Reaction to Salient Events

One key to success identified by all of the SMEs who were interviewed was the ability to recognize and react appropriately to salient events (major events that can define success or failure). For example, one SME, the Texas Nameplate Company, Inc., reported an initial negative reaction when the company was forced to adopt statistical process controls. However, when the benefits of successful implementation were recognized, the SME elected, on its own initiative, to adopt total quality management (TQM) and ISO 9000. It later went on to win the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Thus, customer-imposed requirements that may seem onerous in the short term might prove to be beneficial in the long term.

Strategic Alliances and Partnerships

Successful SMEs create, implement, and maintain strategic plans, which include partnerships and strategic alliances that enable them to meet customer needs better. These alliances should be formalized in documents that define roles and responsibilities. Strategic alliances and partnerships increase the likelihood that the customer will use the SME for future business.

Catering to the Customer

The SME must cater to the customer's needs, which increasingly include supply chain integration. This means, first and foremost, providing low-cost, high-quality products, effective service, and on-time delivery. SMEs should know their customers intimately at all levels in the organization and cater to specific business needs at each level.

Focus on Quality

Successful integration requires that supplier quality levels be appropriate to meet the customer's needs and that the attitude toward high quality be instilled in all employees.

Treatment of Employees

Employees, the interfaces between customers and suppliers, must be educated and trained to meet the skill levels required by increased supply chain integration. SMEs should use incentives to enhance the performance and reinforce the training of employees.

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