In the third and final installation of our three-part blog series, we will discuss the importance of customer support. Click here to read the first and second blogs in this series. Customer support can make or break a project. When you are looking for a supplier, how do you tell the difference between someone who is selling to you and someone who is really committed to serving you. It is important to find the right supplier that is there when you need them: reliable, accurate and informed.
“Every job is ‘mission critical’ and every job deserves our utmost attention. I tell my employees to run their desk like it is their own company, with urgency, attention and speed,” says Paul Michaels, Director, GMN Aerospace.
Problems come up when your parts are on the production line. Whether it’s big or small you want to make sure that your supplier has a support team in place that will help problem-solve and keep you informed. Here are some critical elements to evaluate when partnering with your next suppler:
- Expertise and Tenure of Support Team: If there is ever a question or problem it is important that someone will be there when you need them. Sitting around and waiting for an answer to an email or call can be very frustrating. When you are communicating with your supplier pay attention to how they treat you as a customer.
- Do they pass you along from department to department?
- Is someone there to provide you with immediate assistance?
- If they don’t know the question do they make sure to keep you updated?
- What is their escalation policy if something were to go wrong with your program?
- Ask to meet the staff that will be supporting your business.
- Training and Education: There are three distinct elements of training and education to consider: compliance, cross-training and technology.
Compliance Training: Part specifications and requirements are ever changing. The success of your project relies on your supplier to understand this and have a solid and transparent process for tracking changes. It is important that the team working on your project is up to date with the latest changes. Many suppliers require their employees to pass tests to become certified on reading blue prints. Ask about your supplier’s training regimen.
- How often is training administered?
- Is it done onsite or offsite, by in-house experts or external trainers or consultants?
Cross-Training: Doing business with a supplier who serves a diverse set of industries ultimately benefits the client – if they take advantage of cross-training their staff. This type of diversity in a company helps to develop use-cases of new and diverse application of existing technologies and processes that are applied to programs in different industries.
Is the supplier open to having customers come in to orient the staff on their program? For instance, GMN Aerospace holds regular training sessions given by Boeing employees to make sure that all specifications and requirements are understood. This gives you the reassurance that everyone handling your part knows every step and specification that goes into manufacturing.
“Cross-training at GMN Aerospace has been beneficial to our employees but mostly to our clients and the quality product they receive,” Michaels says. “Because GM Nameplate works with multiple industries, we believe in cross-training our employees to expose them to all different types of applications and capabilities of the pieces we manufacture.”
New Technology Education: The advancements in technology are endless. Your customers want the best of the best, so you want to make sure you are getting that from your supplier. It is hard for anyone to keep up with the ever-changing world, but you want to know that the supplier you choose is growing just as fast.
- How often do vendors train employees in new technology?
- How much time is put in to researching new technology?
- Risk Mitigation: Failure is not an option in most industries — but especially in the aerospace technology. From purchasing to assembly there should be steps in place to make sure all correct specifications are met.
- When and how often are your parts inspected?
- What steps are in place to make sure nothing gets over-looked?
- What kind of checklist is in place to assure that your program is compliant?
- Service Standards: These days it is harder and harder to find good customer service. But, basic customer service still matters.
- Establish a service level agreement so each party understands the expected level of response.
- Will you get sent to an automated phone service when you call? Or, will you have your own direct phone number to a dedicated support team?
- How long do you wait for a simple email response?
“We always make sure to respond to calls and emails as soon as we can, even if it’s just a status update, we want the customer to know we are working hard for them,” says Michaels.
The way a company treats their customers reflects on how they are going to treat your program and parts. Finding the right supplier can take time. Hopefully our perspective as a supplier will help you find a good fit for your company, project and personnel.
Today’s turbulent times, combined with our global market, has made it even more important to know that your supplier has the capacity to overcome any challenges. When the auto industry threatened to collapse any manufacturer that only supplied the big three automobile manufacturers suffered. It is important to make sure if this were to happen, your supplier wouldn’t have to cut employees, which would inevitably delay production of your parts. Make sure that if something happens to your supplier they have the sources and ability to deliver the parts they promised you on time. Here is the second installment of our three-part series – selecting the right supplier. To read our first blog in this series, click here.
