Anyone working in procurement and logistics within the shipping industry will tell that it is a commercial sector that relies heavily upon its supply chain. With so many physical and metaphorical moving parts the propensity for costly delays is extremely high if any part of the chain is broken. As the old saying goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” and now more than ever it’s essential that suppliers are reliable, cost-effective, compliant and have the ability to go above and beyond when required.
With cost-efficiencies and deadlines playing such a major role in the maritime industry there’s often a debate on the pros and cons of working with a global supplier verses mid-sized independent specialists. With this in mind we looked at some of the core rationale behind why working with a independent supplier can help those in the maritime industry.
ONE – Flexibility
Now more than ever, flexibility is essential and the ability for a supplier to be agile and nimble is absolutely imperative. Whether this comes in the shape of doing everything they can to reduce lead times or whether it’s the ability to change plans at short notice, when you work with an established mid-size supplier you’re more likely to be working with a team who aren’t bogged down in bureaucracy or bloated decision making processes.
Flexibility comes in many forms and ultimately it should be the job of the supplier to not only offer up a solution but to also solve the problem.
TWO – Added Value
At Fluechem, as an established supplier of AUS40 and Caustic Soda 50% to the shipping industry, we pride ourselves on the fact that we don’t just provide a product but we also provide an entirely complementary consultative service as well. It’s safe to say that during our time in business we have been involved in a whole host of weird and wonderful situations and it’s been incredibly rewarding to learn from these times. That’s why we always help however and whenever we can and we don’t see it as going “above and beyond” we simply see it as part of the world class service we provide.
In some respects large multi-national organisation can struggle in these situations. Yes, they will have some outstanding specialists in a specific area but that in itself can be the sticking point. A mid-sized independent supplier will have invariable had to navigate a whole host of different scenarios and it’s this ability to don a number of different hats that we see as a huge advantage.
THREE – Diversity
As we mentioned earlier, the maritime industry is one that can throw up a number of challenges at the drop of a hat. This is where the ability to diversify at pace is a competitive advantage. We’ve been involved in a number of jobs where the original order is vastly different to the products and services we finally supply. It’s this ability to think on your feet, pull in favours and to do anything and everything you can to keep a ship moving that sets an independent operator apart.
FOUR – Innovation
Quite often a smaller organisation employs and is ran by free thinking mavericks that are more than happy to go against the grain when they see an opportunity to get the job done in a better, more efficient way. A team that is encouraged to think outside the box and that is always switched on to creating something is a team that will invariably come up with innovative new products, solutions and services.
By reducing the internal chain of command and by embracing change a mid-sized supplier is invariably one that will truly get to the heart of an issue and will then deliver a something that is based on benefits and not just features. In 2020 Fluechem launched our Urea Generator System which allows ship owners to blend their own Urea solution onboard or portside. This product was born out of the research and realisation that we could save ship owners time, space and money. Our approach to innovation is one that we believe helps our customers in many ways as it is a result of creating something based out of a customers challenges and needs and not out of our desire, biases, limitations or ulterior motives.
FIVE – It’s Personal
One thing we pride ourselves on is the relationships our team builds with every client. However, it’s important to note that these relationships aren’t solely at a senior level. Quite often we find ourselves working with a wide range of our customer’s employees and suppliers and it’s part of our job that we genuinely enjoy. The nature of the clients, products and services we deal with means that many of these relationships are with teams and individuals across the globe. That’s why, as a mid-sized organisation, we do everything we can to ensure that our clients always have a single point of contact who is supported by the wider team at Fluechem. This means our customers know who to talk to in the first instance but that they are also safe in the knowledge that there are other members of staff who they can speak to and who is fully up to speed with the account.
A larger organisation can be a rabbit warren of international phone numbers, hidden contact pages and unanswered e-mails and this is something we will always strive to avoid.
As a mid-sized supplier to the shipping industry we believe that the products and services provided by businesses such as ours offer an inviting alternative to the global super-powers. Of course, many of these organisations are the mainstay of the maritime industry but it’s refreshing for customers to know that there’s life outside of the “mega-corps”.