Navigating Supplier Relationships: Diversification vs. Consolidation

In today's dynamic and competitive business landscape, companies face the crucial decision of how to manage their supplier relationships effectively. Two main approaches are often considered: supplier diversification and supplier consolidation. Each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages that can significantly impact a company's success.

In this blog, we'll delve into the benefits and drawbacks of both strategies to help businesses make informed decisions about their supplier management.

Supplier Diversification

Supplier diversification refers to the practice of increasing the number of suppliers used to meet a company's needs. This approach offers several compelling benefits:

Risk Mitigation

By relying on multiple suppliers, companies can mitigate the risk associated with relying heavily on a single supplier. External factors such as natural disasters, economic downturns, or supplier-specific issues are less likely to disrupt the supply chain significantly.

Competitive Pricing

A diverse supplier base encourages competition among vendors, driving down prices. Suppliers are more likely to offer competitive rates to secure a larger share of a company's business, leading to potential cost savings.

Innovation and Adaptability

Working with different suppliers often introduces a variety of perspectives and solutions. This diversity of thought can lead to innovation and improved adaptability as each supplier brings unique expertise and ideas to the table.

Supplier Performance Evaluation

Evaluating and comparing the performance of multiple suppliers becomes easier with diversification. Companies can identify which suppliers consistently meet quality, delivery, and service expectations, allowing for more informed decisions.


Drawbacks of Supplier Diversification

Administrative Burden

Managing relationships with multiple suppliers can be resource-intensive, especially for smaller companies with limited personnel and capacity. Communication and coordination may become more complex and time-consuming.

Reduced Bargaining Power

Engaging with numerous suppliers might limit the company's overall buying volume with each supplier. As a result, businesses may have less leverage in negotiating favorable terms, discounts, or bulk pricing.

Quality Consistency

With diverse suppliers, maintaining consistent product or service quality can be challenging. Different suppliers may have distinct standards, leading to potential variations in the final output.

"It's important to note that whilst supplier diversification might result in reduced bargaining power, there could be reduced logistics costs associated with different suppliers because of their location. So overall there could be a saving. "

Jade Blackburn, Head of Sales - WTA


Supplier Consolidation

Supplier consolidation, on the other hand, involves reducing the number of suppliers a company engages with, typically by centralising operations to a select few. This approach offers its own set of advantages:

Simplified Supplier Management

By working with a smaller pool of suppliers, the company can streamline communication, procurement, and relationship management, reducing administrative complexity.

Enhanced Collaboration

Deepening relationships with a few key suppliers can foster a stronger sense of partnership, encouraging mutual understanding and better collaboration on strategic objectives.

Economies of Scale

Concentrating purchasing power with fewer suppliers can lead to increased buying volumes. This may result in economies of scale and better negotiation power, leading to more favorable terms and pricing.

Supply Chain Stability

Consolidating suppliers can lead to a more stable supply chain, as there are fewer variables to manage. This stability can reduce the risk of disruptions and enhance overall efficiency. Working with one freight forwarder means you have a single point of contact for all your shipping needs. This simplifies communication, reduces the risk of miscommunication, and ensures that information flows smoothly. You gain better visibility into your supply chain and get access to real-time tracking and updates on your cargo's location and status, giving you more control and predictability.


Drawbacks of Supplier Consolidation

Single Point of Failure

Relying heavily on a limited number of suppliers can expose a company to significant risks if one of the key suppliers faces challenges or fails to deliver as expected. This can lead to severe supply chain disruptions.

Reduced Innovation

With fewer perspectives and ideas from suppliers, companies might miss out on innovative solutions and fresh approaches to challenges.

Dependence on Supplier Performance

In the case of supplier underperformance or deterioration in service quality, companies may find it difficult to switch suppliers quickly due to the limited options available.

"Business is built on relationships ultimately. That can be the supreme benefit of supplier consolidation. Building a really strong connection with one firm and forming a great relationship which benefits both parties."

Jade Blackburn, Head of Sales - WTA

Both supplier diversification and supplier consolidation have their merits and drawbacks, and the decision ultimately depends on a company's unique circumstances, industry, and risk appetite.

A balanced approach that considers a company's risk tolerance, operational capabilities, and long-term strategic goals is often the most prudent strategy.

Companies may choose to strike a balance by having a core group of trusted suppliers while keeping a few additional ones to provide backup options. Regularly reassessing supplier relationships and market conditions will ensure businesses stay agile and resilient in today's ever-changing business environment.

At WTA, we pride ourselves on matching decades of experience in supply chain management with high quality service, backed up by our impressive Trustpilot rating. Finding supply chain optimisations is a core focus of all our key accounts, which is why over 50% of them have been with us more than 5 years.

To start a conversation about optimising your supply chain beyond looking at freight rates, reach out to Jade Blackburn below, who has been doing it for more than 20 years.


Jade Blackburn,
Head of Sales, WTA


Tune into Freight Club!


WTA Sales & Marketing Director Keri Barton joined our podcast, WTA Freight Club, to discuss what it means to move your attention away from the freight rate - and more importantly, how it could help your business profitability! 

Listen to the episode here to discover the latest advice. 



Back to Blog