If 2021 taught us anything, it’s this: when choosing a long-term supplier of critical materials for your business, it’s important to work through the questions and scenarios that could come up during normal day-to-day business, as well as seemingly unpredictable events such as 2021’s supply-chain crisis.

Full disclosure: we have a strong point of view on what the answer for many of you should be. At Anduro, we’ve spent years building a reputation for quality manufacturing and on-time delivery. So, naturally, we think we’re a great choice to make. But you need to weigh all of these questions while making your own choice.

So: onward! Let’s consider what are the right questions to ask your present or prospective bag supplier.

What’s your price for your woven poly bags, and how did you get there?

Price is always going to be a primary consideration. And transparency is a part of that consideration. Is Supplier A significantly less expensive than Supplier B? If so, what went into the pricing for both? Is Supplier A missing something that Supplier B accounts for in the pricing breakdown? Is freight and/or inventory management built in? What kind of product guarantee is offered? Is there raw material price fluctuation built in? Are the materials or specifications themselves of differing qualities? Is each supplier willing to submit their product to independent testing laboratories? Are the manufacturer’s GFSI compliant and regularly audited for manufacturing consistency, efficiency and safety?

unit pricing isn’t everything. Take the long view on pricing for your BOPP bags

Have you ever bought a cheap umbrella and regretted it the moment a stiff breeze turned it inside out and left you soaked? Same when pricing an integral element in your manufacturing process. Perhaps you are not rich enough to buy cheap bags.

Every bag company will need to make a profit margin, lest they go out of business. Beware of a bid that seems fantastically low. If you do get a lowball bid like this, ask your potential vendor how they managed to come in so much lower than everyone else.

What was your 2021 on-time delivery percentage?

A great price on a bag is a good thing only if your bags are consistently available to your manufacturing and distribution facilities when you need and expect them.

2021 is a great measuring stick for on-time delivery, because a confluence of events made it so difficult for many companies to hit their targets. In 2021, for example, Anduro made 99% of deliveries on time. Even as container traffic ground to a halt in some U.S. ports.

What contingencies do you have for interruptions in the supply chain for raw materials?

In a global marketplace, it’s never a good idea to assume that materials procurement will always be as they have.

Anduro dealt with the same raw materials logjam that everyone else did. We were just fortunate to have anticipated that at some point in some year there would be interruptions. Ask your supplier if they stockpile raw materials. And how long are those stockpiles meant to last? As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

How vulnerable are you to reductions in your workforce due to illness or other interruptions?

At Anduro, we take steps to ensure the availability and safety of our workforce and their families. After a deadly hurricane in 2020 left roads inundated in Honduras, we hired large boats to rescue our workers and their families and bring them to dry land at our manufacturing facility. In 2020 and 2021 as the threat of Covid grew and ebbed and grew again, we continued our industry-leading on-site healthcare for our employees and their families.

Ask your supplier how they keep things moving in a time of crisis.

If manufacturing offshore, are the inbound ports fast and reliable?

This year, through no fault of their making, bag manufacturers based in Asia ran into the wall of clogged West Coast U.S. ports, where the bags sat in containers for weeks on end. And even when the ship made it to dock, movement on the land-side — transferring from ship to train or truck — was much slower due to the same overcapacity.

Choosing the right route and the right inbound port isn’t something that a company can just change easily. You need to ask directly: where do you manufacture, what’s the route to the U.S. and what’s the inbound port. We built our entire business around shipping into the U.S. through Gulfport, Mississippi, a decision that has served us and our customers well.

Your bags are a lifeline for your business

Here at Anduro, we’re always planning ahead and adjusting where necessary. As our CEO, Marc Datelle put it when reviewing the company’s response to the 2021 supply-chain crisis, “Every single customer we have got their bags on time.

“We didn’t predict that Covid was coming. We didn’t know that ports would not be able to keep up. But we did base our planning on the assumption that something can always go wrong, especially when you least expect it. We pride ourselves on being a supplier that our customers know they can absolutely depend on.

“For our customers, there was no supply-chain crisis,” said Datelle.

Photo: Anduro’s Honduras manufacturing operation.