“You need to ensure that communication is not a hindering factor.”
It comes as no surprise in the manufacturing industry that supply chain resilience is an important factor to make good business. In other words, it has to be reliable and performant. Your end product is highly dependent on other companies’ ability to provide you with quality parts, components and services at a reasonable cost and timeframe. In a company that sells or manufactures products, setting up and maintaining a supply chain is the main priority of the purchasing department.
Recent times have shown that streamlining your supply chain and focusing on just one or two of the parameters that make up a performant and resilient supply chain should be reconsidered. Finding the right balance among your suppliers between cost, speed, location, flexibility and quality is becoming more and more important.
You might ask yourself:
How resilient is your supply chain?
How do you add another supplier to your network?
What do you do with a supplier that is not performing according to your standards anymore?
Are the legal processes in place for doing this? And how do you make it happen, technology-wise?
At Eurostep we have been helping companies, for over two decades now, in setting up their supply chain collaboration. From our experience, having the correct legal processes in place is crucial. There have to be contracts signed and NDAs agreed. Note that nowadays, this can also be streamlined and performed online. However, having an agreement is just the initial step towards receiving actual value from your supplier. You have to transfer the relevant product data to them so that they can start producing what you require. You also need to make sure when receiving their feedback, that you have a clear audit trail of your communication. This will allow you to stay in control over regulatory compliance and quality measures while delivering your product.
Here are three common scenarios where we see that OEMs struggle in finding a flexible solution when using suppliers as part of their manufacturing process:
1. Complexity problem
You design/manufacture/ assemble a complex product containing a multitude of components that need to be tracked to meet requirements. Your suppliers provide you with information, but it is a nightmare to control this. The information is in different formats and the quality of the information varies heavily. Hence you cannot trust that the provided information is sufficient for your downstream processes like service documentation, providing information for your PIM systems, quality controls at part deliveries and more.
2. Number/scaling problem
You have so many suppliers that getting a clear view of the overall situation becomes complicated. You are having to maintain all the email threads and manage the data in all shared folders. As well as administering access rights to the data and dealing with the chaos when design requests begin to change. Understanding where to focus your efforts in these circumstances become a pain.
3. Administrative quality problem cause by demanding customer
You feel that you are in control of your product. You also got a feeling that your suppliers are serious players that do a good job! However, your customer keeps loading you with a tremendous amount of administrative work. Tasks regarding certificates, detailed traceability of every single component in your product; when, where and how it was produced. Things that you possibly cannot know unless your suppliers provide you with that information. More than often, this information is not provided, is missing or has been misplaced in the process. This then causes delays, since both the OEM and the supplier(s) must divert their resources to solve these issues. Rather than focusing on delivering the product on time.
These are just three types of problems that are all related to supplier communication. Companies today solve them in different ways. In many cases by using email communication, shared folders, custom-built applications or databases, or simply by letting suppliers into their internal business systems. Regardless of the solution, one thing that they all have in common is that they tend to lower flexibility over time! You would be reluctant to remove or replace a supplier with whom you’ve invested heavily in building a custom supply chain communications process, integrating your systems into theirs or vice versa.
Communication is key to increase your supply chain resilience and really take advantage of the possibilities that today’s globalization gives. However, it needs to be ensured that communication is not a hindering factor. Regardless of how sophisticated your internal information systems are, you can establish a front end towards your suppliers. This will allow you to easily monitor their performance and better yet, control what you provide them with as well as what they should provide to you. You should not let your current internal systems architecture stop you from becoming the best-in-class company when working with partners.
So, how do you achieve resilience and increase your supply chain flexibility?
Using ShareAspace Design to Manufacturing as your supply chain communication service is a great way to increase your flexibility. It can be used outside of your internal network and separated from your internal master systems. Be it drawings, BOM-structures, 3D CAD models, part material data, simulations or other product-related data, no granularity will be lost in the data you share. ShareAspace is able to import and control access to the information, ensuring that only companies that are supposed to see it, can access it. ShareAspace Design to Manufacturing is also a great tool for monitoring the status of purchase orders. It makes controlling distributed purchase orders and all the data that has been distributed together with these purchase orders very simple.
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