Have Time on Your Hands? Shore Up Your Network

We currently find ourselves in the cold stretch of late winter. It’s not likely to be anyone’s favorite time of year, especially depending on how much snow you shovel—But there is a glimmer of hope. Buckeye Chuck did not see his shadow and is predicting an early spring for us in Ohio. In all seriousness, before you know it, spring and summer will be here, along with the rush of the busy season.

And that’s reason enough to consider how you’re using these less busy months of the year. It’s something I’ve written about before and something I made a brief mention of in last month’s post. You can catch up on some critical maintenance tasks you might not have had time for last summer and fall. You can use the time to offer training to your teams.

You can also use the time to take a step back to evaluate and strengthen your professional network, including your suppliers, your partners, and peers throughout the industry. Here’s a look at how you might make that happen:

Review Your Procurement Processes
When orders are high, and you’re trying to get finished products out the door, commercial glass shop managers and operators might not spend much time thinking about their procurement processes. What’s most important is to ensure you’re building quality systems and satisfying your customers.

But this winter, considering the front end of your processes is worth considering. And while I’ve written a lot about optimizing plant layouts, let’s look back even before that. When it comes to purchasing your raw materials, are your ordering processes optimized with your key suppliers? Are you receiving those materials with minimal disruptions? When was the last time you “followed an order” through your process? How open and accessible are your key communication channels? How streamlined and customer-centric is the process? If you have the chance during a slow period, it’s worth pulling management teams together to ensure your business is optimized at every level.

A reliable supplier should be receptive to your efforts here and similarly invested in improving these processes. These things should be more than simply transactional. A strong relationship with a trustworthy supplier should be focused on ongoing improvement, collaboration and mutual success.

Get Out to Conferences
I mentioned the value of deepening your industry connections last month, but it’s worth diving deeper. It’s not a coincidence that late winter and early spring coincide with dozens of industry meetings and conferences, be they smaller regional affairs or national gatherings. Outside of the busy rush of later in the year, it’s a great time for all of us in the commercial glass industry to put our heads together.

The pandemic helped demonstrate the intangible value of face-to-face interactions and relationship building. These events enable us to spend time together and discuss things that may or may not be discussed during your day-to-day business operations. Unexpected opportunities, new relationships, and different ways of looking at your business’s success can all spring forth. If you can attend some events at the start of the year, it can be well worth your while.

I look forward to these events, strengthening my connections, and making new ones as the year rolls on. I hope you are, too.

Joe Erb is a national account manager for Quanex.