This article was originally published in Manufacturing Business Technology.
A new kind of manufacturing company is emerging that leverages big data and analytics for a unified view of the supply chain. This new approach provides supply chain insights that enable these organizations to respond quickly and decisively to changing conditions despite geographically dispersed suppliers and customers. And yet at the same time, they can also pursue long-term opportunities by identifying products, parts and components across all the data sources where supply and demand spans states, countries and continents.
No matter the supply chain model, customers expect quality service, on-time delivery and the right product every time, which can be challenging if an organization manages erratic supply and demand on a global basis.
For most organizations, products consist of numerous parts that move through the enterprise and its network of suppliers, creating a need for parts logistics. Every part number within the organization takes on a life of its own and every department must have access to all the information surrounding it.
As organizations build new products, and service existing ones, they need cohesive and comprehensive visibility for a unified view of the entire supply chain. This approach helps organizations optimize their supply chain and increase responsiveness by focusing on achieving greater visibility into products and parts inventory. Organizations that focus on these objectives can tighten the gaps in their supply chain and enhance their overall operations.
Supply Chain Unification
A unified view of the supply chain connects the enterprise and suppliers seamlessly to various applications and databases—such as enterprise resource planning, a data warehouse and customer relationship management systems.
This connected environment helps organizations keep abreast of the manufacturing process and supply chain management, and share relevant information across design, engineering, procurement, quality control and more. From understanding customer needs to building requirements, product prototyping and selling products, everything is streamlined and simplified across disparate systems.
By adopting a unified view of the supply chain, organizations can see what parts are in stock, which suppliers they re-order from and if those suppliers have available inventory. This gives engineers visibility into the specifications of components, the mean times between failures
for components, discontinuation plans and recent negative reports. It also promotes accurate shipping expectations and on-time delivery, while connecting all departments and partners in the supply chain into one efficient manufacturing shop.
Finding the right part information when and where needed
An information-driven supply chain makes it easier for workers to search and locate specific parts for production. Workers can create alerts to be notified when relevant information surfaces. Empowered and informed workers can then concentrate on manufacturing products on schedule.
A unified view of the supply chain helps engineers know who has previously worked with each part and learn from their experiences. If a component is found faulty during production, engineers could spend days trying to find who completed the original design. A unified view of the supply chain helps pinpoint the most knowledgeable workers and provides immediate access to information about the component and its design specifications. By empowering engineers, organizations are better able to meet customer demands.
This approach also empowers sales with information about specific parts to understand when to sell a specific version, and to know who to talk to if they need more information. Customers then get a confident, knowledgeable sales associate to help them make the right decision.
Knowing how and where to get parts in a hurry
Organizations must be able to respond immediately to customers who need replacement parts and immediate service. If a part is not available, they must know expected shipment dates, transit times and who can supply it. This is increasingly challenging with globally distributed suppliers and a dispersed customer base.
A unified view of the supply chain can resolve this issue by giving customer service representatives visibility into all parts across the enterprise, regardless of location, repository or format in which the information is stored. It can also extend access to information from supplier sites and applications.
To assist customers with support requests, customer service representatives need to be aware of past problems and how to identify and resolve them. With a unified view of the supply chain, they immediately know the parts associated with a problem and how it can be fixed.
In the final analysis, managing the supply chain is about information access. Although many applications are necessary to manage information at different stages of the supply chain, a unified view provides cohesive visibility across all applications that manage information about products, suppliers and customers. It is a critical part of streamlining and optimizing the use of an organization’s supply chain.