Responsiveness, transparency and quality: what are the solutions for a successful partnership? The example of Christofle.
Since 1830, Maison Christofle has been a specialist in luxury silversmithery. Its core business: tableware, home decoration and solid silver jewellery.
With a turnover of €70 million and around fifty company-owned boutiques throughout the world, Christofle is now a regular partner of Parcome, which supplies its bags and packaging. This relationship founded on trust has resulted in the creation and delivery of an average of 100,000 bags and 175,000 boxes every year.
Despite enjoying a trusting relationship, there are still risks involved when they make an order. So how do you overcome these to guarantee transparency, quality and responsiveness with your supplier and forge a successful partnership? Stéphane Belledame, Procurement Manager at Christofle, explains.
What is the relationship like between Christofle and its partner Parcome?
Christofle and Parcome have been working together for twelve years, with a few periods of interruption. In the summer of 2019, Christofle launched a call for tenders for a very specific order. Parcome was one of the two finalists. We had to choose not the lowest bidder, but the best, because we needed a reliable, efficient and responsive supplier.
What were the challenges of this project?
We decided two years ago to redesign all of our bags, boxes and cases to bring them in line with our brand and product image: luxury. It was a big upheaval for our company because we wanted to enhance the appeal of our packaging. It was a significant and complex project because, I must confess, our specifications had not yet been clearly defined.
What risks are involved between the customer and the supplier for this type of order?
There are three major risks inherent in this type of partnership, which create points of tension and could harm the relationship with our supplier. Communication problems, when you need certain information urgently and it doesn’t arrive, delivery delays over which you have no control, and defects in the quality of the finished product. You therefore have to choose a supplier capable of overcoming these risks to succeed in your collaboration and get the best from the packaging!
What issues did you encounter for this project?
Our supplier needed to be particularly agile in order to respond to our project’s challenges. On the one hand, the specifications were not very clear, and lots of information was shared verbally, at regular briefings. On the other hand, discussions and feedback were frequent between the marketing department, the procurement department and the packaging supplier in order to clarify our order. Finally, the boxes produced by Parcome impressed our directors so much that instead of launching them in the first quarter of 2020, we made an order in July for delivery in November 2019! Parcome therefore needed to be very patient and responsive to meet this target.
What solutions did the Parcome Paris teams come up with to respond to this and overcome the risks of delay or defect?
Parcome’s major asset, which helped the decision in their favour from the start, is the fact that they have their own factory in China.
This affords them unequalled agility and efficiency compared with suppliers operating with third-party factories. Parcome Paris is able to respond at short notice, to adjust their production schedule to rapid changes to an order. They really had to jump through hoops! Other suppliers wouldn’t have been able to respond to our demands, and that’s what made the difference.
Furthermore, I visited this Chinese factory with its French management team on several occasions. This allowed me to meet them directly, to communicate more easily with them, which above all is very reassuring! I couldn’t work with a business if I couldn’t visit the factory. It’s a real token of confidence.
The essential criteria were met thanks to them having their own factory, and to the French teams, of course:
Total transparency, which helps to forge a partnership of trust - without any mistrust - easy and pleasant communications, information direct from the factory, high quality thanks to the precision and capacity of their production facilities and great agility faced with the unknowns of an order. It was a pleasure working under these conditions!
Just one more important point to add: At the end of July 2019, in the last round of finding a supplier, two came head to head: Parcome and a competitor. The contract was worth €200,000, and the difference between their estimated budgets was only €500! But only one had their own factory, Parcome!