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2The ‘Transactional’ Supplier Relationship Model

2The ‘Transactional’ Supplier Relationship Model

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Quality Management


Partnerships and Resources

Issues with the Transactional Model

Despite the superficial appeal of the transactional model it has, over the years, garnered a significant amount of criticism.

A number of these are briefly discussed below:

1. Purchase costs may not be reduced: Slack, et. al. (2006) point out that the costs of regularly re-selecting

suppliers can be significant and need to be factored in to the savings made on the price of goods. There is

also the learning curve costs associated with developing the relationships with a new supplier that had been

developed over months or years with the existing supplier.

2. Lifecycle costs may increase: Deming (1990) notes that an over-reliance on price as a selection criteria for

suppliers could lead to buying products which have a low purchase price but may have higher consequential

costs. An example might be materials which have lower quality standards and might therefore create more

wastage during production or increase production times due to fitting less well, or being more difficult to

handle. These costs would, in most circumstances, be opaque to the purchasing department who would,

at most, be on the end of complaints from the operations departments. In the end, the total cost to the

company of choosing that supplier goes up, even if the purchase cost is smaller.

3. Problems with competitive tendering: If as a supplier you have to prepare a response to an invitation to

tender (ITT), typically you will have six weeks to prepare and deliver the documentation on which your

ability to fulfil the requirements of the customer will be assessed. Figure 10. 1 shows how, typically, that time

may be used. Let us assume that of the six weeks; professional printing and delivery by courier takes two

weeks; one week is required for senior management assessment and approval; contract preparation takes half

a week and one and a half weeks is required by the purchasing department for assessing sub-contractors and

cost assessment. If we assume that two days are required for internal photocopying and distribution, then a

mere three working days are made available to the design team to design the product.

Professional printing and

delivery by courier

2 weeks

Senior management

assessment & approval




Contract preparation

Assessment of subcontractors and cost



1 1/2 weeks

2 days

Internal distribution

3 days

Design activities

Figure 10.1. Planning the response to an ITT.

By any standard, this constitutes a crash design with no time available for the most basic analysis, let alone

consultation with manufacturing to ensure that the design is producible. How many projects are conducted

on this basis? The answer, sadly, is all of those projects subject to competitive tendering in which the potential

supplier has to concentrate on producing an attractive proposal in cost terms because experience says that the

cheapest compliant tender will win the contract.

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Quality Management

Partnerships and Resources

The supplier’s difficulties do not end there, for having been accepted on the basis of a crash design and optimistic

predictions; he has to deliver to tight time scales with no margin for cost setbacks. Often the saving grace for

the supplier in such a situation is that the main contractor will suffer problems due to insufficient knowledge

of customer requirements or a poorly written specification, and will have to request changes from the supplier

that will require a re-negotiation of the contract.

The process is doomed to produce conservative designs because the ITT is expensive to administer and does

not motivate the supplier to develop innovative skills for fear that failure will result in severe financial penalties

that it may not survive. Another important consideration is the cost of the tendering process. Who pays for the

6 bids out of 7 that are unsuccessful? It is likely that this cost becomes an overhead that has to be recovered

through the successful bids, potentially reducing the industry’s competitiveness. Finally, and most importantly,

it is usually conducted too late in the product life cycle to ensure that the work of suppliers is fully integrated

in the design process.

4. The adversarial relationship: Probably the most significant issue here is the adversarial relationship which

the approach fosters. Trust has been stated many times to be a very significant driver of supply chain

performance (e.g. Kwon and Suh, 2004; Beccerra and Gupta, 1999). The adversarial relationship implied

in the transactional model destroys trust. In this model neither supplier nor customer has any obligation

to the other party beyond the contract; in fact the very existence of a contract (by definition enforceable

in law) implies a lack of trust. Consequently supply is guaranteed only in so far as it meets the contract.

Requests for help from a supplier (where, for example the customer has accidentally damaged a delivery of

components or a sudden surge in demand) are likely to be met with requests for extra payment, or polite

refusal. In fact, during the tendering process it is likely that suppliers will seek out areas of poor definition in

the specification in order to regain the margin lost in the bidding process. Any mis-specification or elements

missing can be charged as extras, or used as a pretext for re-negotiating the contract. It is unlikely that any

specification is gap-free as the supplier is much more expert in the product or service specified than the

customer (why else do you go to them?). As the supplier has no confidence in the long term relationship,

why should they spurn any chance of a short-term profit? And what happens if a better or bigger customer

comes along?

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Quality Management

Partnerships and Resources

Overall, the traditional approach can be seen as short-termist, divisive and, ironically, not even very cost-efficient.


