Is your Consumables Supplier a Vendor or a Partner?

What kind of relationship do you have with your Medical Consumables supplier? Many organizations make the mistake of choosing a vendor and not a strategic partner. At GA2 Medical, we strive to build partnerships, not just a support relationship.

Medical Consumables suppliers, in the traditional sense, have been vendors. They provide a bill of goods for an agreed upon charge. More often than not, organizations choose their supplier based solely on tangible items such as cost, product specifications, location, supply terms and the like. Below, we’ll explore some of the intangibles needed to evaluate a Medical Consumables supplier.

Vendor relationship

The vendor/client relationship is two sided. Each party is advocating on their own behalf for their standards, structure, interests, and needs.


The engagement is very push/pull. Each party advocates for their own interests. In this relationship structure, the client and the supplier are not strategically aligned. While they may have similar interests, they are not having the ‘tactical’ discussions to create a “win/win” relationship.

Vendor relationships are often focused on the shorter term, where each party is working to meet their own current goals and initiatives. Rarely are parties engaging on how they may better align to create greater value to the business through the services and products.

Client (purchaser) objectives are to:

  • Ensure they’re getting a high ROI (return on investment)
  • Lower their spend
  • Provide a quality end user/business experience
  • Meet the business requirements
  • Align purchasing to business needs and roadmap

The supplier’s (sellers) objectives are to:

  • Minimize their cost of providing a product and/or service
  • Increase margins
  • Expand business development and sales
  • Leverage resources and standardize services across clients
  • Align services and/or products to business/sales opportunities

Partnered relationship

By building a partnership, two organizations can work closely together for common goals and mutual benefit. The Medical Consumables supplier establishes themselves as a trusted advisor and seeks to offer insights and guidance to the client. Throughout the engagement, the client should look to involve the supplier in strategic planning to ensure future alignment between the organizations.

Characteristics of a Partnership:

  • Both parties are transparent and open with their goals and initiatives
  • Each party seeks to find common ground on which they can engage
  • They create a mutually beneficial relationship
  • Both parties assist each other’s development


Each party will manage their own independent goals and objectives. Frequent and open dialogue can identify and overcome conflicts of interest. Occasionally, parties will need to concede their own specific interests to ensure overall, long-term health of the relationship. For example, a supplier might direct a client to a lower cost solution despite directly impacting the supplier, or the client might pay higher cost for a specific service to maintain a larger relationship. In the end, a partnership grows from ensuring both parties are meeting their objectives.

We recommend using these seven steps to rate your suppliers, track performance, and ultimately increase your company’s overall success:

  1. Define perceived value. Clarify key attributes you are seeking in the supplier relationship, such as delivery rate, return rate, corrective actions, and financial stability.
  2. Rank suppliers. Divide your suppliers into levels (one, two, and three) based on the impact they have on your business.
  3. Establish performance indicators. Determine what characteristics a supplier needs to have, demonstrate, or maintain to continue doing business with your company.
  4. Monitor results. Establish criteria for evaluating suppliers and, most importantly, define who in your company will be responsible for reviewing data.
  5. Build relationships. Consider your suppliers a partner with your business and treat them as such.
  6. Address the issues. Share the outputs from your performance indicators and issue a warning, providing the supplier with an opportunity to correct the problem. This creates a win-win situation by helping suppliers identify a pervasive issue that impacts you and other customers.
  7. Sever weak links. No one should tolerate ongoing bad products or service, and there may come a time when you have to let go of an underperforming supplier. However, make sure you fully understand ahead of time the impact of the termination on your business.

The relationship with your supplier should be a business partnership, with both parties working toward a common goal and enhancing the relationship. In the long run, a solid relationship with your suppliers creates a competitive advantage for your business.

If you are not happy with your current Medical Consumables Suppliers, we would be delighted to arrange a 15-minute telephone discussion with you, or an appropriate colleague, to show you that we are different and what that means to you and your business. Do you, or a recommended colleague, have a spare 15 minutes this week to chat on Skype?

Alternatively, visit our website to find out more about our range of single patient use and reusable medical devices and products.