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3M News: Tech Often Hinders Buyer-Supplier Collaboration

Most suppliers surveyed by 3M say they don’t feel empowered to collaborate with their corporate buyers and business partners, and that could have a negative impact on these companies’ ability to innovate, researchers said.

In 3M news, it released new data on the impact of strong buyer-supplier relationships this week but found the process to be a challenge: 57 percent of suppliers said they did not feel able to collaborate with partners, and half said they have held themselves back from promoting sustainable supply chain practices or tools because their corporate customers aren’t open to it.

Researchers said sustainability is a key goal for suppliers today. That can come in many forms, 3M said, from more sustainable product packaging to product innovation. For companies that don’t engage with their suppliers on this front, researchers warned they could be impeding innovation and distribution and losing out on cost savings.

The majority (70 percent) of those surveyed said at least half of their corporate customers have no mechanism in place to promote buyer-supplier collaboration.

“This coordination gap is potentially costing customers millions in efficiency and development opportunities,” reports said of the finding.

Digitization and technology can promote a stronger buyer-supplier relationship, but a quarter of survey respondents said their corporate customers force technologies and systems on them that actually make it more difficult to be productive and collaborate.

There is opportunity, however. 3M found that 60 percent of businesses are planning to upgrade systems or make other changes that will promote a deeper connection to their corporate customers. That includes cloud-based communication, analysts said. Most suppliers told 3M that they already have modern systems in place that can support this type of communication, but only 29 percent said they have deployed a tool that enables two-way demand planning and distribution.

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