do live in a digital age, sometimes a simple call makes all the difference. As a millennial, I'm more comfortable with texts and emails than hopping on the phone - but the fact is, calling works.

If you're struggling to qualify, approve, and manage your suppliers and their data, Supplier Management can help. Learn more about Supplier Management here

Guest blogger Chris Staub contributed this article. Staub serves as project manager for Advanced Food Products. With AFP since 2014, he has experience ensuring proper supplier documentation is in place for incoming raw materials. As a longtime TraceGains user, Staub offers his tips to better supplier document management. 

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