A data silo occurs when a set of information is only accessible by a specific team or organisation. Manufacturing a product from the early design stage to the manufacturing itself involves many stake holders, including internal teams, suppliers and etc. Given the involvement of different parties, more often than not will you end up with a variety of data sources which can be hard to manage and synchronise. Incomplete or inconsistent data can lead to poor decision making and consequently to costly errors, delayed time to market and friction with suppliers or costumers.
But how do you remove data silos from your supply chain? Or better, how to integrate so that they are not silos anymore
1) Use a single hub, integrating and consolidating data from the silos, creating s system of records
According to a recent engineering.com survey, complexity of products has doubled in the last 15 years. With this increase in product complexity comes more suppliers and parts to manage, more engineering changes as well as more documentation. Storing all that data in a structured way that makes information easy and intuitive to find becomes very hard. This is in particular the case if the data is in multiple systems that are not integrated. Not to mention, when data is stored in an unstructured way through email threads, file based repositories or collaboration tools, such as Sharepoint or Dropbox. You have probably many times thought that some piece of information was missing, when in fact you forgot about it because it was shared with you a long time ago. Or you looked for it but just couldn’t find it.
Organisations must work towards opening up and integrating information silos with product data as there is much value in the locked-in data. The siloed data must be easy to access whilst maintaining the control. A way to achieve this is to use a structured data management system that stores information in a BOM structure, with all the meta data, requirements and contracts attached to the parts and assemblies. The system should have integration capabilities that make it easy to synchronise any external system, so that all information is up to date whenever a change occurs.
2) Protecting intellectual property when opening up the silos and sharing data
One of the biggest constraints in getting the necessary information across a supply chain is the fear of losing IP. It is a common occurrence that employees expose IP unintentionally or through negligence. For example, sending an email with an attached document that contains complete assembly specifications, when the recipient only needed material properties.
In a study made by Egress Software Technologies, 1006 security professionals at organisations of 500 people or more were surveyed to determine what are the most common technologies through which sensitive data is unintentionally breached by employees. The results were the following:
External email like a Gmail or Yahoo account (51%)
Corporate email (46%)
File sharing via FTP (40%)
Collaboration tools like Slack or Dropbox (38%)
SMS or instant messaging apps like Whatsapp (35%)
With growing amounts of communication channels in organizations, it is important to establish clear processes with defined responsibilities for the information sharing. It is also crucial to educate employees on how to follow them. Having a central hub for all collaboration with suppliers can be a smart solution. With access control and granular storage in such system, you are able to control who has access and to what. In that way, you will be able to share only the data intended for sharing and keep the in-house data not exposed to the outside world. Sharing technical data across a supply chain from one dedicated hub will remove confusions, improve control and build trust and confidence in partners.
3) Standardised Data Management Platform as the way to get to the data from silos
Manufacturers and suppliers deal with a wide variety of software and data formats in the different stages of designing and manufacturing. This comes with high costs from a software license perspective but also data administration and training are expensive. Many times these software licenses must be provided across the supply chain so that the data can be viewed and made accessible. Moreover, using different formats leads to data lock-in and it is hard to integrate systems with different formats. This makes it complicated to keep track of changes and obtain a full audit trail in the process. There is no system of records.
By using a standard-based and open platform with Master Data Management capabilities, data delivered from suppliers can be imported via a single mechanism and no specific IT system is needed. The exchange of information across the whole supply chain can be more automated which results in lower delivery and maintenance cost as well as higher quality. This will also prevent vendor lock-in for both manufacturers and suppliers, as open formats make it easier to migrate data and integrate tools.
It is time to open up the data siloes with a focus on information, not just systems
Regardless of why or how your supply chain experiences data silos, they are an obstruction that lead to inefficiency and prevent your organization from reaching its full potential. Nonetheless, there are a number of best practices that can improve the fluidity of information exchange across your supply chain in a controlled and secure way.
Our open standard based collaboration hub – ShareAspace, is a great platform that incorporates the best practices to improve supply chain transparency, protect IP and avoid vendor lock-in. With more than 20 years of experience at Eurostep, ShareAspace is ideally placed to help companies form strong resilient value chains and get the most out of manufacturing collaborations.
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