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The Last Word - Exclusive for Machinery's Sheet Metal Supplement, 12 April

2004 issue.


Arthur Smith, Director of fastener specialist Northern Precision, says good customer service is an investment in the future. Balancing the best price with a quality product that can be delivered on time is the golden rule of supply, of course. We at Northern Precision, which last year sold 33 million fasteners many of them from a range of 5,000 plus standard parts, have the answers to most fastener problems and we use a variety of processes and procedures, including ISO standards, to ensure we consistently do get it right.  But while the supply of even off-the-shelf 'commodity' products like fasteners may be regarded as straightforward (and, in many cases, it is), the increasingly stringent performance demands being made on certain products - particularly in terms of new materials and applications such as aerospace - are now prompting a number of buyers to depend more and more on the expertise and knowledge of their supply base.   That's no bad thing and, refreshingly, is being welcomed by many suppliers. Yet by working in the customer's best interests to both determine the exact requirements of the application and identify the best fastener for the job, can sometimes mean that not only is the buyer provided with a level of 'free engineering' but also, in some cases, potential business has to be turned away.   From the supplier's point of view, good customer service is simply not dependent on best price, on-time delivery and, dare I say it, 'make-do' solutions. The prime concern should always be the quality and performance of the finished product when it leaves the customer's door - that's as important as worrying about the component that leaves our door!   Very often, particularly in the sheet metalworking arena, the fastener - the smallest component part in terms of both size and cost of any finished product - can often create the biggest headache if it is not accurately specified or, indeed, manufactured correctly. This is especially true in aerospace applications.   Surely, this principle has to be the driver for every buyer and every supplier, whatever the component part, sub-assembly or product. There are indeterminable benefits of dealing with customers, and engineering and manufacturing applications, in this way. By communicating effectively and gaining a thorough understanding of production problems and what customers are really trying to achieve brings rewards to all concerned.   Underpinned by confidence, trust and reliability, we have found that the establishment of true working partnerships is the only way forward - and the best route to long-term, win-win situations for all parties. Certainly, many buyers know exactly what they want and where to go to get it. But not everyone does. It is logical - and decent - to provide buyers with the appropriate help, advice and guidance. When you deal with technical enquiries in this way, always treating the customer as king, you may not always be successful in securing an order on the back of a particular conversation or enquiry. But invariably, those concerned will be back on the 'phone at sometime in the future, having remembered that free advice.   We hear stories about buyers who spend all day talking to prospective suppliers to obtain the cheapest quote and therefore save themselves just £1 on a batch of fasteners. It's not that uncommon. Despite the fact that the cost of the 'phone calls - let alone the day's salary - certainly added up to more than the saving, the buyer has 'done his job'. But at what cost? Issued April 2004 on behalf of: Northern Precision Ltd, Unit 3 Durham Lane, Armthorpe, Doncaster DN3 3FE Tel: 01302 836010 Fax: 01302 836012 Web site: Contact: Mr. Steve Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing Editorial enquiries: Read other news from 2004
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