The refractory business used to be divided into manufacturers and contractors/installers/distributors (CID). Manufacturers made the product and were a vendor to their CID network. The contractors/installers/distributors then sold the product to an end user. That is no longer the case in today’s business environment.
Currently many refractory manufacturers have a direct sales force in addition to internal precast divisions and/or construction services. Also, a vendor may a loyal group of signed contractor/installers. If lines of communication are not open, each group has the potential to send a conflicting message to a client. A procurement manager may be left scratching their head trying to figure out who to place an order with.
As a contractor/installer/distributor for many refractory manufacturers, Onex builds trusting relationships with both the manufacturers and the end users. Our connections allow us to offer the best possible product to ensure our clients get a solution solving their problem.
Doing business in a “cocoon” and keeping the vendor at “arm’s length” is short sighted. Growth will be stymied due to the lack of openness and trust required for a solid relationship. Keeping communication open with your valued supplier is a huge benefit for you and the client as well. When contractors and manufacturers work together, they are better able to solve a client’s problem through diversity of thinking.
A Real Life Example
A most recent example would be the replacement of a highly technical product. The original material was no longer available from an offshore source. Due to the unavailability, a customer’s production was threatened to shut down. In this case, the importance of the Onex, vendor, customer relationship came together in the form of finding a long-term, domestic solution. We all had “skin in the game” to solve this predicament. A solution that would not have been possible without this “three-legged stool”.
There are many key decision makers so lines of communication should be open through all levels of each organization. At Onex, we want to be a noted, important contributor to both the vendor and client’s success. With suppliers, we want to try new products allowing us to be on the forefront of innovation. Since the communication lines flow both ways, we will report “word on the street” to suppliers letting them know what we see in the market place. Most importantly, when those awkward, conflicted situations occur, we will work through the problem together.
A Team Effort
Mutual trust, open communications, fairness, and honesty are requirements to a successful formula for both suppliers and clients. It is a team effort where the relationship must be give and take. Customers like seeing this close relationship as they know the support they require now comes from a true team.
Obviously, the more you know about your supplier’s products, the more valuable you are to your customer base. Being a source for the best available technology should be why we all exist and is what we have to offer our customers.
As previously mentioned, it is important that your customer sees a bond between you and your supplier base. A weak relationship can lead to unresolved issues, contractual disputes and delayed resolutions, putting the customer in the middle.
At Onex, our vendor relationships are important. It is one of the ways we can service our customers and differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. Offering the best refractory technology as well as access to numerous resources and technical teams is of prime importance as we work to solve problems for our clients.
The support of our manufacturing partners and the “team” relationships we have built allow us to work together making manufacturing stronger in the United States. A win/win for everyone!