Capacity: No matter how big or small your project, you want to know that the supplier you choose is reliable, able to handle the work involved, and expand to support your business as it grows. Because your manufacturing process relies on the timeliness and quality of OEM parts, making sure the supplier you hire is able to handle the work and time constraints for your project requires you to evaluate a variety of capacity criteria.
- Current Excess Production Capacity: You will want to know how many facilities the supplier has and how many workers they employ. If there is a surplus of work at one facility is it possible to ship to other facilities to ensure on-time delivery? Basic things to look for include:
- How many facilities have the ability to produce your parts?
- How many people at those facilities have the training to construct your parts?
- How far away are the other facilities?
- What are the manufacturer’s transportation constraints?
- Integrity of Their Supply Chain: How solid and trustworthy are the people you rely on to supply you with your raw materials or parts that go into the equipment you are manufacturing? In other words, how trustworthy are your suppliers’ suppliers? If your product requires a specific adhesive you need to know that they are using an adhesive supplier that is just as reliable as they are. Any interruption in one part of the supply chain could result in a delay. Every part of the chain affects the quality and timeliness of your product; make sure every part of that chain is dependable.
- Disaster Aversion: Hurricanes, earthquakes, strikes, oh my! There are many instances that could cause a delay in delivery of your parts. You need reassurance that there is a plan in place in case of an unexpected interruption in production.
- What measures does the supplier have in place to make sure a disaster won’t affect your projects?
- Is there a back-up plant that they can easily transition your job to?
- How nimble is your supplier? Can they quickly react and overcome an interruption?
- How does your supplier prepare for disasters? What precautions do they take?
Click here to read the next and final article in this three-part series on how to evaluate a suppliers’ commitment to their customers when partnering with a new supplier.
Through the years, we’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of aerospace companies – from Boeing’s Tier 1 suppliers to OEMs and resellers. The best relationships, those that have developed into long-term partnerships, are the ones that have gone through a thorough examination from hard benefits like cost per piece and capacity to soft benefits like customer support and cross-industry expertise. In this three-part series, we’ll give our perspective of how to evaluate potential suppliers’ capabilities, capacity, and commitment.
Capabilities: When manufacturers, especially those involved in the aerospace business, talk about their capabilities, it usually refers to the expertise they have in a particular production process and their ability to apply that process to a variety of applications. Regardless the type of program; from passenger service units to glass cockpits and flight deck markings the following considerations should be researched and evaluated:
- Expertise in Production Process – Lots of companies can claim to have expertise in a particular area or capability, but how do you know for certain? Ask them about their production process, get a tour of their facility and meet the people who are on the production line. If a manufacturer can’t tell you what happens at each step in the process, chances are, they don’t have the depth of experience to deliver high quality parts with the specifications you demand. Ask about:
- What is each step in the production process?
- What procedures are in place to ensure that each step is done to specifications?
- When does testing occur?
- What are the acceptable margins for error?
- Example of Past Projects – One of the best ways to see what a supplier can do for you is to see what they have done for other customers. Ask for several finished pieces and hold on to them for a while to judge the quality.
- Age of Equipment, In-House or Off-Site – Another criterion in evaluating a potential supplier is to walk the factory floor. Take a look at the equipment and the condition of the production facility. Do the machines look well-kept or are they in need of repair? Is the factory floor neat and clean, or are scraps casually strewn across the floor?
- Expertise of Operators – When you evaluate a supplier, it’s important to understand the experience of the employees who will be directly responsible for the manufacture of your order. Be sure to ask:
- How are they trained?
- How long have they been doing this?
- What are their hours of operation?
- Quality Assurance – There are a few key statistics that every buyer and decision maker of aerospace parts needs to consider. In aerospace, failure is not an option. So, solid manufacturers that are considered highly capable are those that experience only a handful of defects per million units produced – also known as DPMO or Defective Parts Per Million.
On June 27, GM Nameplate Seattle’s quality management system achieved AS9100C certification. GM Nameplate supports the aerospace industry under the brand name GMN Aerospace and the new certification provides quality system updates and improvements, specifically focused on the aerospace industry.
