5 Key Benefits of Supply Chain Management for Rapid Supplier Collaboration
Written By: Carlos Melgarejo
3/8/2022 Read Time : 5:30 min

Today, manufacturers increasingly rely on rapid supplier collaboration to stay competitive and introduce new products to the market. Against a challenging backdrop of supply chain shortages, increasing customer demands, and faster rates of innovation, a successful new product introduction (NPI) process requires effective communication throughout the supply chain. 

Leading manufacturers and their supplier networks are continually striving to create process efficiencies, improve quality, and accelerate NPI. Digital processes and solutions that allow the seamless sharing of technical information in connection with their PLM systems are a cornerstone of these ongoing efforts. 

To learn more about how strategic supply chain management can fuel innovation, PTC sat down with Scott Collins, CTO of Anark. Anark provides the tools that manufacturers need to power intelligent supplier collaboration that builds on their PLM systems. Read on to learn about trends in supplier collaboration, the kinds of benefits companies see with increased supplier communication, and how the right technology can help.

Thanks for making time to connect today, Scott. Can you give us an overview of the benefits of supply chain management for supplier collaboration? 

The reality for manufacturers today is that they’re facing an increased rate of change. That change can come from a variety of different places, whether it’s supply chain pressures, regulatory changes, increased competition, or changing customer demands. Improving your supply chain management helps drive an agile, effective response to pressures in the landscape. Supplier collaboration benefits can be realized from early supplier onboarding (RFx processes) all the way through production and delivery.

Whether you’re working to reduce engineering error rates or more efficiently support concurrent design processes, sharing technical engineering data helps drive collaborative design, enhance pre-production planning, and smooth out implementation. However, protecting your organization’s intellectual property during this process is also critical and security is at the heart of enabling today’s rapid supplier collaboration processes. Manufacturers need the right technology to make sharing easy, while increasing traceability and security controls. 

Could you share an example of how a company has transformed its supplier collaboration process and the kinds of benefits they obtained?

Absolutely. When one of our power equipment OEM customers wanted to develop more efficient supplier communication and collaboration, their goals were clear. They needed a partner that could help them improve supplier performance and communication to help them move to model-based engineering processes.  

INCOSE defines model-based engineering as “an approach to engineering that uses models as an integral part of the technical baseline that includes the requirements, analysis, design, implementation, and verification of a capability, system, and/or product throughout the acquisition life cycle.” 

In real terms this model-based approach allows them to share all the relevant product manufacturing information (PMI) with their suppliers earlier in the process. Procurement officers, supplier managers and their suppliers are able to see and collaborate on the same technical BOM and visual data that engineering owns in PLM.  Direct integration with the company’s PLM system ensures that all suppliers are using the latest version and correct technical definitions to drive procurement, design, and manufacturing.

The power equipment company partnered with us to first deliver 3D PDFs to their suppliers, and soon after, adopted our browser-based solution to eliminate the challenges of document-based sharing. The company saw improvements throughout the supply chain, including faster supplier onboarding times, improved supplier visibility, and reduced errors rates that traditionally resulted in costly scrap and rework. 

Were there any key performance metrics that you can share?

Capturing the benefits of rapid supplier collaboration processes demands the ability to share visual web content, also known as web-based technical data packages (TDPs). The company needed solutions that offered robust support for multiple technical data types, including model-based definition (MBD), PLM BOM data, product manufacturing information (PMI), and other supporting technical documentation. It allows internal and external authorized users to securely access information published directly from their PLM system to a web-based supplier collaboration portal. 

Internal stakeholders highlighted critical benefits to multiple parts of the business, but one of the most eye-opening was a 40% reduction in engineering error rates. 

That’s impressive! If companies are considering improving supplier collaboration, what factors do they need to consider when designing programs and choosing technology?

While improving supplier collaboration is becoming the norm, there are many factors that companies need to consider when sharing their technical content IP along the supply chain. Let’s break these down into three big risks or considerations:

  • IP security issues: One of the most important areas of consideration is IP security issues, which may include exposing data to competitors or other parts of the market before release date or losing control of how proprietary engineering data is shared and used. 
  • Version control: Manufacturers need solutions that offer release version control, ensuring that the data that is shared with suppliers, partners, and contract manufacturers is the latest correct version.
  • Providing access and collaboration that is optimized for human consumption: These solutions must be adaptable to any mobile or desktop device, sharing complex technical information that can be used in collaborative design, or on the shop floor for real-time innovation. 

As a result, companies should look for tools that offer deep support for engineering data types such as 3D CAD, integrate with their PLM systems, have built-in mechanisms that support security and version control, and support flexible delivery of content to any device. 

More broadly, what kind of benefits can manufacturers expect to capture from implementing supplier collaboration solutions?

Increasing communication with your supplier ecosystem can offer significant benefits across the organization. Manufacturers embracing best practices and the right technology platform offers several key benefits. Let’s highlight some of the most important:

  1. Reduce error rates, scrap, rework: One of the first benefits that an OEM can expect to see is reduced error rates and improved product quality. By sharing the correct technical information with all supply chain partners, companies remove interpretation errors, versioning issues, and time spent deciphering information through non-visual data. Suppliers immediately understand all product, approved manufacturer/vendor, and standards requirements from the shared technical data, and the shop floor staff can provide quality and measurement feedback quickly. All teams are working from the same, correct technical content. The result is significant reduction of manufacturing costs from parts that would have to be thrown away or reworked, yielding reduced delivery risk. 

  2. Support concurrent engineering: Supplier onboarding can begin before the engineering design is released for manufacturing. This enables procurement officers and their suppliers to be ready to start production when engineering releases to manufacturing. RFI, RFP, and RFQ processes can be running in parallel to final design completion.  Because suppliers’ have a deeper understanding of requirements, OEMs can expect reduced bid-padding from suppliers—costs that are otherwise carried to the bottom line.

  3. Improve security and data access: When you’re sharing engineering data, you’re sharing critical IP. File-less web content means there are no files that can leave your view. A secure, traceable audit trail allows you to see who has access to your data, and how it’s being used and shared. The ability to control access – including granting it, revoking it, and troubleshooting it at will – greatly reduces the chances that it will be misused or fall into the wrong hands. And dynamic watermarking of important IP adds an extra layer of deterrent. These types of security and access tools make it easier to confidently collaborate.

  4. Identify risk and eradicate production delays: Sharing information early and often helps provide greater visibility into all parts of the supply chain. It’s crucial to identify risks and production delays – from early RFx through delivery – before they happen and solve them collaboratively. 

  5. Empower procurement teams with insights: Enable supply chain and procurement leaders with supplier visibility from early sourcing to align your internal procurement teams efforts with supplier sales. When procurement teams are purchasing components, they’re able to compare technical requirements against supplier-provided details to ensure tighter alignment from the start.

Final Thoughts

For manufacturers grappling with a faster-than-ever pace of change, one of the many benefits of supply chain management is improved collaboration and optimization. Solutions like those provided by Anark allow manufacturers to adopt and implement model-based engineering processes that can improve collaboration. With greater collaboration, it’s possible to reduce errors, control costs, and get new products to market faster with less friction along the way.

Learn more about the benefits of supply chain management for collaboration and optimization.


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Tags: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Windchill
About the Author Carlos Melgarejo Carlos is a Sr. Content Marketing Specialist for PTC’s PLM technology. He comes from a broadcast journalism background where he developed a love for writing and visual storytelling. He is also passionate about developing creative content and communications, having received a Master’s degree in Marketing. He enjoys the outdoors, the beach, exercising, riding his motorcycle and car restoration.