Every day recycling facilities depend on partnerships with customers, employees and buyers/brokers to obtain, process and sell recyclables. But there is another critical partner that should not be overlooked when operating a recycling facility: vendors.
Think about the products and services that are needed at recycling centers. The list is long and includes:
- Screens (Elliptical, trammel, star, etc…)
- Optical sorters
- Rolling stock (such as fork lifts and payloaders)
- Spare parts
- Insurance and bonds
- Engineering services
- Construction services
Managers of recycling centers use a number of vendors to procure equipment, parts, supplies and services. Everything from baling wire to hydraulic fluids to parts for rolling stock typically are obtained through a network of vendors who play an important role in keeping a recycling center running smoothly.
Selecting the “right” vendor is an important decision. Make the right choice and you’ll be rewarded with quality products and services that will keep your facility running smoothly while helping make your business grow. Choose the wrong supplier and you may get stuck with inferior products, delays in the supply chain and poor advice and counsel that may result in lost productivity or equipment failure. The following are a few steps to find and select vendors who are good business partners.
Identifying Potential Vendors
You will need to identify a list of potential suppliers who can provide goods and services to your recycling facility. This can be is easy; however finding the “right” vendor who becomes a trusted and valued business partner will take time.
Start by identifying prospective suppliers. A search of the web, attendance at trade shows or simply asking colleagues for recommendations will yield potential vendors. You also can contact trade associations such as the National Waste and Recycling Association (NW&RA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and ask for guidance on potential vendors that have experience in working in the recycling industry.
Once you have several recommendations you will need to go through a selection process to ensure the prospective vendor is a good fit for your business. The selection process can be formal or informal but must be fair and objective.
Setting a Scope of Work
In order to select a vendor, you should identify the exact goods and/or services that are needed for your business. For example, if you are buying baling wire, the supplier will need to know the exact gage of wire and type of wire that you need. Prospective suppliers will also need to know how many or how much you will be purchasing. Setting clear specifications and a defined scope of work will help you fairly compare prospective vendors.
In addition to providing products that match specifications, vendors also should be encouraged to provide alternative products that will help the recycling facility become more efficient and cost effective.
Evaluating Prospective Vendors
During the evaluation process a manager needs to consider a number of factors including price, quality, reliability, customer service and guarantees (if any). Evaluating vendors on price is easy if you provided a clear, well-written specification or scope of work. However, it is important to look beyond price and also evaluate the vendor’s ability to perform.
Ask potential vendors for references with whom they have provided goods and service within the past year. Call the references for feedback on the vendor’s performance. You may also want to obtain and review information on the prospective vendor’s stability and reliability by reviewing the firm’s history and finances.
In most cases, you will want to evaluate three priced proposals to get a good cost comparison. On bigger, more complex scopes of work, you may want to talk to 6 to 10 potential vendors to ensure you select the right firm. Remember, the typical rule is that the larger the expense, the more detailed the selection process becomes and the longer the selection process may take. Large capital expenditures may require multiple managers to review and approve the purchase or service agreement. This process can take time.
The evaluation process is also a good time to talk with vendors to ensure they understand the specifications and the scope of work. During this time, confirm the ability of a vendor to meet your requirements and carefully review your expectations with the vendor.
Partnering for Success
As vendors are evaluated, the best “fit” for the recycling center will become clear. Final decisions should be based on the best overall value–the best quality at the best price. To seal the deal, managers can enter into a service contract to detail the price of the goods or services, payment terms and any guarantees. Having an agreement in writing will help in the event of a problem down the line.
Over time, it is important to maintain regular communication with vendors and provide feedback. The open communication should also allow vendors to provide information on ways to improve the quality of the products or services they provide in an effort to improve overall operations. If there is a problem with a vendor’s product or service, you should inform the vendor immediately and give him or her an opportunity to fix the problem.
Finally, it is important to treat vendors with respect and fairness at all times. Vendors should be paid on time and be given the chance to present ideas for improving the services or products they design. Again, good vendors will be the ones who are always looking for ways to improve their value to the organization they serve.
Will Flower is general manager with Winters Bros. Waste Systems in Long Island, N.Y.