Prior to AS9100C, GM Nameplate Seattle has been AS9100B certified since 2007. As an aerospace supplier for nearly 50 years, GM Nameplate places a high importance on meeting all customer quality standards, regardless of their industry. GMN’s certified quality management system verifies the organization’s commitment to producing the highest quality products, and continually improving processes.
“Revision C to AS9100 is the most intensive we have ever met. The focus of AS9100 has moved to the effectiveness of a quality management system,” said Martin Espinola, quality director at GM Nameplate’s Washington division.
The revisions have an increased focus on risk management and purchasing controls to help ensure on-time and on-quality deliveries. AS9100C Certified Management systems are focused on the aviation, space, and defense industries.
“GM Nameplate continues to target perfection with honest and earnest commitment to performing our duties to the best of our abilities and always looking at how we are not only meeting, but exceeding our customer’s expectations,” said Martin Espinola.
For more information about GM Nameplate’s updated AS9100C Quality Management Certification please visit our certifications page.
About GM Nameplate
Established in 1954, GM Nameplate specializes in providing custom design solutions and manufacturing of branding components including nameplates, decals, labels and custom panels; electronic input devices such as membrane switches, rubber keypads and touch screens; decorated and molded plastic components; value added assemblies; and large format digital graphics. GM Nameplate is recognized worldwide as a leading international manufacturer, which provides products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations every time.
GM Nameplate is a privately owned company with corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington. The company employs nearly 1,000 people throughout facilities in California, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and Asia.
We recently posted about our bi-annual customer survey that was conducted this spring. In addition to the regular bi-annual customer survey, we also went over the trends in our customer surveys from the last five years. This project showed us what areas have improved and areas that continue to improve, as well as where we might need to focus more attention.
As a service-based company, our priority is always our customers — making sure we can meet their needs in the fastest most efficient way possible, while still adhering to our high quality standards. Trending our customer feedback has helped see how we are doing overall and where we continue to improve.
Over the last five years over 95% of survey participants say they would recommend us. We have steadily been trending upwards in all aspects of customer satisfaction. In addition, 91% of participants gave our responsiveness a rating of excellent or good.
Since we serve many customers in the aerospace industry it is helpful to see how our aerospace customers have rated us over the years. On average over the last five years, just over 94% of aerospace customer reported that they would recommend GMN. The top three reasons to why customers would recommend us over the last five years were because of great customer service (31%), quality (19%), and competitive lead time (11%). Among aerospace customers specifically, lead time and on-time delivery were the top reasons why they would recommend GMN.
After looking at our trends, we can see that overall we are heading in the right direction with customer satisfaction. As we continue to grow as a company it is important that we also keep in mind how our customers rate our service.
GM Nameplate recently conducted its bi-annual customer survey, which included responses from customers who placed an order from November 2011 to April 2012 . The survey, which measures customer’s satisfaction is used to gauge how we are doing — areas that we need to improve, and areas that we are doing well. Regular customer feedback is imperative to ensuring that we are doing a good job, and continuously moving forward in quality, service, delivery and overall satisfaction. The survey includes customer from all of our brands and product lines with a significant number of responses from GMN Aerospace customers.
The survey, which was sent out to all customers that placed an order in the last six months, is made up of multiple choice and open ended questions covering all aspects of the customer experience. Aerospace customers made up about 36% of the survey participants.
We are pleased to report that our customers continue to give us high marks in several categories. In the following categories, 90% or higher of respondents gave a rating of Excellent (1) or Good (2):
- Account Manager Order Acknowledgement
- Overall Experience w/ Account Manager
- Overall Experience w/ Salesperson
- Engineering & Design Assistance
- Account Mgr./New Product Mgr. Expertise
- Mfg / Industry Expertise
- Order Process
Many of customers commented on the excellence of our customer service, stating that it was one of the main reasons why they choose to work with us. Over 96% of the survey participants said that they would recommend GM Nameplate. Customers responded that our price and quality was one of the top reasons why they would recommend working with GM Nameplate.
While there were many areas that highlighted what we are doing well, the survey responses also provided feedback on areas to improve. We have implemented measures to reduce lead times, streamline our account communication and assistance process, and continue to enhance our quality system. We are confident that you will see the direct results of our efforts in future projects with GM Nameplate.
