Why Your Supplier Should Help You Write that RFP

Innovating is hard. Providing guidance to highly technical suppliers to create innovation for your vehicles is even harder — but it doesn’t have to be. If you have strong supply chain relationships, your suppliers should be part of the solution in bringing your ideas to the market. To do so, however, requires a slightly different approach.

Why not to start with the RFI/RFP

Don’t come to your key suppliers leading with a Request for Information (RFI) or Request for Proposal (RFP). To do that, one first must independently research a great deal in the technology space in which your supplier is (or should be) an expert. That research takes time and money, which delays your ability to approach the market with your solution to the problem.

Oftentimes, looking into the available literature in any technology space also ignores where the space is going. This hurts you two ways. This first is that it leads to responses from suppliers based on yesterday’s technology, instead of tomorrow’s. The second is that your highest value suppliers will be slowed down further in their response, working through your initial RFI and then crafting a combination of corrections to the technology requests as well as suggestions for how to better craft a later procurement stage for tomorrow’s technology, instead of yesterday’s. 

How to leverage suppliers to create RFIs and RFPs

Ask your suppliers to help you with a business problem. This means approaching a highly technical supplier not with the specific piece of technology you want to source, but instead with a problem statement about the end user’s problem that you’re intending to solve with technology. 

For example:

  • If your business is frustrated with the expense associated with service technicians applying in-warranty software updates, ask your supplier for technology solutions to solve that problem.
    • Too often we see highly specific RFIs prescribing a hardware and software solution to this problem that is more complex and expensive than is necessary
  • If your business is facing market pressure from a competitor who recently launched new and exciting technology, ask your supplier for advice on how to both match and extend beyond your competitor’s innovation.
    • Unfortunately, we frequently see RFIs that match new competitors’ offerings. This results in a business being stuck behind a competitor, who is continually moving onward, as businesses work to innovate only in a manner that “catches up.” In our experience, there are always affordable, noteworthy, opportunities to be different. 
  • If your business is challenged achieving cost reduction or efficiency targets and trying to figure out how to consolidate electronics or functions to achieve those targets, ask your supplier for advice on how to achieve maximum consolidative benefit for minimal complexity, cost, and risk.
    • One “gotcha” we see here is the consolidation of components with different evolutionary rates, leading to accelerated obsolescence pressure on technologies that could be highly resistant to technology-based obsolescence. 

Building habits for supplier-delivered success

Great suppliers love these conversations and understand that delivering value for their customers is accomplished by fostering these kinds of conversations — even when the conversation may not deliver new production income for their business. Structuring the conversation in a manner that doesn’t bias your supplier to a specific approach, and providing the freedom for their team to creatively encounter your business problem with a different lens, will bring great results.

Make it a habit to do this a couple of times a year. Choose a few key suppliers and provide business-level problems to them, asking them to bring their unique technology lens and focus to your business problem. 

Guarantee you’ll love the results.

David Batcheller
President & CBO https://appareo.com/2021/04/05/why-your-supplier-should-help-you-write-that-rfp/