Volume 33, Number 6, June 1998


Rapid Response

Responsiveness in the architectural metals industry

by Steve Green

Throughout the past two decades, both architectural aluminum suppliers and glass and glazing contractors have become entrenched in fierce price battles. Contractors work with fewer employees on leaner budgets, while suppliers struggle to achieve the breakneck speeds of current project schedules. As resources dwindle and demands increase, pricing issues have become the primary focus in our industry. However, selecting or sustaining a relationship with a supplier solely based upon pricing leaves a critical topic unresolved—responsiveness.

Unlike cost, responsiveness may not be among the elementary factors you contemplate when first evaluating an architectural aluminum manufacturer. However, looking only at cost criteria provides a purely one-dimensional view of the value of dealing with a given supplier. Determining the value of supplier relationships requires that cost considerations be tempered with a thorough examination of responsiveness.

In order to conduct this investigation, the term “responsiveness” must be defined. As it applies to architectural aluminum suppliers, “responsiveness” essentially describes the level and speed at which a supplier is able to meet customer needs. Therefore, the distributors and manufacturers you deal with must respond quickly and accurately to satisfy your requirements with respect to customer service, estimating and delivery.

Customer Service

As pointed out previously, the speed of today’s business culture leaves no room for delays or difficulties with service. Prompt assistance and quick, accurate answers are desired. However, as we have all experienced, many manufacturers substitute an automated voice message system for a knowledgeable person to handle customer inquiries. When these messages are not promptly addressed, your project is forced to a standstill—resulting in wasted time. On the other hand, when your concerns are addressed immediately with personal service, you experience no project delays—maximizing your labor potential and strengthening your company’s reputation.


Although we are discussing the tug-of-war between responsiveness and price, the two issues are in fact interrelated. The lean budgets glass and glazing contractors deal with require a detailed analysis of material costs. This analysis is only possible when aluminum suppliers provide you with product costs based on your specification criteria. Prompt access to accurate product estimates and descriptions is another crucial factor. Your bidding procedures, and your chances of capturing new business, rely on quick and correct supplier estimates.


Supplier responsiveness may be most easily evaluated through a measurement of on-time, complete and correct (OTC&C) delivery. Faulty supplier performance in any of these areas drains your profits and damages your credibility. In contrast, receiving your complete order on time and without damage helps you meet your project deadlines without incident. To achieve consistent OTC&C delivery, your supplier must be focused on your success, as opposed to their own convenience. And since a large part of your success does indeed rest upon the shoulders of your vendors, you would be wise to establish strategic alliances with attentive, consistent, responsive suppliers.

Evaluation Guidelines

To gauge supplier responsiveness, ask yourself these important questions:

Competitive Pricing

Although competitive pricing is important, the responsiveness of your supplier is also a priority. The challenge of discerning the true value of your supplier relationships calls for a meticulous review of each supplier’s response to your expectations regarding customer service, estimating and delivery. Only after looking closely at each aspect of supplier responsiveness can you declare a winner in the battle for your business.


Steve Green is vice president of client relations for Reed City, MI-based Tubelite Inc., a leading supplier of storefront and entrance products and systems.


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.