"Youve got to see it to believe it." Perhaps this was the philosophy that first drove early supply management professionals to pay visits to supplying organizations. Supply management professionals used terms like verification, auditing, or "checking up" on outputs to justify trips to the suppliers site. In these "swim with the sharks" days, the supplier placed great value on these visits as opportunities to condition its customers by creating, changing, and managing customer expectations. The supplier would often make statements about productivity and efficiency to create an image of capability to meet customer needs, point out in-line automated quality inspection stations to create the impression that it delivers high-quality goods and services, and make statements about its ability to be competitive to create the perception that the customer can expect good pricing. Because both the buyer and the supplier had expectations of the visit creating trust and comfort, opportunities to answer questions, instigate new ideas, and, above all, spread knowledge of how the buying and supplying organizations can each make improvements that benefit the value chain were often missed. For the supply management professional wanting to achieve best practice, it can be helpful to look at how traditional supplier visits fall short, what supplier-visit activities are appropriate for various types of relationships, and how to use the information gained during a visit to ultimately achieve process improvements.
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