What would inspire your loyalty to an automation and test supplier?
Faster, better, cheaper products are everywhere. We all have them and seek them out, but we also never forget some companies are the best at what they do. Take Disney theme parks, for example. Disney parks may not be the closest to where we live, or the least expensive, but many of us will go out of our way to visit one because we want the best experience. This kind of loyalty goes to expectations about service and other intangibles to which manufacturers should aspire—especially specialists in fields such as quality control systems.
Do you get the kind of attention from your vendors that makes you want to come back or go out of your way to use them? If you do, I bet one reason is they have proven to be good listeners. Good listeners are more like partners, so you not only get a good product from such a vendor but you get a solution that really fits your needs.
In some specialty markets, like leak testing, you can find commercial off-the-shelf products that seem to work for your needs, but these do not always lead to the best experience or the cheapest results. Chances are you won’t even save cycle time with standard equipment or software for your quality control systems. There is no reason to assume more expensive specialty solutions are better, either.
A good partnership between customers and suppliers leads to optimal solutions and long-term prosperity all around. When we pay attention to each other and collaborate, then we get the best results. Here are some ways to help make partnerships work in the specialty business of leak testing:
Concentrate on flexibility so that practical solutions drive productivity. Sometimes this means automated fixtures that are easy to change or test instruments with Ethernet capability. Incorporate testing into the assembly processby involving your leak-testing vendor in the early stages of production planning. If you make leak testing an afterthought, you may lose precious time later from slower cycle times. Invest in technology. This goes for everyone. After 40 years in the leak testing business, I have seen many quality control systems that did not anticipate data processing needs, which now are more intense than ever.
Get input such as detailed studies for product specifications from your leak test vendor. Entrust your supplier with preliminary product data and prototypes of new products. Get that nondisclosure agreement and let your vendors help you get to market faster. In the leak testing business, an experienced vendor is able to grasp what a customer really needs even if they are not able to express every detail. Part of the supplier’s job is to be an expert in their field—you in yours and we (leak testers) in ours. Engage and discuss until everyone is familiar with issues and options for leak testing application requirements.
We may find faster, cheaper, “better” solutions elsewhere, but the ride might get bumpy and not end happily if there is no trust, loyalty, and collaboration. Make sure your product launches are truly excellent by tapping into the expertise of your leak testing vendors. I love it when our customers win because it means the whole team executed well. That’s my take on customer loyalty.