Tips and resources for managing your outsourcing relationships

Your manufacturing outsourcing partner relationship

Companies making the strategic decision to outsource manufacturing or design services face an immediate challenge with far-reaching consequences — selecting the right manufacturing outsourcing partner.

To make the best choice, internal resources (e.g., people, processes, technology) need to fully research, define and document alternative providers along with their associated risks and rewards. For many, this can be a daunting project, but if you do the research upfront it will be much easier to manage the relationship with your outsource manufacturing partner once you have awarded a contract.

How to make your manufacturing outsourcing strategy a success

To be successful in outsourcing manufacturing or design, engineering, sourcing, manufacturing, operations, document control and quality need to function in concert with your partner. From initial product specification to final sign-off, your product team must be in close contact with your outsourcing manufacturing partners to ensure that your cost, quality and schedule goals are met. While exchanging information with your manufacturing partners can be difficult, the following tips offer support on how to make it a success.

Tips to managing your manufacturing outsourcing relationship:

Tip 1: Enable manufacturing outsourcing collaboration

It is important to establish a collaborative relationship with your suppliers, contract manufacturers (CMs) and design partners from the start. By building a strong alliance it will be easier to tackle any challenges that arise during the design or manufacturing stages. Creating a process to submit feedback or other suggestions (like manufacturing change orders) enables communication to take place and strengthens collaboration between all parties.

Tip 2: Make it easy to share product data with outsourced manufacturers

Even if you work with just one outsourcing partner, the process of sharing product data and documentation should be easy. Your product may go through several changes and you will need to ensure your supplier is up-to-date on information that impacts their role in building your product.

Consider how best to share information with your partners. Many companies exchange product data with their partners via email or fax. But how can you be certain your partner obtains only the information that is pertinent to them? Plus, these methods can become laborious to manage as your product line changes and grows or you change suppliers. A cloud-based solution to help manage product data and changes may be the solution for you — one that can help streamline the process and also provide secure access rights.

Tip 3: Support closed-loop design and sourcing processes

Selecting the right manufacturing firm for your business may mean working with a partner that is onshore or offshore. But regardless of your partners’ location, establishing a way to capture improvement suggestions from your outsourced manufacturers that allows all product team members to stay in the loop can help to manage the impacts of a design change efficiently.

Tip 4: Drive active outsourced manufacturing participation

It can be challenging to keep all parties involved—especially if groups are geographically dispersed. Provide a framework for effective collaboration to get everyone on the same page. An infrastructure that allows all parties access to product data (i.e. bills of materials, engineering changes, etc.) can help drive contributions and keep everyone focused on the projects at hand.

Manage manufacturing outsourcing with Arena

Arena PLM, bill of material and change management, helps you manage your manufacturing outsourcing relationships by enabling secure, controlled collaboration and providing the visibility you need to track the progress of design and manufacturing.

Your manufacturing partners only need a web browser and internet connection to access Arena PLM — there is no additional software or hardware for them to buy. Plus, you have control over what product data a supplier has access to, as they can only access the product information you specifically share with them.

Arena PLM allows you to continually capture improvement suggestions from suppliers and outsourced manufacturers because you can define the request and change processes that work for your business. Product team members will get early visibility into issues and will be better equipped to manage the impacts of a design change.

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