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Working with suppliers

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The fabricator/supplier relationship plays an important role in a shop’s inventory management and storage procedures. The following are some tips from fabricators for working with suppliers to get the right products when you need them.

Fabricators should explain to suppliers what you need and why if they’re not stocking what you need. Sometimes suppliers can start carrying the product, eliminating special order delay and cost.

Dennis Bueker of Keyston Brothers in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., says that some vendors offer delivery or freight plans to help reduce costs. “Some vendors have the ability to look at purchases on a monthly or annual basis and see what items are ordered frequently,” he says. “With this information, a canvas shop could order a roll of fabric instead of buying several cuts of the same pattern. This could help in price of fabric and shipping.”

Bueker also says that many suppliers offer quantity purchasing. For example, buy a box and save. Some items you just can’t be out of so buy your staples—glue, foam, webbing, fasteners, pattern paper—when it’s on sale. Save money by making one large order to save on freight and shipping charges.

Remember that buyers and sellers have a common goal: to make money with reduced costs. “You need them to supply on time and be competitive with pricing,” says Ed Skrzynski, owner of Marco Canvas in Marco Island, Fla. “They need you to buy as much as you can from them as the cost of getting new sales is high.”

Skrzynski recommends vetting suppliers with face-to-face meetings where you set expectations in writing on delivery times, costs and any value they can add. “At the same time, they need to know more about what you make, use and when you use it so they can be as responsive as possible,” he says.

After vetting your chosen suppliers, leverage your entire spend and attract good suppliers who can offer lower cost per item and transaction costs, and with value-added sales personnel.

Maura Keller is a freelance writer and editor based in Plymouth, Minn.

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