The Supplier Partnership Model

Poirier (1999) and Christopher (1998), amongst others, suggest that the historical model of competition between individual

companies is defunct; competition is now between supply chains. If your supplier has quality or delivery problems they will

either disrupt your production or affect your customer satisfaction. If your car breaks down on the way to a job interview,

it is likely to be the assembler who is the focus of your irritation rather than the second tier supplier who manufactured

the component which failed.

We therefore need to view our suppliers in a different way: as partners in delivering superior customer value than competing

supply chains. The characteristics of a partnership are suggested below (modified from Slack et al, 2006):

• Strategic: Partnerships need to be undertaken in a strategic manner; in particular the cultural and business

‘fit’ of the organizations needs to be clearly understood.

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Quality Management

Partnerships and Resources

• Long term: Partnerships are designed to be lasting; the effort that goes into building up strong relationships

is only repaid over time. Decisions need to be made with long term benefits in mind, rather than short term

ones. The security of the long term partnership frees up much effort which would have usually gone into

looking for the next business opportunity to be focused on improving processes and products.

• Collaborative: They are voluntary and focused on working together; contracts are either not required, or

minimal. The focus is on seeing the supply chain as a whole and delivering customer value by working


• Trust based: The most important element, assumptions are that all parties will work for mutual benefit

rather than trying to take advantage at the expense of other partners. Trust is difficult to establish and

maintain, but is the heart of a partnership.

• Transparent: This helps to build trust. Sharing information allows the partnership to work more effectively.

The principle is to share as much as possible, as early as possible to support effective joint decision making.

• Gain sharing: Part of the collaborative nature of the relationship is to share gains, no matter where they are

made. This facilitates the effective assignment of resources to wherever in the partnership they can do most

good, rather than where they will help an individual partner.

• Joint problem solving and learning: In a partnership all problems are mutual; this is supported by the gainsharing mentality. The long term approach allied to trust allows for sharing of learning from experience

within the partnership.

• A small number of partners: Usually a one-to-one relationship in a given area – so multiple suppliers for a

component would not be envisaged.

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Quality Management


Partnerships and Resources

Benefits of Partnerships

The benefits of partnering are really the polar opposites of the problems with the traditional approach. The partnering

approach allows for ‘constancy of purpose’, fostering collaboration, systemic thinking and through supply-chain

improvement to deliver sustainable customer value. The risks are few if the partnering is done effectively, but clearly the

safeguards which exist in the traditional approach are missing. If the will to partner does not exist then all partners are

exposed to much more risk. But, of course, that is all the more reason for everyone involved to make it work.


Partnering Beyond the Supply Chain

Arguably, partnering in the supply chain is a relatively obvious thing to do. The commonality of interest is clear, despite

being obscured by inappropriate practices such as competitive tendering for many years. This is, however, only part of the

partnering story. Organizations are partnering with educational establishments, community groups and other organizations

from outside their supply chain; but perhaps the most counter-intuitive partnering activities are those that are occurring

between competitors.

Surely you cannot, by definition, partner with competitors? But many companies now recognise that choosing at what

point in the product lifecycle you compete, and at what point you collaborate it is possible to generate industry-wide

efficiencies without harming the commercial interests of the individual business. This concept is perhaps best illustrated

by an example (see box below):

In country A the 10 top semiconductor companies identify the need for a ‘super chip’ that would help to create a smart

domestic robot. Instead of pooling their resources to co-develop this chip, they compete, each investing $1 billion in research

and development activities. Assuming that each company creates a successful chip, the total cost of developing this chip in

country A is$10 billion. Suppose that the global market for such a robot is 1 billion, the development cost per unit is $10.

Let us now consider country B, which may be in another continent. In this country the 4 top semiconductor

companies realise the same need for a smart chip. Instead of competing, they work together. They each invest

$250 m to develop the chip and, therefore, the total cost of developing this chip in country B is £1 billion.

Now all 14 companies will compete ferociously with each other in production to gain as much share in the potential

market as possible. Unfortunately for the companies in country A, the cost of producing each chip is virtually

negligible. The companies in country B could sell the chip for $1.25 each and make a healthy return on their

investment, whereas the selling price of the companies in country A has to be $10 per chip just to break even. They

cannot compete with the country B companies and in their frustration accuse country B of dumping cheap products.