Have you ever wondered how exterior aircraft graphics are added to a jet? I recently came across this video about our installation on a Qantas 747 jet. The video is a bit old but it still gives great information including a time-lapse of the installation. GMN’s SuperGraphics division implemented the project and the plane was used in celebration of the Australia Grand Prix.
Seattle – April 19, 2012 – GM Nameplate has been recognized as Supplier of the Year in the Interiors category by The Boeing Company. GM Nameplate was one of 16 companies honored on April 18th for distinguished performance in working with Boeing.
In January, GM Nameplate was notified that it was one of 529 companies to receive the Boeing Performance Excellence Award, which rewards performance excellence. Achieving the Supplier of the Year designation further acknowledges superior performance and labels this class of winners as best of the best.
“In today’s challenging business environment, an agile supply chain that continuously delivers excellent performance is critical,” said Jack House, vice president of Supplier Management for Boeing Defense, Space and Security and leader of Boeing’s company-wide Supplier Management program. “The supplier partners receiving 2011 Supplier of the Year awards have demonstrated outstanding commitment to providing our customers with the best-value, highest-quality products and services, while meeting the customers’ requirements and anticipating their needs for the future.”
This year’s winners represent an elite group among more than 17,525 active Boeing suppliers in nearly 52 countries around the world. This selection was based on stringent performance criteria for quality, delivery performance, cost, environmental initiatives, customer service and technical expertise.
“To receive Boeing’s Supplier of the Year for the 3rd year in a row is not only an incredible pioneering achievement, but a true testament to the spirit of collaboration we have with The Boeing Company. Our whole organization is focused on this goal as well as fulfilling every commitment no matter the size. With over 1.4 Million custom manufactured pieces shipped to Boeing in 2011, we have set our goals even higher for 2012.” said Paul Michaels, Director of GM Nameplate Aerospace. “We thank The Boeing Company for this exceptional recognition, and will continue our focus as a world-class provider of customer service and support!”
For more information on the Boeing Supplier of the Year award, including a complete list of award recipients, visit http://boeing.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43.
About GM Nameplate and GMN Aerospace
GM Nameplate is known for its expertise in providing custom design solutions and manufacturing of branding components including nameplates, decals, labels and custom panels; electronic input devices such as membrane switches, rubber keypads and touch screens; decorated and molded plastic components, value-added assemblies, and large format digital graphics.
As a key part of GM Nameplate, GMN Aerospace is a recognized worldwide leader in the manufacture of mandatory markings and sub-assemblies for the entire aircraft. This includes interior and exterior mandatory markings, component supplier for passenger service units (PSU), custom plastic injection molded components, and aerospace sub-assemblies.
Since receiving its first Boeing order in 1960, GM Nameplate has provided Boeing and the aerospace industry with high-quality products and continues to build on its collaborative relationship with Boeing today. Quality and Delivery are the core focus to all GM Nameplate’s custom products, and the company has earned an overall composite rating average of Silver at 99.99 percent for both quality and delivery throughout the performance period.
The team at GMN Aerospace takes a great deal of pride in our commitment to all of our programs and customers. Many times it is the little pieces of the business relationship that means the most. Below is a message that was truly an honor to share with the GMN Aerospace team:
Dear Mr. Mears,
I wanted to personally thank you and your staff for your fantastic support to the program. We have had multiple fire drills for the past several weeks. Each and every time your team has stepped up and supported our urgent requests. We are working to close our final certification walk deliverable early this week. We would not have made it without your help. I am certain it is the people that make GM Nameplate one of our top suppliers.
A heartfelt thanks, and know you and your team is directly contributing to the success of our Program.
Interiors Chief Engineer
Before there was “Dream Tour 2012” with Aircraft ZA003 there was another tour that took place supporting the 787. The team at GM Nameplate’s superGraphics division was the chosen company to produce and install eight flight simulators across five cities for the 787 group. We called it the Dream Wrap Tour. We are excited to share the time-lapse video of the install one of the five 787 simulators. You can follow ZA003 on the Dream Tour by logging on to http://www.newairplane.com.