By Rachel Hastings
02 June 2022
For Northrop Grumman, dependable and effective suppliers are essential to managing a complex supply chain. But that doesn’t mean it limits its supplier base to large or established corporations. In fact, the company’s Global Supplier Diversity Program engages business owners from historically disadvantaged groups—and Northrop Grumman attributes part of its success to a long-standing partnership with the Tuck Diversity Business Programs.
Northrop Grumman kicked off its engagement with the Tuck Diversity Business Program in 2001, initially as an expansion of an internal mentor-protégé program the company had created to help develop its suppliers. Upon seeing that participants left the Tuck program with new tools and increased strategic awareness, the company expanded the offering to its other diverse suppliers. Over the two decades since, Northrop Grumman has sent more than 100 companies through Tuck’s programs, most of which remain within Northrop Grumman’s supplier network to this day.
As Gwen Tillman, director of Northrop Grumman’s Global Supplier Diversity Program, explained, program participants are selected based on their current performance and interest in mentorship, as well as the benefit to Northrop Grumman of an expanded relationship. “It’s an overall evaluation of the potential of the supplier candidate,” she noted. “Diversity is a consideration in our selection process for the Tuck Diversity Business Program; not only diversity in terms of the company ownership, but also in the company’s overall potential to expand their skills and support our changing needs.”
According to Tillman, both the corporation and participating suppliers have reaped the benefits of participation. “The program provides a broad expanse of knowledge in the intensive sessions they conduct,” she explained. “It provides a good focus in the areas that are most helpful to suppliers, whether it be infrastructure development, strategy, or establishing plans to achieve their ultimate goals for the company.” That knowledge, she noted, materially changes how suppliers operate. “Building confidence and savvy into our supplier base brings a lot of value to us and them. Their deeper understanding of what customers are looking for and how to support customer requirements is critical and makes relationships with that supplier more effective.”
A bonus, for Northrop Grumman, is the appreciation and loyalty of program participants. “Our suppliers have always indicated that they learned a lot about how to better manage and grow their business,” said Tillman. “We strive to have long-term relationships with our suppliers, and we believe that this training is one way to help achieve that objective.” We provide our suppliers the opportunity to participate in the program because we really believe in it and the benefits it provides,” said Tillman. “We look forward to our continued partnership to support the small business community.”