Cornell University would not be the institution it is without its suppliers, said Human Ecology Assistant Dean Craig Higgins at the third annual supplier recognition event hosted by Cornell Procurement Services June 11. Cornell is a demanding customer, but it's also one of the first Ivy League universities to recognize suppliers for performance in product and service quality, pricing, order fulfillment, customer satisfaction, and social responsibility. In his address, Higgins praised Cornell's supplier recognition process, saying that it helps distinguish how the recognized suppliers differ from others.
The 21 suppliers acknowledged this year represent only small number of those currently servicing Cornell. According to Mr. Higgins' creative statistics, the combined dollars Cornell spends yearly on purchases can wrap around the Earth's equator 1.7 times. That's actual dollar bills, by the way, end-to-end. This amazing fact elevates the importance of making sure Cornell's dollars are well spent and of recognizing vendors that give Cornell the best value.
Suppliers recognized through the program are awarded with top recognition or honorable mention. Top recognition suppliers meet or exceed performance standards for all eligible quarters of the previous fiscal year, while honorable mention suppliers meet standards for two quarters. To determine which vendors to recognize, Cornell asks suppliers to provide metrics to support performance figures, Cornell buyers complete two customer satisfaction surveys based on purchases, and vendors were asked to submit corrective action plans and narratives supporting why they should be recognized as top performers.
Suppliers don't find it difficult to participate in the program. Eagle Envelope began participating this year and received honorable mention. Dave Martin, president at Eagle Envelope, said the process was eye-opening, because self-evaluation is not always easy to do. "It motivates you. Whenever you're graded or scored, you obviously want to do better. It makes you step back and look at things more carefully. It will help us be a better vendor."
For larger companies like Graybar Electric, which received top recognition this year – up from honorable mention last year – participation is almost second nature. "We're already doing much of the self-evaluation the program requires," said Angelo Scivetti, sales representative for Graybar. As for how they rose in the rankings, Scivetti explained, "Our primary goal is to continuously improve. Our focus is delivering products when we say we will." The customer-focused company has a 98% on-time delivery record and fulfills orders to Cornell from two locations – Syracuse and Vestal.
W.W. Grainger, which provides thousands of products over a variety of commodities, also upped its ranking from honorable mention to top performer. George Plew, government account manager at the Vestal branch, attributes a portion of the shift to the customer satisfaction surveys, which were introduced in last year's program. But the surveys were a double-edged sword. Grainger's ranking of honorable mention last year was down from their top recognition award received during the first year of the program. The surveys revealed Grainger hadn't yet formed solid relationships with some of its campus customers, so using survey results, they targeted where they fell short previously. "This year," said Plew, "we were able to build relationships with more customers, so they knew us and were then able to provide positive feedback on the survey."
Combining the supplier recognition process with presence at the Cornell Supplier Show held June 12 in Barton Hall, vendors find opportunities to meet new customers and keep in touch with current ones. Plew finds the show very helpful, because "people inquire about how to order Grainger's products. I get to meet new customers and follow up with our current customers. It helps."
The supplier show, produced again this year by The Events Company out of Syracuse, NY, featured 119 suppliers, using 142 booths. This year, vendors were grouped and booths were color-coded. Lab and scientific vendors were grouped in the center of the floor and diverse supplier booths were grouped in yellow, near the front. Kevin Samolis, chief of staff at The Events Company, explained that this event differs from other events the company produces because "the benefit is for the suppliers, who are really the customers for this event."
Vendor costs for this year's event were reduced to encourage more supplier participation. "Every year, we try to reduce the fee for attending the show," said Samolis. "This year, we had record participation." Samolis encourages vendors to sponsor the event, which helps reduce show costs and gives suppliers a chance to be recognized for their contributions. Suppliers provide such items as programs, flyers, and banners, and in return, they receive recognition in the show's program for levels of sponsorship.
See the complete list of recognized vendors on the Procurement Services website.
Article by Jamie Parris, staff writer for the Division of Financial Affairs. A version of this story appeared in the Pawprint.