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If you have been following the “Buyers Guide to Packaging” series from the beginning, I hope you have learned some valuable information that will help you be more successful.  I invite you to continue to follow along each week as I continue to uncover new subjects that help you to understand the packaging industry. Don’t forget to subscribe at www.brianpankratz, to have each week sent directly to your inbox.

One of My Favorites:
One of my favorite movies is “Good Will Hunting.”  There is a scene in this movie that’s absolutely awesome.  In a previous scene, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) talks bad about a painting that his psychiatrist, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) painted.  Later in the movie, Robin Williams meets Matt Damon on a park bench and Robin Williams returns the favor speaking directly into the heart of Matt Damon.

Although Matt Damon is considered a genius on many levels, Robin Williams asks him if he has ever been inside the Sistine Chapel, or knows what it smells like when you walk in the door, or what it’s like to stand and look up at the magnificent painting with your own eyes.  He then continues to ask him if he knows what it’s like to wake up next to a woman and feel true happiness.

Although Matt Damon understands what he has read and been told, he lacks the first-hand knowledge that you can only get by actually being somewhere.  This specifically goes for your suppliers as well.  In order to get a true understanding of your supply base, you need to take the time and make the visit.

What Can You Learn?
Yes, we are all busy, however, by taking the time to visit your suppliers, you can learn a great deal about them.  If you are new to the industry, it is good to spend time with your suppliers to get an understanding of how each manufacturing process works.  If you have been in industry a while, then put your experience to work to determine if your supplier is operating to meet or exceed your expectations.

Tips for Your Visit
I want to equip you with some questions to answer during your visit.  The answers to these questions will help determine how effective the supplier is:

–  What capabilities does the supplier have?
It is good to use suppliers that can be utilized for many different disciplines.  Suppliers that have more capabilities can cut down on the number of suppliers needed.

–  Who else does the supplier currently work with? How long?
It is important to know who the supplier’s customer base is and how long they have been working together.  It is also important to know who the supplier worked with previously and why they are not working with them any more.  Good suppliers should have reputable sources that they work with.  My company creates packaging solutions for nine out of the top 20 companies on the Fortune 500 list.  We couldn’t do that if our organization was riddled with quality issues and a lack of ability to perform!

  What Strengths and Weaknesses Are Visible?
Cleanliness, lighting, clutter, clear labels on materials, good work/product flow, etc., are all areas to look for.   One of my favorite questions to ask someone who is manufacturing product is…“how do you know you are making acceptable product?”  If the operator cannot answer this question…beware!

–  Ask Questions!
When I give tours of our facility, I don’t expect our customers to understand all the details of what we do.  I would rather them ask questions so they can gain a full understanding of our operation.  Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.  It is the ability to understand the operation that will give you the knowledge to be a better buyer.

Yes, visiting suppliers takes time, energy, and money for travel.  Ensure that you are working with good suppliers, not by hearing about them, but by visiting them.  Walk the floor and create a learning experience to enhance your knowledge on how to better serve your company and your products.

If you would like more information about Mercury Plastics new products or are someone looking for packaging solutions and want to learn more about the packaging industry, contact Brian – bpankratz@mercuryplasticsinc.com.

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