CASE STUDY: SUPPLIER TO THE NHS

When we first started our business some twenty years ago we were then based in Shanghai. Like any new business we were actively seeking customers.

Looking back, one of our greatest early successes followed a cold call made to a wholesaler based in the south west of the U.K.

From the customers and our own viewpoint, the timing of the call was perfect. Our customer to be was looking for a new supplier as his existing one had become unreliable and we were desperately looking for more business for our fledgling enterprise.

Having introduced our Company to our prospective customer he responded by asking the direct question, did we have any experience of manufacturing scrub suits for hospital use.

Our experience of manufacturing scrub suits or anything else for that matter, being a new business, was understandably limited or more precisely non-existent and we had to readily admit to this. In most cases this would have been the end of the conversation but something clicked between us. Our West Country contact from 5,000 miles away on a crackly phone line may have thought that he had nothing to lose by giving us an opportunity or maybe he detected something in our voice which reflected our genuine desire to work with him and that what he saw we lacked in experience was countered by the determination our voices expressed to do a good job for him.

The outcome of this so important call was that he agreed to send us a few samples of the scrub suit and we in turn were to manufacture counter samples and send them to him with a price quote for his approval.

Waiting for the samples to arrive felt like a life time but we put this time to good use by seeking a manufacturer, one that was both familiar with the product but could also produce them to a high standard at a keen price.

Our small team, had quickly jumped into action and found a reliable manufacturer to make the samples. When the consignment of scrubs arrived we were organised and our counter samples were produced and ready for shipment within a matter of days and made to a better quality than the ones received.

We had to wait patiently for a few weeks to hear back from our customer that he approved the samples and our price quote and as a result he was prepared to place a trial order of a 20’ containers worth (20,000 scrub suits).

This was then serious business to say the least. We had to arrange in a matter of days a manufactory that could produce to the required specification and to our price as well as meet our lead-times. Initially we were able to use the manufactory that had produced the counter samples, a manufacturer that was 3 hours from our Shanghai base, situated on the outskirts of a large city called Shaoxing. Our first container was a success, and arrived on time. As a result further orders were placed.

We quickly realised that this was going to be long-term regular business and we decided to set about establishing our own manufactory in Shaoxing, under our control, so we could increase our profits.

So from setting up as a sourcing and procurement business we had added manufacturing to our credentials.

Our customer was clearly pleased with what we were doing as not only did he increase the number of containers he ordered from us each month he also expanded the range of products to include a variety of hospital patient gowns and nightwear.

During this time, our sourcing business grew significantly, but now our manufactory had become a significant part of our overall business. It became even more so, when our hospital clothing customer introduced us to the UK’s largest laundry group who supplied all the same products that we were already supplying. They supplied these products to the NHS on a rental basis and had the added benefit of washing these products after use.

Based on the recommendation of our existing customer and our own competitive quote we were successful in closing this business.

Almost immediately, the number of containers ordered almost tripled. Additionally, more and more these customers used our sourcing services to provide other products that were required for their business, such as specialist mechanised hangers for their automated laundry systems.

Being established in China as a manufactory provided a footprint that only added to our knowledge and expertise in running our sourcing and procurement operation and that has shown benefits for our business right up until today.

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