Alison Austin (below), is Account Manager at OSI Electronics UK. She joined the company’s purchasing team in March 2019 and within a short period took on the purchasing for our largest customer and switched to account management in June… with the full-time responsibility for the company’s largest account.
Alison has an HND in Business and Finance and had previously worked as a Supply Chain Coordinator for an engineering company.
Deliveries on time
“Our main priority is to ensure deliveries happen on time,” she says.
The good thing about having a purchasing background is I know what the critical path is and which parts have the longest lead time.
We always try to fulfil our customers’ delivery dates – that is something we’re really good at as a business: we bend over backwards for our customers to keep to the delivery schedule, even though the supply chain can be a bit sticky at times and there are sometimes delays, which can frustrate delivery plans.
Our biggest customer is on a Kanban, the scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT), so we make to stock, which takes off some of the delivery pressures.
Hopefully, once I’ve learnt more about the job I can take on more accounts.”
We work as a team, although we have our own accounts and concentrate on those but if someone is on holiday, we’ll check their e-mails and answer urgent queries by looking through the system to check the status of any job.
Communication is the big thing in sales – that’s the key, communication, and quickly, too, always keeping the customer informed and updated. Depending on the circumstances, it may be an ‘I’ll come back to you within a couple of hours’ e-mail because I need to check the facts, or we can provide the answer immediately.”
Coping with special requests
We have to get the customer’s request quoted, which normally takes two, perhaps three days.
First the bill of materials is sent to suppliers to get the best pricing, then engineering has to calculate the labour and production to check before it goes to the General Manager to authorise the final sign off.”
Attractions of the job
It’s challenging – and I like a challenge and a bit of stress when the adrenaline kicks in. I find it makes me more motivated and I work harder.
There’s the perennial issue of obsolescence in electronics and when data sheets, certificates of origin and certificates of conformity are no longer available, then we have to find a substitute and the Account Manager is central to coordinating the effort to bring that about because it will usually involve the customer, engineering, production, purchasing (of course) and quality.”
There are some similarities with purchasing – chasing delivery of parts and communicating the good / bad news – which was a very helpful learning curve.
The good thing in purchasing is the madness of a year ago seems to have quietened, so stock availability is easier.
What I really like, though, is it’s such a varied job – I can go on the production line, talk to engineering and just work with different departments. I may need to ‘sweet-talk’ production into doing something for me or use my persuasive charms on IT.
While it’s still early days for me in the role, I think it’s going to be fine.”
Alison Austin reports to Chris Ames, the Commercial Manager at OSI Electronics UK.
OSI Electronics UK is a subsidiary of Californian based OSI Electronics.
Posted 2nd August 2019, updated 20th November 2020.