Given the type and volume of projects we work on at Purchasing Management International (PMI)—usually large and complex gaming projects—we are often asked, “What does a vendor need to do to work with our firm?”
So, I asked our team for their must-haves, the top five things that they look for in a vendor partner. What they told me was very interesting and useful for owners, designers and vendors in considering the perspective of what the top purchasing company in the gaming industry considers as important characteristics of a vendor.
The first consideration is responsiveness. How a vendor responds to our requests for quotes, product questions, lead times and information about their company sets the stage for future expectations about how that vendor will service the project.
Because of the unique nature of gaming projects, typically we expect the owner or senior leadership at the vendor to be involved in our projects. This helps with product knowledge, manufacturing authority, and corporate accountability when challenges arise due to the speed and/or the complexity of a gaming project. We want someone at the vendor who is invested in the success of our project and who has the authority to resolve our issues when we need him or her to step in.
The next consideration is the price/quality question. This may seem obvious, but in a gaming setting, the quality of the product is reflected in both design conformance and durability, and both of those requirements must be within the owner’s budget. We ask the question, “What type of gaming projects has the vendor worked on?” Is their type of product or service suitable for a gaming environment? If a vendor is not experienced in the gaming industry, has only worked on typical hospitality projects or is primarily a retailer, they may not have the resources or production expertise to deliver products that can hold up under the rigorous use of a gaming setting.
Our ability to evaluate the quality of a manufacturer goes hand-in-hand with a well-written specification from the interior designer. Fortunately, in the gaming industry, experienced interior designers deliver great specifications that provide both technical requirements and design requirements in a clear, concise format. This allows us to solicit accurate pricing for the specified product.
PMI often works with our gaming clients to develop conceptual FF&E budgets as part of the design process. This helps the designer and owner clearly know the budget constraints for each product and then make decisions relative to those constraints. Vendors that can understand those specifications, accurately quote, and produce accordingly are the type of vendors we look to work with.
Can a vendor meet our project deadlines? Are they reliable? Does a vendor say what they are going to do and then, do they do it? In a gaming setting, the timelines, delivery coordination and turnover dates are very closely coordinated between design, construction and operations. Vendors must be able to provide accurate information about their production capacity, lead times for production and delivery schedules so that the construction and operation teams can properly plan for installation and opening.
Those vendors that provide accurate information are preferred over those vendors that hold back bad news. Having a commitment from a vendor with the confidence that vendor is going to follow through is the foundation of relationships with vendors that are successful with PMI.
The next is proactiveness/efficiency. Everyone on a project team is constrained by time and staff resources. Vendors that are proactive in their approach to being part of the project team lead the way in working on the best gaming projects. This includes working closely with the designers for the necessary approvals to move production forward. If a vendor can produce accurate finish samples, shop drawings and prototypes the first time that capture the designer’s intent, the project moves forward more smoothly. At PMI, our method of expediting tracks those approvals and keeps in constant communication with vendors to identify threats to the schedule early in a project. Vendors that point out solutions and are creative in problem solving become a resource and partner rather than a burden and challenge to work with.
The final characteristic from our team is best described as fortitude. When something goes wrong on a project or there is a challenge with a product, the best vendors stand behind their product as part of the project team. They help identify the best way of fixing the problem rather than assigning blame. In the gaming industry, owners and designers are constantly pushing the edge of design and schedules, so having a vendor partner that is willing to stand firm as part of the team is invaluable.
In all the qualities we look for in a vendor, the key component in each is a willingness to have a relationship. The best project teams are not transactional and leverage the relationships, knowledge and energy of the entire project team, including our vendor partners. From a purchasing perspective, issuing the purchase order is just one part of moving the gaming industry forward to bigger, better projects.
Carl Long is senior vice president of Purchasing Management International