Three Steps Manufacturers Can Take to Improve Supplier Collaboration-CeMAT ASIA-Smart Logistic
We all use technology to make our lives easier. We have software to
manage household budgets and smart watches to keep us on schedule. And
in the manufacturing world, technology can give real-time visibility
into the entire supply chain process and empower collaboration with
Yet somehow, nearly two-thirds of manufacturers working in complex,
highly-regulated industries such as automotive or aerospace and defense,
track their processes using spreadsheets and nonintegrated systems.
This means when an amendment is needed, these manufacturers are faced
with the tedium of making manual changes in dozens of places and
emailing updates to all suppliers involved. But the challenges don’t
stop there. A lost or overlooked email could trigger significant supply
chain disruptions, customer fines and product recalls. It’s a system
rife with errors, and one that leads to a stressful state of constant
However, some simple changes in process, powered by technology, can turn good manufacturers into great ones. Here are three steps manufacturers can take to improve collaboration with their suppliers, and ultimately increase efficiencies to eliminate the fire-fighting mentality.
Step 1: Reduce hidden risks in your supply chain by planning for the unexpected
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted with saying, “Change
is the only constant in life.” This statement rings true for many
manufacturers whose supply chain and procurement departments are in a
state of constant chaos, putting out one fire after the next, often due
to unforeseen changes in everything from product specifications and
product defects to changes in a supplier’s business.
For example, let’s say a supplier is suddenly unable to supply an
integral car part to the manufacturer due to an equipment failure. The
supplier had been sent an email about the shortage days before, but it
got stuck in a spam folder.
In order to minimize downtime and avoid shutting down the customer’s
assembly plant at the cost of $32,000 per minute, the manufacturer must
now spend even more money to fly in the missing part from a different
supplier in another country.
Unfortunately, unexpected emergencies like this are common and often lead to mistakes that impact current sales, affect reputations and hinder future business. By implementing an industry-specific direct-spend solution, manufacturers gain full visibility into their supply chain, alerting them to potential risks and helping to avoid costly mistakes.
Step 2: Maximize efficiency and profits by minimizing manual processes
While implementing a technology solution to help avoid hidden risks
is important, it’s also necessary for manufacturers to look at the rest
of their processes to determine other areas that can be automated.
Sometimes, if manufacturers have been working manually for a long time,
they don’t realize how outdated methods end up costing both valuable
time and resources.
Completing tasks manually means there’s a greater likelihood for
errors. For instance, it’s easy for important items to be missed or left
out when employees are attempting to juggle various, disconnected
systems. Plus, generating a comprehensive report from all the data
sitting in multiple spreadsheets can be time intensive, if not
An alternative to slugging through manual data entry is to centralize
all supplier data on a single digital platform. And the right digital
platform can connect to multiple non-integrated systems, standardizing
data so manufacturers’ internal departments can easily collaborate with
each other, as well as with suppliers. It also allows manufacturers to
easily manage requests and feedback from customers.
Step 3: Invest in configurable systems automation
Another challenge manufacturers face is tracking tens of thousands of
items spread across suppliers around the globe. While manufacturing
companies must conform to industry standards associated with managing
suppliers, the specific data, or importance of the data, can vary
greatly, even between companies within the same vertical.
So, when looking to improve supplier collaboration, it’s important
for manufacturers to evaluate a comprehensive automated platform that
offers templated forms, like an RFQ quote form, to help steamline data
capture. Ideally these forms will be editable, allowing individual
manufacturers to configure them to meet their specific workflow needs.
From there, notifications and workflow can be sent for everything from a retracted quote to a changed bill of materials – all within one, centralized portal. This prevents any processes from falling through the cracks, and provides a cloud-based single source of truth for manufacturers and suppliers alike.
Improved collaboration with suppliers helps customers
Ongoing collaboration with suppliers is critical, and to truly
thrive, manufacturers must implement better practices that allow them to
reduce hidden risks and eliminate manual processes in favor of digital
Cloud-based technology can provide a holistic view into the entire
supply chain – a single source of truth – while improving collaboration
with suppliers, driving value to both sides and ultimately helping the
It’s difficult to hit a moving target, and in the manufacturing world, change is constant. But, the chaos doesn’t have to be.
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