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Quality Management

Partnerships and Resources

Not only has co-operation in development provided country B companies with market leadership, it is possible that by

pooling intellectual as well as financial capital, their product may be superior in aspects other than price alone. Of course,

this is just a theoretical example, but real examples are becoming more and more common. The Blu-Ray DVD is a very

good example (Christ and Slowak, 2009). Back in the 1980’s the fight between VHS and Betamax cost companies a lot

of money and created a number of losers on the Betamax side as well as some big winners on the VHS team. Loathe to

repeat the same mistakes around 15 companies banded together to do the basic research for the Blu-Ray DVD system

and then competed on the specifics of their players and recorders in the market. The market is not any less competitive,

it is just that they chose to compete at a point in the lifecycle where the huge development costs are not all sunk into one



Organizations need to use resources effectively. There is a need to control the financial resources used. In this section we

have seen how a partnership approach makes for more effective use of the resources associated with the supply chain.

Further links to ideas on cost of quality, process improvement and strategic approaches to customer satisfaction are the

ways in which resource utilization can be optimised in a given company. It is not proposed to add more detail in this

section to supplement those contained in other sections.


Summary and Impact

This section has shown how partnerships come in a range of types and demonstrated the potential for benefit of employing

them in an organization’s supply chain and beyond. The focus on long term relationships, quality and improvement replaces

the traditional lack of trust and focus on cost alone.

As Ruskin says:

“There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The

person who buys on price alone is this man’s lawful prey.” (attrib).

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Quality Management

People in Quality Management

11 People in Quality Management


This section is very closely related to the section on leadership, since leadership is about change and change, for the most

part, is about people. This section looks in a little more detail at some of the specific people oriented aspects of a Quality

Management approach.


Respect for the Individual

The central tenet of a Quality Management approach to managing people is respect for the individual. It is recognised that

everyone has their own unique contribution to make, whatever their role in the organization. The view of an organization

as a system which permeates the quality mindset helps in this regard. If we see the organization as a system we can easily

realize that poor performance in any aspect of the system can reduce the effectiveness of the whole, and that interdependence

is the order of the day. Apparently menial tasks can have significant impact on other aspects. For example, if cleaning is not

done effectively it can have a knock-on impact on machine performance (swarf becoming an issue on cutting machines,

for example), health and safety (trip hazards, slippery surfaces or dust causing allergic responses for example) and morale

(no-one likes to work in squalor). Recognition of this enhances the importance of the staff that perform those tasks.

A second aspect of respect for the individual is to respect the differences amongst the workforce. This goes beyond

respect for religious beliefs and cultural sensitivity (although, of course, these are important) to accept the fact that an

organization has a multiplicity of views held by individuals. This may lead to conflict if individuals or groups within the

organization see an issue differently, but rather than trying to impose a common view a more effective approach is to see

areas of conflict as opportunities to learn by understanding all the different perspectives. By supporting individual’s right

to disagree we can more fully explore the way the system works and see how it might be improved for the benefit of all.


Empowerment, Motivation and Participation

Again, many aspects of this are already covered in chapter 7 on Leadership. Empowerment, motivation and participation

are all inherently linked; there is no point in empowering staff if they are not motivated to accept their enhanced role,

motivated staff who are not empowered to take action, but must refer to managers or stick to rigid procedures will deliver

little (and soon become demotivated) and without participation it is impossible to sustain either of the other elements.


As mentioned in chapter 7, it is the responsibility of leaders to motivate the individuals who work for them. Theories of

motivation recognize the power of intrinsic motivation; Sarmiento, Beale and Knowles (2007) show that there is a positive

and significant association between job satisfaction and performance. Motivation stems principally from the opportunity

to contribute to a range of business activities and from feeling invested in the organization and its goals. Clear vision and

values, management behaviour which is consistent with these and integrity and care in the way individuals are treated all

help to foster and sustain motivation.

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Quality Management

People in Quality Management

Section 11.4 looks at a very common approach to motivation and performance management, Performance Appraisal (and

its frequent companion Performance Related Pay). This has been singled out for separate discussion due to the pervasive

nature of the approach in industry and public sector alike, and the controversy which surrounds it in relation to Quality



Quality Management is a participative process. It has been made clear in previous chapters that this is a very significant

activity and it cannot be left to a small proportion of the organization to deliver its goals. Participation is all about involving

a wide variety of employees in as much of the organizational strategy setting, policy making and deployment, and process

improvement as possible. By mobilizing the brain power of all individuals within the organization it is possible to generate

better ideas, better decisions, better productivity, and better quality (Goetsch and Davis, 2010). As we have already seen,

the wider the participation, the more complete the organizational buy in to approaches and the more comprehensive

decisions, process designs, etc. are likely to be.

The Wake

the only emission we want to leave behind







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