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Chemical Supplier? Ask These 9 Vital Questions First

If you’re looking for a new chemical supplier, chances are you’ve been let down by your current provider. Maybe they’ve had a price increase or there’s been a quality or supply issue. Of course, price, quality and continuity of supply are vital. But what else should you look for in your next supplier? We set out nine vital questions to ask when choosing your new chemical supplier.

Question 1 – will this business truly understand my company’s needs?

While many companies aren’t able to share a customer list due to strict confidentiality rules, you need to feel confident they’re experienced with a business like yours.

They must be able to tailor their services to meet your specific requirements. This could be in terms of providing technical support, flexing volumes or understanding the importance of on-time, in-full delivery. Look out for case studies on the company’s website for insight into how they work.

Question 2 – is this company’s product range right for my business?

In an ideal world your potential new supplier will have an up-to-date website that’s easy to navigate so you can quickly find out whether they supply what you need. The chances are, to start with, you’ll dip one toe in the water by purchasing a single product. But nobody wants one supplier per chemical used. So it’s worth checking out the provider’s full range up front to see if they can provide you with additional chemicals in the future. Helping you streamline operations and reduce administration at a later date.

Question 3 – do their costs fit with my budget?

Cost is key. But that doesn’t always mean the cheapest provider is the right one for your business. It’s a balancing act, with quality, continuity of supply, product range and other aspects – like technical support, flexibility and reliability – to consider too.

picture of house with money value increasing

Question 4 – can they reliably and flexibly meet my supply needs, now and in the future?

As a manufacturer, you’ll likely want multiple chemical suppliers so you can stay ahead of any supply challenges. This makes it vitally important to assess whether a potential new supplier has the capacity to meet your demand. Not only now, but into the future. Because, as your business grows, you want to be sure the supplier can scale to your needs.

With manufacturing uptime so key, you’ll want a new chemical supplier with a 100% on-time, in-full delivery record[1] . And, in an ideal world, they’d also be flexible enough to meet varying volume needs. So find out whether they’re willing to deliver half-loads if you were to have a slowdown in production or your warehouse is crammed full. Finding a chemical supplier with a flexible approach could be godsend down the line.

Question 5 – does the chemical supplier offer technical support, R&D and product development services?

There are many situations when technical support could be indispensable for your manufacturing process. For example:

  • If something’s gone wrong with a product’s formulation or performance.
  • If you need to reduce costs without impacting performance.
  • You need help to understand something better – from product formulation and sustainability solutions to regulatory issues.
  • You want to develop a new product or expand into new markets.
  • Your technical team needs extra support.

For any of these situations, it’s vital to have access to top-notch technical expertise. Yet only some suppliers have technically trained commercial teams who can answer technical queries up front. And even fewer chemical suppliers offer support from highly experienced sector experts as part of their offer. Look out for businesses that provide this level of technical support – it could be the defining factor in helping you perfect your product formulations.

Question 6 – how do they maintain consistent quality standards and meet deadlines?

The obvious certifications to look out for are ISO9001, ISO45001 and ISO14001[2] . Which cover quality management, health and safety management and environmental management respectively. You’ll also want to ensure your potential new supplier has a robust internal audit system that helps it stay on track and ensure everything is traceable.

But quality goes beyond ISO and systems. Think about the team of people the business is built around. Does the company have leaders and employees with significant sector experience? And what’s the reputation of key people like? Doing some digging in this area will give you the confidence to decide who to move forwards with.

man typing on computer

Question 7 – is this company financially secure and invested for the long-term?

Rakem Group’s Operations Director, Steve Bunker says: ‘I’m not a great fan of using credit checks alone to decide if a company is financially secure. The numbers that are assessed to determine a credit score tend to be nine months old. And, as we know, so much can happen in that period’.

Steve recommends trying these additional tips in addition to credit checks:

Take a look at Companies House to check:

  • Company accounts – ideally you want your supplier toshare its full company accounts rather than abbreviated statements. If the ‘re only abbreviated, you should be able to obtain a full set from your supplier if they want to work with you.
  • Directors’ track records – see how many companies they’ve been involved with and be mindful of any failed businesses on their records.
  • How old the company is – be mindful of phoenix businesses, especially where failed companies reappear in a different guise soon after closing.
  • Visit the company’s website – you’re looking for a site that’s regularly updated with recent news stories and articles that actually help customers rather than just selling the company’s products.

It’s also imperative that you actually visit your supplier in person. To at least verify what you’ve learned from your online research but also to fulfil your obligations under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

‘All of this gives you a reasonable steer’ says Steve.

Question 8 – will this company be a good cultural fit for my business?

Take a look at a potential chemical supplier’s company values and any other information about how they work. Then, when you speak with them, make sure they demonstrate these values when they interact with you.

Companies that are confident in their approach will be happy to complete supplier questionnaires as part of the procurement process. As well as on an ongoing basis because they can demonstrate high standards and continuous improvement.

They’re also happy to open the door and welcome you over the threshold because they’ve got nothing to hide.

Question 9 – do their sustainability and corporate social responsibility standards match or exceed yours?

Aligning your business with like-minded suppliers has become increasingly important in recent years. Look for companies that make a difference beyond their own front door, for example:

two people holding the earth in their hands

Find a chemical supplier that can respond to all nine of these questions in the right way and you can be confident they’ll be a great fit for your manufacturing business.

Find out more about the Rakem Group by contacting one of the team.