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Important Conversations to Have with Your Suppliers

April 1, 2020


We’ve been talking with many of our clients, and we know that, like you, they are tirelessly focused on their people and their business right now. You must have asked yourself the questions: Are my people safe? Have we supplied the right protective equipment and instructions? Who needs childcare help? Are we an essential business? If we stay open, what changes are needed? If we shut down, how will I pay my people and suppliers?

You are likely starting to wrap your arms around some of the biggest issues caused by the coronavirus. Beyond your employees, there is your suppliers. How are they doing? How are their operations affected by all this? Will they be able to continue to supply your needs? Getting to know your supplier situations is going to become (if it hasn’t already) just as important as knowing your own—their problems will become your problems.

We’ve put together questions to help drive your conversations with your suppliers and give you better visibility and insight into their status. Adjust as necessary—you may not need or want to ask all these questions.

Management Questions

  • What key actions have you taken at your facility in response to the coronavirus?
  • Did you have a business continuity plan?
  • What elements of that plan do you have the most/least confidence in?
  • What are you communicating to your frontline workers?
  • Are you currently laying off employees? Hiring?
  • Are you seeking financial assistance from the government or others?
  • What information and feedback do you need from me?
  • What is my business doing to complicate things for you?

Capacity Questions

  • What is your current capacity load? Are you up or down due to the coronavirus? (Labor and machines and shifts)
  • What do you see as your available capacity in the coming weeks and months? (Labor and machines and shifts)
  • What impact has the coronavirus has on your employee attendance?
  • What impact has it had on your facility and space requirements?

Scheduling Questions

  • How are you measuring success of your current schedules with the virus outbreak?
  • Who is involved in these reviews?
  • How are you now developing and adjusting your schedules?
  • Are you currently on schedule?
  • Are you able to keep up with your current work?
  • How much product did you produce last week versus the same time last year?
  • How much material do you have in process for my business? What is its current status?
    • Shipping today?
    • Finished goods?
    • In post-production?
    • Early production?
    • Released?
    • Not started?
    • Raw material in house?

Procurement Questions

  • What changes have you made with your key suppliers/subcontractors since the outbreak?
  • How are their lead times?
  • How is their capacity?
  • Is any of your equipment located at any of your suppliers?

Quality Questions

  • How has your quality been impacted by the outbreak?
  • What processes critical to product quality have been impacted?
  • How are you continuing to verify product quality?
  • Do you anticipate any changes to the certification, registration or other processes?
  • Do you define specialized materials/components?
  • Who supplies you with specialized materials/components?

Supply chains will not be the same after this pandemic. Future supply chain operators will need an increased focus on resilience, risk exposure and business continuity. Working on that starts now with you learning all you can about how your current suppliers are faring in one of the most challenging environments any of us have ever seen. We can help walk you through this process—reach out if you’re interested.

For more information, visit our COVID-19 Business Continuity & Recovery Resource Center

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a Clark Schaefer Hackett professional. Clark Schaefer Hackett will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.


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