When done correctly, prequalification will reduce company risk, employee stress, and confusion regarding safety expectations.

Working with suppliers or third-party contractors to improve business operations and capabilities can certainly have its advantages. It can also have drawbacks often associated with increased exposure to risks.

Most companies have internal policies on how to choose which supplier to work with; however, the process can often create a significant workload, and sometimes overburden the employees assigned to the task. An increasingly popular option is to work with a company dedicated to helping you prequalify your suppliers before they are hired to perform any work. This can help you decide not only which supplier is best qualified for the job but, the one that can also do so safely while reducing the potential for an incident.

Incidents can happen. It’s human nature. However, knowing which suppliers adhere to training their employees and are more safety conscience than others, can certainly go a long way keeping day-to-day operations running smoothly. Prequalifying suppliers is an essential tool in reducing risk and it can also help to confirm which suppliers are the right ones for the job.

Benefits of Supplier Prequalification

  • Digital prequalification process and forms
  • Centralized data for easy accessibility and reporting
  • Knowing beforehand which suppliers meet your requirements
  • Peace of mind the supplier you hire is qualified and safe to perform the work assigned
  • Improved workflow
  • Ensures suppliers understand what is required of them
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved safety culture
  • Reduced administration burden from gathering paperwork

Having all data and documentation upfront helps to prevent workflow slowdowns. It can be frustrating having to track down information after a project has already started. Collecting vital paperwork from the contractor when a project is already underway can be difficult because at that point, contractors typically spend their days focused on the work they are assigned to complete. It also frees up time for your employees to focus on other important tasks instead of tracking down items like a supplier’s new COI because the current certificate on hand is expired.

Companies that have multiple site locations can benefit from having a set prequalification standard even if each site themselves have different requirements. This helps reduce the stress often felt by site managers because it eases the burden of determining which suppliers to work with. Benchmarks can be set at a base-level and then each site can modify or add their own specific requirements for prequalification.

A prequalification process can be especially useful to contractors, suppliers and vendors because it helps understand what is required to work with your company. It also helps contractors know you have a standard for safety and requires them to adhere to that standard as well. This can often help everyone feel safer while working on your site and especially so if multiple suppliers are involved.

How do you Prequalify a Supplier?

  • Set benchmarks for requirements
  • Have an assessment or questionnaire relevant to the work performed
  • Collect relevant safety data including supplier safety manual
  • Collect insurance certificates (COIs)
  • Track each employee’s assessment and completion of orientation videos
  • Have a system for determining which suppliers meet your requirements
  • Implement an incident reduction plan for suppliers that do not meet requirements
  • Have an option to audit the data collected for improvements

Supplier prequalification is becoming an industry standard. Hiring clients that work with, or hire, contractors and vendors are turning to service providers to help lessen the burden of the prequalification process.

Some of the larger prequalification companies have been around for several years but have on many issues, have missed the mark. This has left the door open for more companies to enter the industry in an attempt to provide the vital services needed. Most people would agree that having options is a good thing. Unfortunately, not all companies are created equal. So, how do you determine the best company to fit your prequalification needs?

How to choose a Supplier Prequalification Provider

  • Simplicity in use. How simple and easily understood is the process? Do your contractors often hire third-party processing companies to help them get registered because the process is overly complicated?
  • Understandable requirements. The process should not be difficult. Contractors and vendors should easily understand what is required of them.
  • Supplier Pricing. Are the prices reasonable to suppliers for the work performed by the prequalification company? Is it affordable for your smaller suppliers? Are there any registration or setup fees?
  • Cost to the client. What is the cost? Is there a setup fee? What if your needs do not require every service, are there price options available? Are the costs thousands – or in some cases – tens of thousands? (Honestly, that last is ridiculous if so).
  • Customer and client support. How does the company treat your suppliers and are they genuine in their support efforts?
  • Time commitment. Is the process confusing or frustrating? How quick are the turn-times?
  • Does the qualification provider have a solution flexible to your unique needs or, do your needs need to fit into their box?
  • Industry and regulatory language support. (MSHA, OSHA, DOT, safety-sensitive, non-safety sensitive, etc.)
  • It is highly recommended to not be persuaded by “compression”.

What does compression mean in prequalification? With supplier prequalification becoming more of an industry-standard EHS professionals often look for a program that will put the least amount of burden on their suppliers. That is a legitimate concern and should absolutely be considered in the provider selection process. Something to consider, however, just because others are using a specific service provider, does not always make it the best option. Remember when doctors used to widely prescribe arsenic? It is not always recommended to simply choose the service provider that has a high number of your suppliers already registered within their database. Especially if there are better options available.

Be cautious of any supplier prequalification company that automatically increases their fees to the supplier whenever a new client registers a pre-existing supplier as one of their own. This is often a major complaint from contractors because they do not always know they are charged until they receive their credit card statement. Another thing to consider is if the process for prequalification is already a burdensome one, adding a new client to register for is not going to make it any easier on the contractor.

Cost is always a significant factor and can lead to frustration and anxiety, especially for smaller suppliers and vendors. There is also the cost of bill-back: when a contractor bills the cost of prequalification back to the client through elevated prices.

Be sure the prequalification service provider fits all your internal needs with customizable options but is also cost-effective and simple to navigate. There are third-party processing companies that exist because some qualification services are so overly complicated the suppliers need help to get prequalified. This leads to frustration, confusion, resentment and adds additional fees to the supplier – who in turn charge those fees back to the client.

Helpful Checklist: Is the Supplier Prequalification company a good fit?

  • Customizable prequalification questionnaire to fit your needs
  • Cost-effective for you, your suppliers, contractors and vendors
  • Minimal or no setup and registration fees
  • Simple to navigate with easy-to-understand requirements
  • Customer support for you, your suppliers, contractors and vendors
  • Exceptions available for suppliers that fall below the approval threshold
  • Quick turn times for review and paperwork processing
  • Internal note capabilities
  • Document tracking and repository
  • Imbed or upload training videos
  • Track certificates
  • Set notifications for expiring training, documents and insurance certificates
  • Employee-level qualification and training

Supplier, contractor, vendor and subcontractor prequalification should not be a difficult process. Some providers seem to be more focused on profits instead of focusing on helping you, your organization and the suppliers that work for you. Do not allow your prequalification provider to treat your contractors with any sort of contempt. Your contractors should be viewed and treated as their customers and with a high degree of respect and support.

Contractor prequalification should help the process run smoother for all involved. If yours does not, it may be time to consider other services available.

Click here to learn a better way to qualify and manage suppliers.