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Trust in the supply chain 

24 March 2022

Commentary by Lill-Susann Engevik Rugtvedt

As we emerge from the worldwide pandemic into an era of geopolitical uncertainty, businesses who design and manufacture products – like us here at Fishbones – are feeling acutely aware of the challenges faced. From exponentially rising costs of materials and energy to interruptions to the international transportation infrastructure, now is a time where global supply chains have never been more fragile and the strength of these are being tested. At Fishbones, we are thankful to have strong, robust, and largely local supply chains that provide us with an extra layer of reassurance in these uncertain times.

Our ethos: Mutual trust and respect

Working with suppliers as long-term partners is important to us. This means we treat our suppliers with respect and champion them to succeed as strong successful businesses. As a responsible business, we choose to pay them a fair price instead of pushing them and squeezing their margins. We want them to operate with a healthy financial status as this gives us reassurance that they will be able to work alongside us long into the future.

At Fishbones, we have been working with many of our suppliers for over 10 years.  We don’t see suppliers as something we can simply switch out at will, and this is in large part because we’ve spent time finding the best people to work with. We extensively vet them and therefore value what they bring to our business, truly viewing suppliers as a trusted extension of our own Fishbones team.  As such, we opt not to have hundreds of suppliers on our books, but instead choose quality over quantity.

Leveraging expertise to optimize production

Positive and meaningful relationships with our suppliers is central to the way we work. Meeting face to face, whether via an online call or in person, has been essential to solidifying those relationships – instead of just operating with a name via email. This has in turn benefitted the business, as suppliers feel able to approach Fishbones and offer advice about solutions that might save time and money, without ever compromising on the quality of our products. For example, a machining supplier may share their insight, allowing manufacturing processes to be simplified and optimised. These improvements happen because of a relationship based on mutual respect and are good for both our business and theirs. Additionally, the insight and expertise we’ve gained about manufacturing processes, via our suppliers, has now filtered down into the product development stage. As a result, we now consider machining during product design, and actively bring our suppliers into the process with us.

Our demonstration of loyalty and strong relationships with suppliers means that we can operate with impressive lead times for our customers. Of course, there can be variation dependent on the specific technical requirements, but 16 weeks is a typical lead time to have the order ready and available at the Fishbones warehouse. Our relationships with suppliers have also meant that on several occasions, we know they have prioritised our projects and this is particularly helpful if we have something time sensitive or perhaps unforeseen that we need to achieve.

Supporting local

Having face to face meetings with suppliers is certainly easier when many are based in or near to our home city of Stavanger, Norway. Our cooperation with suppliers is no doubt enhanced by this proximity, and so is the quality of our products. Having oversight on quality or being able to trouble shoot an issue with a supplier is significantly easier when you can simply drop in, discuss, and see things for yourself. With quality paramount for us at Fishbones, having local suppliers is a way of ensuring this remains and any quality deviations always prove fast to fix.

Being located in a global energy hub, such as Stavanger, also means we are fortunate to be surrounded by some of the best suppliers in the industry. Stavanger and the wider Rogaland region, which has developed an unrivalled infrastructure to support the industry, provides us with some of the most experienced and competent suppliers in the sector. We recognise this and that is why we actively choose to welcome their insight, support and competence when working alongside them. For example, we never feel concerned that our suppliers may not be able to deal with the complexity of extensive documentation requirements, for example, as they are so experienced in these and other relevant processes.

The future of our supply chain

As Fishbones grows and expands, with jobs globally, there will be a need to extend and grow our supply chain.  The fundamental ethical approach we adopt when working with suppliers will remain. We feel confident that this focus on partnership working, respect, developing trust and loyalty and valuing the competencies of those we work alongside, will keep our supply chains strong long into the future.

Strength in our supply chain allows us to be a more successful business, with better quality products, and importantly affords us the resilience to weather any unexpected shocks.

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