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Chamber Matters: Success in Supply Chain Engagement

Mark Rouse, Director of Caithness Chamber of Commerce and managing director of Dounreay, argues that engaging with smaller contractors is the key to getting the most out of a working relationship.

As a large enterprise, Dounreay Site Restoration Limited has a lot of advantages not available to smaller companies. We have a large, skilled workforce and significant resources. But we are reliant on our local supply chain for one key reason – smaller, local contractors can do things in a way that we as a large company cannot

As you know, Dounreay works closely with the local supply chain and we are eager to do more – over the next 12 months we will be aiming to increase our spend on local contractors. The key factor in getting the best out of those new relationships will be engagement, something which is crucial for any organisation that works with contractors – local or otherwise.

Rather than adopting an arm’s length approach, where contracts are drawn up, tendered for and delivered on with little room for discussion, communicating properly can get you much more than you expected from a contract. Engaging with contractors, drawing them in and giving them an idea of what you are really looking for, enables you to take advantage of one of their strongest assets – their agility.

Agility is one of the most important factors separating SMEs from large companies. A larger organisation has inertia – it can be hard to get projects started and harder still to stop or change them once they are running. A small company, on the other hand, can start and stop projects quickly, exploring multiple possibilities and changing direction when it becomes clear which are non-viable. They can also afford to specialise deeply in a way that is often unavailable to larger organisations, developing an expertise in niche areas. A combination of these factors enables SMEs to develop innovative solutions to a range of problems, and there are thousands of small companies out there, producing innovative products and techniques in every field imaginable.

However, if you do not properly engage with these companies, you will never see the benefits. I have seen a number of people end up with a solution that is not what they really wanted but that is exactly, contractually to specification. By communicating with contractors and letting them know what you are trying to achieve, rather than just telling them what you want, you could get something better than you anticipated.

SMEs are the lifeblood of UK industry and if you don’t engage with them fully, you’ll miss out not just of a short-term gain but a long-term opportunity to develop a great relationship that could bear fruit years down the line. A contract can only get you what you ask for – engagement can get you what you really want.