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Ensuring business continuity when switching suppliers

Ensuring business continuity when switching suppliers

When inviting tenders from suppliers, you should always ask: “If your existing supplier withdraws their service, how would you ensure business continuity?”

Your company may be obliged to review and retender its supplier contracts from time to time. Or maybe you’re not happy with your existing print supplier (or agency or props supplier). Nevertheless, divorcing them and finding someone new can be a real headache.

After all, that marketing agency or print manufacturer might have let themselves go a bit. But at least they understand your quirks. Your likes and dislikes. Even if they don’t always go along with them.

Add to this the risk of a failure in supply if the divorce gets messy, and you could be moving from a business continuity issue to disaster recovery.

Mitigating risk

Let’s say you put £25 million in print a year through your main print supplier. That’s a lot of work for them to lose, and they’re unlikely to be happy about the loss.

They may hold significant assets and imagery of yours that suddenly become difficult to find. Their presses might suddenly become very busy. They may just tell you they’re not interested in a smooth transition to your new supplier, helping to bed them in and handing over the work project by project.

If they simply walk away, can your new supplier pick up the pieces on day one?

New supplier responsibilities

We’ve transitioned in the region of £250 million of print to our supply chain over the past five years. That means we understand how much incumbent suppliers vary in their willingness to play ball with smooth transitions.

We know that an airtight disaster recovery plan to ensure business continuity is essential during a handover between suppliers. Our experience has given us a certain expertise in business continuity – and your new supplier should have that expertise, too.

Requests for proposals (RFP) tend to focus on normal delivery conditions. However, you need to know before you appoint a new supplier how they would cope under extraordinary conditions.

Business continuity plan

Whatever timescale you agree with your new supplier, you should receive guarantees that they can activate their business continuity plan immediately should the supply chain fail.

This should include:

• Full production capacity and capability from day one

• Plan in place to transfer stock to a fully operational warehouse in a timescale that causes no disruption to logistics

• Pre-agreed and named transition team able to be in place from day one

• Ability to deploy any software required to replace an incumbent’s, should this be required

Following this immediate response, you need to ensure that the potential supplier also has a tested plan in place that covers areas (in the case of print) such as materials availability, communications, stock information, data requirements, and much more. Different types of supplier need to cover different areas.

Probably most importantly, they shouldn’t charge you a premium to deliver early. At the proposal stage, ensure their commitment to being fully transparent and guaranteed pricing in the event you trigger the disaster recovery plan during the transition.

Ideally, you want a civilised divorce from your incumbent supplier, where no one talks about disaster recovery.

Nevertheless, if you don’t interrogate your prospective suppliers’ business continuity plans during the RFP process, you may be courting disaster.