Supplier Plant Visits: What You See Is What You Get [SERIES]

Hillary Femal

This is the sixth post in our series on conducting an effective request for proposal. The previous post covered the qualifying round.

After you've determined your bid finalists, it's critical to do site visits. Here's what to look for at supplier plants.

We’re nearing the end of our series on how to run a successful request for proposal (RFP) and while we originally promised six installments, this one couldn’t wait.

I was working through an RFP submission for 48forty when this additional topic came to mind: the absolute critical need to do site visits with finalists before selecting the winning bid.

You’re probably thinking, “Hillary, we don’t have time to visit every bidder. We’ve got businesses to run.” But, trust me, you have to do it for one reason:

What you see is what you get.

And here’s something else. You expect to see a facility a bidder has listed as being conveniently located near yours only to find out it’s 50 miles away. Worse yet, it may not exist. Or, it’s owned by an entirely different company than the one listed on the bid.

Stranger things have happened and it’s better to find out before you select a vendor than after. Here are some things you should look for and do during the site visits – beyond confirming a location exists.

Site Visit Checklist

  • Before you start, be very clear about what you need. Although this seems obvious – you are running an RFP – consider any changes in your operation, your reuse specifications and possible volume changes.

  • Look at the facility at large. Is it well organized so pallets flow through their operation efficiently?

  • Observe how pallets are stored. Are they neatly or precariously stacked? If you spec’ed heat-treated pallets, ask to see this part of the process.

  • Pay close attention to inbound pallets and how they are repaired prior to reuse. In fact, ask to walk through the production process to see how pallets come in, how they’re graded, repaired, and stored for shipment. You want to see a good pallet come in and a better pallet go out.

  • Also be sure to look at equipment like tractors and trailers. Confirm what was in their bid in terms of the availability of these assets.

  • Observe the site’s safety protocols. Do they emphasize safety for their employees and guests? Look for signage that reinforces safe behaviors. Are employees wearing reflective or colored vests, boots, and protective eyewear? Observe how materials and equipment are handled. Ask questions on safety processes and safety performance. All of this reflects on how well an operation is run and the value placed on their people.

One last bit of advice: takes notes during each visit. After touring multiple facilities, they can start to blur together. When it comes time to make a decision on who gets your business, you want the facts in front of you.

Our final blog will offer advice on evaluating your RFP submissions plus next steps once your decision is made. Thank you for your attention!