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Supplier Diversity Blog by supplier.io

How to Find Diverse Suppliers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact every part of our lives, anticipating and resolving supply chain obstacles has become more critical than ever. 

Diverse suppliers could be a solution for companies seeking to fill supply chain gaps or find innovative ways to meet emerging needs. 

But with so much of our “business as usual” disrupted, many supplier diversity professionals are wondering how to find diverse suppliers during COVID-19. The usual routes of discovery—primarily industry conferences and business expos—are not accessible during this time of social distancing.

When traditional sourcing methods fail, it’s time to look for alternatives. Fortunately, supplier diversity professionals are used to finding and pitching “alternative” solutions that add value to the bottom line.

Anticipating Supply Chain Disruption

You may already be experiencing disruptions in your supply chain, whether they’re because of manufacturing plants shutting down as workers become ill, the inability to import goods reliably, or increased competition for commodities. 

The issue is so widespread that the general public is suddenly talking about supply chains and worrying about possible shortages of basic necessities such as toilet paper and food. Unfortunately, supply chain disruption is likely to be an ongoing topic of discussion for some time. 

In an article about the upcoming challenge of producing all of the components required to in provide a vaccine for the coronavirus to more than 300 million Americans, industry experts and spokespeople told the New York Times that the task will require a strategic plan unlike anything we’ve seen before. Even if a vaccine is available within a few months, current strains on supply chains indicate that manufacturing the vials, syringes, and other items necessary to administer it could take up to 18 months. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating industrywide challenges, including expected delays in inventory replenishment for certain products,” said Lucy Bradlow, a spokeswoman for Cardinal Health.

Diverse Suppliers as Alternative Sources

Your organization is probably already deep in discussion and analysis, assessing risk and working on alternative sourcing. As you work with your primes to determine how to keep your supply chain functioning, now is the perfect time to suggest partnering with more diverse suppliers.

A diverse business, often called a diverse supplier, is an organization that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by a person(s) of a diverse category, including:

The benefits of adding diverse suppliers to your supply chain are multitudinous, and you may already have a supplier diversity program with metrics and reporting that show the value of diverse suppliers. But in times of stress and disruption, sometimes we forget to look at every available resource.

Although diverse-owned businesses are often small businesses and therefore do not have the capacity to be a Tier 1 supplier, one or more could fill in for a Tier 2 supplier that is unable to meet your needs. Or you could add a second supplier to meet increased demand. You may find that a diverse supplier has access to goods or services through alternative channels thanks to local knowledge and relationships, giving you a competitive advantage.

And companies pursuing new opportunities to contract with the U.S. federal government at this time need to be aware that contracts of $700,000 or more ($1.5 million for construction contracts) require that you set aggressive spend goals with diverse suppliers. Click here to ensure that you are Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) compliant.

Where to Find Diverse Suppliers

Industry conferences and business expos are casualties of the pandemic, with dozens of events canceled or postponed in 2020. These events have long been a vital part of the discovery and relationship building process between companies and diverse suppliers. 

Networking opportunities, matchmaking and one-on-one meetings, pitch competitions, the expo hall—they are all opportunities for diverse business owners and large companies to come together in one location and pursue possible partnerships.

But in the era of COVID-19, those opportunities have all but disappeared. Even smaller events, like local chamber mixers, are on hiatus. Who knows when we will don our lanyards and name tags and greet each other over light hors d’oeuvres again. 

This is painful for both companies that are seeking to partner with diverse suppliers and for the suppliers themselves. As much as companies used these face-to-face opportunities to source new, innovative solutions, the diverse-owned business owners used them to get their products and services in front of procurement and supplier diversity professionals. Without these in-person events to facilitate connections, both sides of potential partnerships are struggling.

You could try typing every combination of relevant industry, geographical, and certification keywords you can think of into your favorite search engine in the hope of finding a promising supplier. Did your eyes just glaze over?

Some organizations are trying to help their members connect with decision makers virtually. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is featuring woman-owned businesses that are pivoting to meet emerging needs on their website. 

It has also published a list of certified WBEs offering COVID-19 supplies and services, temporarily making public information that is usually restricted to WBENC members in an effort to help ease supply chain disruption. The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) offers a similar listing of certified minority-owned businesses on its website.

Access to information about certified suppliers is exactly what sourcing teams need, but who has the time to go to each site and scroll through listings to find potential suppliers and then vet them individually?

You need a resource that draws from multiple databases and is updated regularly and automatically, with robust search capabilities for finding diverse suppliers during COVID-19.

Our Supplier Explorer tool can do that.

supplier.io built Supplier Explorer with supplier diversity professionals in mind. Instead of spending hours combing through spreadsheets, multiple websites, and cluttered inboxes, Supplier Explorer aggregates data from more than 300 trusted sources, giving you direct access to an accurate, up-to-date master database of millions of small and diverse suppliers, verified through third-party certification entities for MBE, WBE, LGBTQ, DOBE, Small Business Administration (SBA), 8(a), HUBZone, Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE), Service-Disabled Veteran (SDVOB), and others.

Free Trial of Supplier Explorer

Supplier Explorer is already populated with detailed profiles for diverse suppliers, including information on their diversity status, certifications, products and service offerings, contacts, and more.

You can search by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, narrow the results by geographic location, sort by size or revenue—whatever criteria are relevant to you. After entering your preferred search terms, the results returned by our comprehensive master database clearly display information such as company name and location, as well as certifications at a glance as verified through third-party certification entities. View the supplier profile for additional information, such as annual revenue, number of employees, and data universal numbering system (DUNS) number, in order to help you determine whether the supplier is a good potential business partner.

When your search is complete, quickly and easily share the information you've gathered about potential suppliers with other users within your organization using the export functionality or by printing a report. Your team can make confident, informed decisions about inviting these suppliers to bid knowing that the information is accurate and up to date. Contact information and ownership/certification status provided through Supplier Explorer promotes easier and more efficient supplier communication for when you decide to reach out to a potential supplier.

Supplier Explorer is browser based, meaning you do not need to purchase additional hardware in order to utilize the tool. Anyone within your organization can access our master database, search for potential suppliers, and generate reports through their standard browser in minutes, reducing administrative workload at this crucial time.

Try Supplier Explorer free for 14 days and see what new diverse suppliers you can connect with to keep your supply chain running smoothly.

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The team has a long history in driving innovative solutions in supplier diversity. We believe that companies deserve solutions that are effective and provide measurable value and results. Started more than a decade ago, supplier.io has rapidly become a prominent provider of supplier diversity solutions to leading corporations. We currently support customers in automotive, healthcare, insurance, retail, manufacturing, education, and banking. One in five Fortune 50 company relies on supplier.io.