A Suppliers Stance Volt on 3Ms Vendor Management System

By Subadhra Sriram

Mar. 4, 2009

It has been a long and fruitful affiliation, as Volt Workforce Solutions has been providing temporary workers to 3M for more than 20 years.

In 2001, Volt became 3M’s master supplier, providing manufacturing and administrative contingents in the United States. The vendor also fills accounting, call center, engineering, IT and scientific staffing positions across the country and in Europe.

So will 3M’s new vendor management system alter the Volt-3M relationship?

“The system will change,” says Rick Moore, Volt’s senior vice president.

But little else will, he added. Earlier, Volt used its own technology to manage the 3M account.

“But now we will still continue to manage 3M’s workflow,” More says. “Volt will just be using someone else’s tool and that’s fairly common within the industry.”

A VMS can work in a supplier’s favor. The tool can eliminate the need to wander the hallways and make constant contact with hiring managers.

IQNavigator’s Brian Owens agrees.

“The VMS dramatically enhances the ability for the supplier to be effective in terms of how efficiently he communicates with the client,” says Owens, whose company won the contract with 3M.

For example, suppliers know much more quickly when an opportunity is available. And if they submit a candidate against an opportunity, they know just as swiftly if the person has been accepted, declined or is in some sort of holding pattern based on further review.

Previously, the conglomerate assessed its master supplier quarterly, looking carefully at metrics like time to fill, turnover and attrition rates. In addition, Volt had service-level agreements and ongoing targets that it had to meet with the openings it filled.

One of the challenges of working with 3M is the diversity of its skill sets.

Volt has to provide a range of expertise in different industries from manufacturing to health care. The varieties of candidates notwithstanding, suppliers also have to contend with short lead times.

“Our industry as a whole suffers from the fact that our clients don’t often give us the lead times effective to finding the best talent,” Moore says. 3M is no different.

But what works in its favor is that 3M, like Volt, follows the Six Sigma methodology. 3M is supportive and lets Volt refine its program on an incremental basis.

For its part, Volt communicates with its supplier base in various ways, including e-mails and supplier forums. Quarterly reviews are also undertaken where staffing agencies can discuss their metrics and how they are performing.

Going forward, Volt anticipates little problem with the VMS implementation.

“We work with IQN on a lot of other accounts, so we are very familiar with their system,” Moore says.

3M’s Ebenhoch recommends that the executives whose units use the highest volume of contingents be brought on board upfront.

Once these supervisors understand the benefits of an organized and formal contingent workforce program, they spread the word.

Another suggestion is to involve the IT division early in the process, as most times they tend to be the greatest users of contingents. In addition, the IT unit can assist in designing the program and deal with other technical details.

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