Expert systems for vendor selection
The survival of organisations, especially SMEs, depends, to the greatest extent, on those who supply them with the required material input. This is because if the supplier fails to deliver the right materials at the right time and place, and at the right price, then the recipient organisation is bound to fail in its obligations to satisfy the needs of its customers, and to stay in business. Hence, the task of choosing a supplier(s) from a list of vendors, that an organisation will trust with its very existence, is not an easy one. This project investigated how purchasing personnel in organisations solve the problem of vendor selection. The investigation went further to ascertain whether an Expert Systems model could be developed and used as a plausible solution to the problem. An extensive literature review indicated that very scanty research has been conducted in the area of Expert Systems for Vendor Selection, whereas many research theories in expert systems and in purchasing and supply management chain, respectively, had been reported. A survey questionnaire was designed and circulated to people in the industries who actually perform the vendor selection tasks. Analysis of the collected data confirmed the various factors which are considered during the selection process, and established the order in which those factors are ranked. Five of the factors, namely, Production Methods Used, Vendors Financial Background, Manufacturing Capacity, Size of Vendor Organisations, and Suppliers Position in the Industry; appeared to have similar patterns in the way organisations ranked them. These patterns suggested that the bigger the organisation, the more importantly they regarded the above factors. Further investigations revealed that respondents agreed that the most important factors were: Product Quality, Product Price and Delivery Date. The most apparent pattern was observed for the Vendors Financial Background. This generated curiosity which led to the design and development of a prototype expert system for assessing the financial profile of a potential supplier(s).