Customer Requiring Environmental and Health and Safety Efforts

#1
Helping the suppliers... or...?

Hi all,

I'd like your views on this scenario (my own view will be obvious from what I'm writing here):

The other day one of our bigger customers contacted us concerning our environmental and H&S efforts. It turned out that one of their major customers have started a project aiming to help their customers improve in these areas. Ok, fair enough. Then they asked us to come up with a number of objectives (and suggested a few that just happened to be clearly irrelevant to us) and to report our progress monthly (so they can help us :rolleyes: ).

In our response we described our ongoing work:

In the last few years we have spent a lot of money and effort, and made a rather startling progress in the environmental arena as well as in H&S.

Our major environmental aspects have been dealt with in a way that in some cases have cut them down to a fraction of the previous levels. This has taken years of effort, lots of money and in one case taking the risk of pioneering new technique (We pushed the Best Available Technique to a new level). This effort continues. Our H&S effort has been equally successful, also in this case due to a determined effort. Accident as well as incident rates are declining sharply.

We are proud of our achievements. We use every means we have to improve, and cannot put more effort into these tasks than we already do and we told the customer so.

Yesterday we recieved a message from our customer asking us to revert??? They were obviously not satisfied with our view, and still want us to add the previously mentioned (and still irrelevant) objectives and "get on the wagon".


This is giving me a rash! :mad: One would have thought that previous similar mistakes in the name of ISO 9000 should have taught people some sense, but no.... They do not even ask if we need or want their help. they just demand that we do things their way. I keep thinking that if every customer did the same thing we would be quite unable to keep functioning. Not to mention what would happen if every customer starts ordering their suppliers to start ordering their suppliers around like this... :frust:

At the moment I would dearly love to be able to tell them to jump in a lake, but that, as you understand, is not an option.

/Claes
 
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C

Craig H.

#2
Claes Gefvenberg said:
At the moment I would dearly love to be able to tell them to jump in a lake, but that, as you understand, is not an option.

/Claes
Well, Claes, there is always Niagra falls!

Seriously, I see a few things you might try, but I bet you have already thought of them.

First, you state that a few of the requirements are irrelevant. Have you explained to them why?

Second, have you tried outlining how much was spent, and where (what), along with the results.

Have you won any environmental awards? Throw it at them.

If you can show that you have been aggressive in your environmental, H&S programs, I can't believe that they would just assume they know your process better than you do.

Wait a minute, yeah, I can believe it, too.


Good Luck!

Craig :bonk:
 

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
#3
"one hand washes the other"

Craig H. said:
Well, Claes, there is always Niagra falls!
Seriously, I see a few things you might try, but I bet you have already thought of them.
First, you state that a few of the requirements are irrelevant. Have you explained to them why?
Second, have you tried outlining how much was spent, and where (what), along with the results.
Have you won any environmental awards? Throw it at them.
If you can show that you have been aggressive in your environmental, H&S programs, I can't believe that they would just assume they know your process better than you do.
Wait a minute, yeah, I can believe it, too.
Good Luck!
Craig :bonk:
I've been on both sides of similar situations over the years.
One of Craig's suggestions is right on point:
"few of the requirements are irrelevant. Have you explained to them why?"

The one about how much you paid out so far would be irrelevant to me as a customer - I'm pretty sure other customers would sigh and say "SO WHAT?" if you tried that defense.

I suspect the problem is the guys at your customer are very intimidated by their customer. Compound that with the fact your customer is not as educated and sophisticated on the topic as you and it becomes apparent that you need to help your customer take the monkey (his customer) off his back and thus get your monkey off yours.

One tactic I tried successfully in your shoes, Claes, was a "white paper" on the topic at issue, written in the style of a stand-alone educational device, rather than as a "defense."

I made it a point to ferret out the responsible party or parties at my customer (as opposed to the clerk who was passing on "marching orders.") I picked up the phone and in my most avuncular voice and manner, suggested they might be having a big problem with their cranky customer who was making the original demands. I then offered to "give" them some background information on the topic (my white paper.) I further suggested the problem with their customer was that he probably had an imperfect understanding of the issues involved in the topic. (never letting slip that I thought MY customer was similarly handicapped) Further, that although we (we and my customer were now "we" versus "them" - their customer) understood the situation, perhaps my customer might want my help in tactfully explaining to their customer a preferred course of action.

My situation happened to be a misunderstanding about relative merits of machining before or after heat treating, but the characters and consequences of NOT resolving the issue tactfully and amicably were definitely similar. Incidentally, I didn't create this tactic, my gage manufacturer did it with me when I was getting pressure from another customer about tapered pipe threads.
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#4
As the retired commander of a police criminal investigations division I'd equate this as a type of extorsion unless these folks can give a better reason than getting a warm fuzzy.
 

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
#5
Extortion . . . or "Way of Life"?

Randy said:
As the retired commander of a police criminal investigations division I'd equate this as a type of extorsion unless these folks can give a better reason than getting a warm fuzzy.
Yeah! It seems like extortion when you are on the receiving end.
There is always some pressure from a customer, a union, or a regulatory body that seems like extortion when the guy in power says, "My way or the highway!"

The other side of the coin is without such forms of extortion, there would still be unsafe Corvairs on the road. Home Developers couldn't sell to Jews or blacks or Asians. Rivers could still be set on fire from factory effluent floating on top. And so on. And so on.

The problems only ensue when we refuse to consider the other guy's point of view and turn away business rather than try to reach some sort of compromise. My grandma called that "Cutting off your nose to spite your face." She wasn't a cop. She wasn't a bandit or a saint, but she knew right from wrong and would rather talk than fight. Sometimes the dispute is just a misunderstanding of terms.
 
#6
Good advice and some words of encouragement. :) Thank's guys, I needed that. I knew I could count on you.

We'll set this right somehow, I just needed to vent some frustration. We will of course continue to reason with them, and have already invited them to come and have a look and a discussion on site.

/Claes
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#8
The big question here Claes is.....Why? There will be others that will pop up from the answer, and I'm sure you guys are already going down that trail.

1st and foremost...."Because it's what we want" isn't a reasonable answer.
 
#9
Randy said:
The big question here Claes is.....Why? There will be others that will pop up from the answer, and I'm sure you guys are already going down that trail.
Yes... You're absolutley right, and yes, we are going down that trail.

/Claes
 
D

David Hartman

#10
Wes Bucey said:
The other side of the coin is without such forms of extortion, there would still be unsafe Corvairs on the road.

The problems only ensue when we refuse to consider the other guy's point of view and turn away business rather than try to reach some sort of compromise... Sometimes the dispute is just a misunderstanding of terms.
Wes, Sometimes (as exampled by the much maligned Corvair) we DO need to question and dispute. Ralph Nader admitted years later that the movies he used to demonstrate the Corvair's penchant for rolling, were in-fact promotional video manufacturered by Ford Motor Company as a proposed advertisement for the Ford Falcon. When one spends a little time viewing the resultant video, you can witness the driver cranking hard wheel lock (in the direction of the turn) as the Corvair enters the turn (an act that would cause many vehicles of the day, as well as many of today's better handling vehicles, to react violently - including rolling over).

By the time the video was questioned, and Mr. Nader made his admittance, it was too late for the Corvair.

My point: There are times that if we DON'T question and dispute, we too (as a business) could end up suffering the same fate as the Corvair. ;)
 
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