Some guidelines for evaluating and choosing suppliers
By Michelle Garetson
With the thousands of parts, systems, consumables, etc. that are necessary to keep aircraft aloft, locating and purchasing those items can be a daunting proposition when the aircraft is AOG. Maintenance personnel are constantly being pressured by the adage, "Time is money," so the acquisition of critical, compliant components or systems becomes crucial to getting the planes back in the air. Careful evaluation and ultimately, selection of suppliers is important. Time should be spent in advance to determine what is important to the specific operations and aircraft being serviced, rather than wasting time and money scrambling around when the aircraft rolls into the hangar.
Points to ponder
What is important to you with respect to suppliers? Traceability? Price? Availability? Or, a combination of these and others? Most distributors will advise customers not to judge on price alone and that’s wise; however, if all things are equal, price most often will be the deciding factor. Taking the time to make a list of needs and wants will serve you well when "pre-flighting" potential suppliers.
Consider the following shopping tips for identifying and evaluating new vendors:
1. Experience and professionalism – How long have they been in business? Are they members of trade associations such as Aviation Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ADMA) or Airline Suppliers Association (ASA)?
2. Traceability – What kind of documentation can the supplier provide to verify the part’s validity and history?
3. Approved vendor list – Try to work your vendor list to a manageable number of those companies that can provide competitive pricing, consistently good quality service, and prompt and accurate delivery.
4. Get to know your supplier – Visit, as well as audit, your suppliers on a regular basis to develop your partnership and also see first-hand, their security measures for prevention of the acquisition and sale of unapproved parts.
5. Buyer beware – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any vendor who promises markedly reduced prices when no one else does or can or if a vendor can "magically" produce parts where a shortage exists should be approached with caution.
ISO 9002 (quality standard for services) and now ISO 9000:2000, which became an international standard in December 2000, has gained significant popularity with vendors and customers alike and has become an additional selling point for vendors vying for customers. For customers, seeing that a vendor has achieved ISO accreditation suggests that the company values quality and compliance and should therefore be considered a strong candidate as an approved vendor. The FAA does not regulate distributors and really can not as the manpower needed for that exercise would be staggering. So, ISO certification provides a means for vendors to display that they have met certain requirements for quality and for customers to feel confident when choosing suppliers.
Today’s technology is fantastic and getting better; however, for all the advances made in ordering and distribution, the one thing that will quickly thwart the deal will be poor customer service. Gone are the days of distributor reps flying to your FBO to show you the latest products, but many customers still want the personal touch when dealing with distributors.
Online ordering has allowed for a huge reduction in order errors as well as increased speed in locating and shipping items, but woe to the distributor that offers voice mail/email only options when something goes wrong with an order.
Finding and keeping good distributors is an ongoing process. Customers need to be diligent in assessing and reassessing qualities and services that their vendors should possess.
Time is money and no one knows that better than the person trying to find, receive, and install the correct items quickly and safely on their customer’s aircraft. Planning ahead for these moments through a thorough evaluation and selection of aviation products vendors will help increase efficiency, quality of work, and safety for the facility and its customers.
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