Finding the Right Fit – A Strategic Approach to Customer Partnerships


To understand its position in the marketplace, a company should be able to summarize its strategic mission in one sentence. For Nexans Data Center Solutions, it might sound like this: Think like a local partner, act like a global supplier.

“Nexans has an industrial presence in 34 countries,” says Harvey McDowell, Vice President – Strategic Business, “but we also like to think of ourselves as a local company with decades of experience in each market we serve.

“For example, we’ve been operating in the LAN space in the United States for 30 years. The same is true in Europe and China. In Brazil, it’s been 20 years. We’re not a company that just ships you a product from the other side of the globe and says, use this. We live here. We know your standards. We know what kind of tools and procedures you like to use, because have a deep understanding of how you work.

“So our customers can be confident we can get them the products they use. But they also want to know, can you get it to me on time? Can you get it to me in the quantity I need?”

To hold itself to the highest performance standards, Nexans uses a measurement called “on time in full,” or OTIF, which indicates how many complete orders are supplied on time without any article missing. In the TL 9000 quality management system, it’s referred to as “on-time delivery to supplier promise date (OTIP).”

Harvey McDowell, Vice President – Strategic Business

“That’s a key word to us – promise,” Harvey says. “Every time you tell a customer you can deliver, you’re making a commitment. We take that very seriously.”

The data bear him out. Each month, the Nexans plant in Fuquay-Varina provides a report to TL 9000 regarding a number of key statistics. The results show the company demonstrates an aggregate OTIP over 95 percent, which is significantly better than the average. And since it’s TL 9000, these are the best suppliers that we are comparing ourselves to.

“The key is that we focus on those customers that make sense for us. We know we can’t be all things to all people,” Harvey says. “As a manufacturer who considers themselves a partner, you hope you never ask yourself, ‘Which customer can I make happy today?’

“We try to eliminate that as much as possible by making sure we’re a good fit for the customer. We look for what we call a value match. And the only way to do that is to sit down and talk about it,” he explains. “Sometimes we find that the customer is solely focused on price. That’s their right, but if they don’t value things like on-time delivery and safety, we will struggle to see eye-to-eye. It’s better to know that going in.

“Customers who are passionate about quality, service, market knowledge – those are the people we will be successful with.”