The need to physically see and experience a product before buying has lessened in many ways. However, when it comes to choosing a pallet supplier, in-person site visits have never been more necessary. Here's how to ensure your pallet supplier's bid matches their capabilities.
In a perfect world, plant visits would be built into your pallet vendor vetting process. Even if this phase wasn’t part of the initial plan, it’s worth adding in before signing off on a bid. Not only will plant visits give you a closer look at how a potential pallet supplier functions on a day-to-day basis, it will also verify whether or not the answers provided in their bid (or RFP response), are 100 percent accurate. The last thing any business needs is to experience downtime or added costs due to an unorganized pallet supplier.
Here are five questions to ask yourself during your next supplier plant visit:
What is your first impression of the facility?
First and foremost, a supplier plant visit assures you that the facility exists at the address the supplier provided in their bid. Knowing where your pallets are coming from adds peace of mind to your operation. Seeing it in person also helps you better understand how this potential partner approaches their business.
Beyond physical address, it’s important to observe everything from the entrance to the loading docks: Is the facility laid out well?Does the environment feel as though it’s moving at a steady pace? Do the employees seem calm and well-versed in their jobs? If it looks and feels as though product is moving seamlessly and staff seem confident, this is generally a good sign that the operation has clearly defined processes and performance expectations. When your pallet supplier operates like a well-oiled machine, you can expect greater efficiency, less risk and reduced costs.
[Interested in a complete checklist for your next supplier plant visit? Download and print a supplier plant visit checklist here.]
Are the pallets stacked neatly?
Study how the pallets are stacked and watch the supplier’s team move them. Are the pallets being placed with precision to ensure safe, wobble-free stacks? How a supplier treats its pallets at all times, whether bringing them in, storing or loading pallets onto a truck, will tell you a great deal about their commitment to quality and safety.
If you use heat-treated pallets, take the time to request a tour of that process. This is another opportunity to observe how the potential pallet supplier operates.
What are the steps of their process?
Pallet management is the key to mitigate risk. Request a walk-through to see how inbound pallets are handled. You should have a clear understanding of how pallets are documented, assessed for performance, repaired if necessary, stored and shipped.
Ask about how the company grades each pallet upon arrival and ask the questions needed to feel confident in how they repair or repurpose the pallets. Seeing their process firsthand will give you a clearer picture of the company’s commitment to delivering and maintaining the highest quality possible.
Is the company’s commitment to safety obvious?
A supplier's safety protocol is often overlooked in site visits, but it can be the most telling in how committed they are to their people, product and customers. From the moment you walk in, take note of any signage that either promotes safety, touts the company’s safety record or directs visitors to participate in their safety measures.
In the warehouse and unloading/loading areas, identify whether or not employees are wearing needed PPE such as reflective vests, boots or eyewear. If a company’s safety guidelines and stats are not visible, ask about their commitment to a safe work environment.
Does the supplier’s facility undoubtedly reflect its bid?
As we’ve said before, what you see during a site visit is what you’ll get. Carefully review and compare the supplier’s bid against what you see and hear the day of the plant visit. Ask for clarification if you feel there are gray areas. Don’t leave until you have a full understanding of what value the supplier can bring to your business so you can clearly point to the areas that will meet your immediate needs and support your long-term goals.
Site visits are vital because they give you a clear view of what you’ll get after committing to a supplier. Just remember to take notes, ask questions and trust your gut. Get in touch with our team today to learn more.
Kyle brings 30+ years of industry experience to his role as Chief Operating Officer. He joined IFCO in 2008 and has served as General Manager Atlanta, East Region Operations Director, National Sales Director and VP of National Sales & East Area Operations. Kyle earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Florida State University.