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Two Unintended Consequences of Your Supply Chain Assessment, and How to Avoid Them

By CSRWire Blogs

Submitted by James Barsimantov

Regularly, you work to prepare a comprehensive supply chain assessment. Hours are spent building a robust questionnaire for your tier 1 suppliers. The goal is a 100% response rate, so that you have valuable intelligence to manage and improve your supply chain. Maybe the focus of your assessment is traceability and mapping, or perhaps calculating GHG emissions.  You send the questions and it takes the suppliers about two hours to complete. Two hours of work isn’t too much to ask, right? Or is it?

From a supplier perspective, the reality is that each company doesn’t act alone. Add nine additional companies to your comprehensive assessment. Now, despite everyone’s good intentions, our tier 1 supplier is responsible for completing not one, but ten detailed, lengthy assessments. Minding the tendency for each company to use a slightly different format, the simple two-hour request can easily become two days of effort, or more. Queue the supplier fatigue. 

Consequence #1- Lower Response Rates:
Suppliers want to complete assessments, but business constraints, too many varied formats, and supplier fatigue means that some questions don’t get completed up to standards, if they are completed at all. It just takes too much time. Reducing the time investment and making questions easier to complete should be a pressing concern for anyone looking ahead in supply chain innovation. 

From a higher vantage point, our ten ambitious companies are now working at odds with each other, since in most cases, these assessments have overlapping questions. These questions are either phrased differently or collect a marginally varied point of data. To make matters even more inefficient,  each company will ask our supplier to respond using any combination of different software platforms and excel toolkits.

Consequence #2- Less Accurate Information:
Now, the supplier is answering the same questions over and over again (and in ten different formats), which can quickly become a mounting frustration. If many of the answers align across each company’s assessment, why should the supplier be required to manually input the same data multiple times? As the supplier provides the same information for various questions, all of which contain varied phrasing and response options, they struggle to give adequate answers. A supplier might decide to skip a confusing question, or give a throwaway answer, and the responses become less consistent overall. Repetition is more than just a burden for respondents – it can compromise the integrity of the data we collect. Companies want quality information from their suppliers that they can rely on, but varied question formats and varied answer choices can lead to misinterpretations and inaccuracies. 

The Solution – Smart-Mapped Questions
There is a way to solve both unintended consequences, and it requires no additional work for our ambitious companies. The solution is a smart-mapped network, and SupplyShift is already making it happen. SupplyShift is working with top brands to help the entire supply chain process flow more smoothly. Buyers on our platform can ask whatever questions they want, and to keep the response burden to a minimum and the accuracy of the data at a premium, we’ve linked questions across the different assessments. If a supplier is asked about energy consumption rates, or where they are sourcing a specific material, and they have provided that same data point earlier, their response will be automatically populated. As a result, supplier fatigue is mitigated, and response rates go up. For the supplier, they answer a question once, and only return to it when it needs updating. Over the past two years, as more organizations have linked their supply chains into the platform, we’ve seen the positive benefit of Smart-Mapped questions continue to grow. 

Of course, linking responses isn’t a cure all for the problem of self-assessment fatigue or data accuracy, rather it’s a tie-in to the larger goal of aligning industry standards and networking our approach to supply chain management. Solutions happen when we’re working together. Real improvement starts here.