More often than not, the dominator of supplier selection process at early stage is purchaser. To further segment it, the dominator will be sourcing, as they are responsible for the preliminary selection. purchasers buy according to plans or demand. Some company call it purchasing, others call it procurement. Moreover, I have also seen companies calling it merchandising. This is similar to human resource management: although the whole process is called as acquisition, but hunting and employment actually belong to different working area
One of the primary steps accompanied with supplier selection at early stage in a well-managed foreign enterprise is supplier self-assessment, despite that it is not popular among domestic enterprises. This is somehow related to the cultural differences between China and western countries. Chinese enterprises select suppliers based on relationship since the business originates from or comes via acquaintances. In contrast, foreign enterprises are more rule-oriented, though acquaintances tend to enhance mutual relationships and trust in practice. Chinese enterprise seldom resort to exhibitions for suppliers, as one telephone is enough; whereas foreign enterprises rely more on various domestic or international exhibitions, network resources and professional recommendations to explore supplier resources.
Supplier self-assessment is a little bit similar to job hunter’s resumes. Recommendation letter is not prevalent in China, but the recommendations from headhunters are also recommendation letters in another form. Recommendation letters is somewhat similar to various certificates which are awarded after the audit and certification of the third party requested by the suppliers, such as ISO9001, ISO14001, etc. Recommendation letter can be seen as a kind of endorsement, as qualifications, status in the field will affect the impression of job hunters in recruiters to a large degree, which will determines his or her “quotation”(expected salary) and potential value. Various certificates like ISO9001 provided by suppliers play similar roles. Although the certificates are all awarded by accepted certification authority, different certification authorities exert different influence obviously, and the fees for certifying vary accordingly, which determines differences in credibility of certificates awarded.
Ways for supplier self-assessment are diverse. Some company fax it to suppliers who will later fill it out and fax it back to purchasers, while some companies send e-mail to suppliers who will fill it in the corresponding WORD or documents of other forms, and then send it back to purchasers or specified receivers. With the prevalence of internet, more and more companies set supplier portal, some of which are available for suppliers to fill out and submit so that the system will collect, sort and analyze these documents in no time. One of the companies that I once served adds geographical location, including longitude and latitude, on its self-assessment form in order to count carbon emission and distribution of manufacturers of about 10000 suppliers worldwide and about 50 manufacturing sites of their own group. After the suppliers submit it, the system will automatically count and estimate the carbon emission amount worldwide and present it in graphs visually based on the data submitted to the supply chain, combined with the product category of the manufacturing base, the transaction volume and the processes, etc.
The content of supplier self-assessment is determined by requirements of companies. In some companies, the assessment can be 10 pages long, with multiple languages and detailed information about the number of machines, the number of inspection machines, type and brand of machines, whether the product or other insurances are purchased or not, the amount of coverage, etc. Some companies will set the scores of each question and the total final scores internally in self-assessment in advance. If suppliers answer with honest, they are likely to be questioned early at this stage due to the too low marks.
供应商自评的意义通常有如下The significance of supplier self-assessment includes the following：
1.体现供应商的初始合作意愿及能力Indication of initial willingness and ability for cooperation of suppliers
It is the foundation of stabling business relations. If the supplier is not able to fill out the self-assessment forms, it will probably fail to satisfy other basic requirements later from suppliers. This is by no means rare. In practice, I found that a large number of Chinese suppliers do not know how to fill, even if the field has already been provided. It is somehow equal to someone who is seeking for a job but cannot write his resume or personal profile. You can imagine the level of the staff.
According to the diagram of the deployment of ability and willingness, self-assessment presents interest of suppliers and the importance they attached on business, which is known as motivation.
2.一种承诺证明A kind of certification of commitment
I suggest that the supplier self-assessment should be fully utilized, and the suppliers can be required to stamp official seal of the company and signature from company representatives on the form. Self-assessment form should be kept in PDF form to avoid revising, and the suppliers are asked to print it out and add signatures as well as official seal. The purpose is to keep the content of self-assessment as realistic and reliable as possible.
Within the industry, customers will frequently ask companies to prove that suppliers they used do not employ child labor and young workers, or the material they used are environmental friendly without poison or harm. At this time, the effectiveness of implementation and the integrity of the system can be ensured via on-site audit. However, the audit belongs to spot check, and the conclusion comes from the purchaser itself or the third party. The expected outcome of self-assessment, a potent certification in a legal sense, can be more likely to generate if suppliers verify that the assessment meets the requirement. If the suppliers are trading companies with manufacturing partners, then the purchasing organization should state clearly in advance which tier of manufacturer to complete the self-assessment.
Since the assessment form acts as a legal instrument, the content and characters should be considered carefully in advance. Then the document returned back by suppliers should be kept with caution,
3.了解供应商基本信息Understanding basic information about suppliers
The basic information that can be disclosed and purchasers want to know can be acquired here—if only you have set these fields. Just like various declaration form that offered to government, the form has already been provided, and you only need to complete it accordingly. These information can be used as reference provided to supplier on-site audit: what is the scale of the factory; what technique is utilized; what kind of auditor should be placed; is there any other products from the factory being sold; is there any other staffs needed on the audit day; what branches does it have? Which techniques are outsourced; which products or techniques are produced at the address on the self-assessment form, etc. Thus, these information should be provided before on-site audit. Otherwise, it will be embarrassed that auditors do not realize that they go to the wrong place until they arrive at the scene during on-site audit will take place.
Next, self-assessment provides some strong proof for the next business negotiation. Once some suppliers decrease their price after negotiation—however, there should be reasons for reduction. To explain, they mentioned that they have newly added many automatic machines to improve production efficiency. Nevertheless, when you opened their self-assessment form completed earlier, you find that the suppliers have already possessed such machines at the beginning, and the paradox is solved spontaneously. This is why many purchasers ask suppliers to update self-assessment document regularly.
As for the new leader for the quality of purchasing organization, self-assessment is helpful to understand the level, ability and general situation of the suppliers base as a whole, for instance, the proportion of suppliers acquiring ISO9001, the scale of staffs, the ration of quality and engineering staff, etc. then use these information plus on-site research, as well as actual delivery performance to deploy supplier management roadmap and steps.
4.了解客户的关注点和需求Understanding customers’ focus and need
For suppliers, they can fully make use of supplier self-assessment forms to understand the basic demand and expectation of customers. Otherwise, the customers do not need to design this step painstakingly. Imagine that if one job seeker fails to understand responsibilities and competences required on the recruitment post, this person may not be the ideal candidate in most cases. Most of the time, it is the secretary or administrative staffs that collects data everywhere and hand it to the purchasers through sales after filling it out. It is likely that sales staffs do not read it carefully, let alone the head of the company. Though the information of company will not change whether the supplier self-assessment form is filled in or not, the requirements and focuses varies from customers to customers. Thus, adding the official seal and signature will indirectly make sure that the demand of customers has been delivered to the correct person.
If you understand customers’ demand fully, you can then set out to improve the work to meet the next step of customers, say, audit. Usually the content for audit has something to do with that of self-assessment. Audit is a kind of verification, and this is why many companies hold that if the suppliers possess certificates given by famous certification companies, the further on-site audit can be exempted, as the system has already been examined.
The relevant templates and examples are available in the website by search function.
Great Acknowledgement Given to Ms. ZiZhu Wang (Akiko) from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies for Translation.