A mid-sized manufacturer with limited resources found a solution that saved time on the identification, evaluation and selection process of suppliers.

Ultrafryer’s Par-3 deep fryer, is one of many models the company manufactures for the commercial foodservice industry. Source: Prime Advantage

San Antonio-based Ultrafryer Systems has been a producer of commercial deep fryers for restaurant and commercial installations since 1969. The company’s line of restaurant fryers are built to meet or exceed Energystar standards, with a patent on the most fuel-efficient fryer heat exchanger in the world. The technology provides energy savings that add to customer profitability.

As Ultrafryer has grown over the years, managing its supply chain has become more difficult. Identifying and managing suppliers that can ensure the company’s standards for quality, service and innovation can help maintain a competitive advantage. Therefore, Ultrafryer started looking for an answer to help manage its supply chain.

“As a mid-sized company, we knew we had limited resources and expertise to devote to managing and enhancing our supply chain, but also knew that doing so was critical to our future success,” says Bill Collins, general manager of Ultrafryer.

A heat shield that was developed by OEM Products for Ultrafryer’s deep fryer machines, which helped the manufacturer solve a problem with welded joints separating on its fryers. Source: Prime Advantage

The Solution

Ultrafryer Systems needed a solution that would provide access to a network of capable suppliers and help the company save time on the identification, evaluation and selection process of the suppliers. In 2004, the manufacturer joined the industrial buying group Prime Advantage, Chicago, IL, to meet these needs and additionally save money with built-in savings programs.

Prime Advantage is a buying group for raw materials, components, supplies and services. By combining the purchasing power of more than 550 industrial manufacturers, the group negotiates volume rebates and discounts with global suppliers. Prime Advantage introduces its members to the group’s supplier network through multiple channels, and its semi-annual conference is a primary way to reach out to multiple suppliers in a short period of time.

During the conference attended by Ultrafryer, Prime Advantage facilitated one-on-one private meetings between the company and suppliers. The scheduled meetings were based on knowledge of Ultrafryer’s needs and strategies, as well as the suppliers’ ability to fulfill those needs. After the conferences, members can meet one-on-one with as many as 45 different suppliers.

“It [could take] anywhere from three to six months to meet with [that] many suppliers,” says Collins. “To accomplish that within a three-day period has made my evaluation and selection process of suppliers much more efficient, and has saved us a ton of money.”

Compared to the costs involved in meeting with 40 to 45 suppliers twice each year, and the three to six months it would take to plan and execute these meetings, Collins estimates that the Prime Advantage conferences save his company a minimum of $25,000 annually.

Improved Efficiencies

While there is a large cost savings achieved through this approach to vetting and managing suppliers, each scheduled meeting is also very focused on business needs and improvements. For example, as a result of one of the meetings at the conference, Ultrafryer was introduced to a new supplier that led directly to increased efficiency in its products.

Prior to the event, Ultrafryer was evaluating the issue of welded joints separating in its fryers. Through a collaborative and innovative effort, OEM Products, a supplier of pipe, valves and fittings in the group, and Ultrafryer were able to create a protective shield that complemented the original design of the fryer. This solution provided a 30% savings to direct costs in 2009 and it dramatically improved the product’s performance and reduced warranty costs.

“We rely on the conferences to search for new supplier opportunities and we know they’ve already been audited and evaluated by the group. It really enables us to focus on running our business,” Collins says.

Prime Advantage