MAY 9, 2012 – BY BETSY CUMMINGS
The growth seems almost too strong to believe. In less than five years, sales at Chicago-based Sunjoy (asi/90154) have skyrocketed from $47,329 in 2007 to nearly $4.5 million in 2011. How? Its president Harrison Fu points to an integrated supply chain. Certainly other suppliers have that in place, too. What makes Sunjoy's so effective?
A supply chain nothing short of Apple's, according to Fu. "We manage everything with great detail," he says. While most suppliers try to assemble a supply chain linked with competent, reliable factories and business partners (working with different companies from year to year), Sunjoy has focused on improving its supply chain members – not by leaving them for better ones, but by working with them to improve processes. "We deal with everybody on our supply chain as our business partners, and we help everybody grow," Fu says.
It's a common tale of woe among suppliers: A factory in Asia, say, talks a big game and seems to offer what a supplier needs, and then suddenly delivers poorly constructed products. Certainly "this is the weakest link" when operating overseas, Fu says. But "instead of changing from one factory to another, we chose to train the factories we are working with and help them to grow and understand the customers' needs.
If that includes instructing a particular manufacturer to change glue types, then Sunjoy asks them to do that, setting the standards for which glues to use with which products. In addition, Fu says, every order is run through Sunjoy's Total Quality Management (TQM) standard. The company manages each manufacturer it works with, declining to carry any inventory and drop shipping directly "from our TQM station to the end-user's dock." All of these steps help the company ensure faster, better and less costly management of product manufacturing, Fu insists. That's passed along to customers, which keeps them loyal and, in turn, coming back for reorders.
To keep up with such explosive growth, the company realized that it would need more sophisticated systems to manage its global network. Suddenly an off-the-shelf CRM system wasn't enough to handle the overabundance of orders.
In 2010 Sunjoy began expanding on and standardizing its ERP system so that orders would be electronically viewable from the point of sale to delivery. Fu says the company built a customized ERP system with "nine steps to follow the orders, from the sales and service department in Chicago to the operation in Shanghai and Shenzhen," along with shipping and delivery.
To do so, the company had to step away from standardized, traditional systems and be willing to build its own ERP system from the ground up. SAP, for example, "was a big challenge," as Sunjoy's team found data accessibility slow overseas. Other technical glitches began to hinder order processing. So, the company began to build its own ERP system to make sure orders and supply chain systems would run seamlessly.
Now, all of Sunjoy's business partners within its supply chain work on the same platform. The system offers distributor-friendly features, such as an interface that allows them to register and request customized products for samples and orders. Distributors are also allowed to see communications between Sunjoy business partners as their orders are processed.
Will this help to improve communication lines between Sunjoy and its clients? Fu says it will, adding that the system's newest version will allow users to comment on specific products in the same way users can post comments on Facebook. Distributors can also customize individual products through a Web interface.
In fact, transparency is the company's biggest focus. Transparency, Fu says, improves efficiency and communication – emboldening clients, he hopes, to speak up about necessary customer service or order processing improvements. "We used to build the workflow mainly within each individual team or department," he recalls.
But a disconnect in communication between departments, as well as a lack of awareness about the status of an order once it left a department, meant the company needed to make changes in order to remain competitive. The point, Fu says, is to "get customers and vendors involved in our workflow. We think all our goals are the same: to serve and make more happy customers."
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