This article originally appeared in North American Clean Energy.
It’s time to call your supplier. Who else can you depend on when you’ve lost that high from knowing that all your turbines are up and functioning? If a component is to blame, you need to know who you can depend on to get you what you need, when you need it.
Choosing a reliable component supplier you can trust is essential to keeping your turbines spinning. From the smallest component to the largest, your suppliers should be a critical part of your extended team, able to understand your expectations and support your needs.
With all of the choices out there nowadays, identifying a great component supplier can be difficult, especially when you are relying on their products and services to keep your turbines running efficiently.
Before you begin the search, make sure that your entire internal team - from the engineer putting together the specifications, to the purchasing group - all have a clear understanding of the component need. You also need to know how to triage your needs. What’s your priority? Is it cost? Maintenance? Customer service? Or all of the above?
Having these clear expectations will make the process run smoother and avoid extra time in your search for the best supplier.
The top five factors to consider:
This seems an obvious factor when deciding which supplier to work with, but quality can be interpreted differently. Your definition of quality should match your supplier’s definition of quality before you can determine if they will be a good fit. A quality product should hold up to your turbine’s environment and expectations for lifespan. One way a supplier can help assure you of their quality output is through product testing. Is this something your supplier offers? If not, perhaps it’s something they would consider, especially if they are new in the industry, or handling a product without adequate history.
Maintenance is inevitable on any component part, but what is the standard maintenance schedule for that part? Are you currently aligned with that schedule or are you finding you need to replace or repair more often?
Asking how often the product needs to be maintained, and the level of ease or difficulty of maintaining that part, should be incorporated in your search requirements for suppliers. Is the product easy to access for routine maintenance? How difficult and expensive is it to replace parts that have worn down? This information sets the expectation for your maintenance schedule, and helps to estimate potential downtime for maintenance needs. If you’re finding your maintaining products more often than you should, it’s time for you to have a talk with your supplier. If they’re no longer a good fit, then it’s time to look elsewhere.
From general inquiries and quotes, to the design and manufacturing of your product, customer service will most likely be a big factor in your decision to work with a specific component supplier. Response rate and lead times are extremely important, especially in situations when you are in need of a replacement or need emergency maintenance. How reasonable is your supplier’s lead time? How quickly do they respond to your communications? How is their overall follow-up? Your answers to these questions will be key indicators of whether a supplier is good for your business.
Many things can determine pricing, from materials used to shipping fees. Now that you’re searching and comparing component suppliers, make sure you’re getting the best overall value for the price. Pricing includes not just the product itself, but also the customer service and support provided by the supplier. Understanding a supplier’s pricing structure, and looking for that added value, will be key in building a strong and trusting relationship.
The best practice is to ensure all suppliers meet consistent requirements. This will go far to prevent future issues. When working with a supplier of your most critical components, take the extra time to verify that they are conducting onsite audits to ensure all quality standards are met.
A great supplier will excel in all of the above areas, but ultimately, the best component supplier is one you trust understands your business, your needs, and your expectations. When you find the supplier that’s willing to work alongside your team, to ensure your turbines are running effectively, and help grow your business, your search will be over.
By Jesse Shearer, UEA Slip Ring Engineering Supervisor