Adaptability – the Key to a Successful Supply Partnership by Paul Pearson

Alongside trust and reliability, one of the key elements of any successful supply partnership is surely adaptability. A supplier that can quickly and cost effectively adapt their offering to the specific requirements of each individual customer can be a hugely valuable asset.

Real adaptability though still represents a significant challenge for many suppliers, because it requires a business to be agile enough to manage deviation from ‘the norm’ without any significantly negative impact on efficiency or profitability. It also, of course, needs a certain type of business culture, and an attitude which sees opportunities where others might see problems.

At Mila, we like to think we’ve turned adaptability into something of an artform over recent years. Not only can we readily adapt our service offering so that it is personalised to the requirements of each customer, but we can adapt our products too.

Take some recent examples. Smart Systems approached us last year to discuss their plans to supply aluminium profiles in a range of colours with hardware to match. We came up with a solution for them which means we are now supplying the individual cast components from our standard window and door handle range direct to Smarts so that they can paint them in house alongside their aluminium profiles and then both assemble and fit them themselves.

This approach means that Smarts have a guaranteed colour match for their profiles yet there is no requirement for them to hold stocks of pre-painted hardware, easing any concerns around demand planning.

From Mila’s perspective, these are standard products just supplied in a non-standard way. This is the first time we have taken this approach for a customer, but the feedback from Smarts has been so positive that I am sure we will be doing it again.

And, it’s not just on standard products where we can demonstrate real adaptability. As head of the in house product design team, I’m responsible for a whole range of projects to provide bespoke versions of products to customers.

This could be anything from the bespoke lever handle we currently supply to Safestyle to give them a unique offering in the marketplace, to the bespoke butt hinge we have just started supplying to AluK to suit the precise profile requirements of their new entrance door.

In service terms, probably our biggest strength is in being able to adapt our overall service package. This goes beyond the ‘celebrity service’ culture at Mila which empowers the whole team to deliver a personalised service to every customer, and means we are able to respond to requests from customers to change the way that their products are supplied.

For fabricators in particular, this often means delivering hardware components in bespoke packs to suit their particular manufacturing set up. For instance, we supply a bespoke box/pallet arrangement of our ProSecure one piece door striker to suit Safestyle’s door fabrication line and we produce specially branded sleeved boxes for Eurocell which contain the Mila patio security hardware kit which we developed in conjunction with them.

And, for retailers and trade outlets, it means developing bespoke packaging to suit their customers and layouts. A recent large scale project for Travis Perkins, for example, involved our marketing team developing stand-alone Mila branded sales pods as well as bespoke stackable boxes and packaging.

At Mila we’re certainly winning and retaining increasing amounts of business because we have proven that we are adaptable not just in how we design our products but in how we supply and even package them as well. More importantly, our customers are telling us that they can leverage real competitive advantage from our contribution.

Further information is available at: