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How Are Companies Overcoming Disruptions to Their Supply Chains?

Global Supply ChainAs companies deal with the impact COVID-19 is having on their business, it is interesting to see where companies are focusing their technology investments in these challenging times. It wasn’t long ago that the headlines highlighted global trade wars and the effect that was having on manufacturing and supply chains in certain parts of the world, like China. Apple and Foxconn made the headlines for their efforts to reduce supply chain risks by expanding manufacturing into more geographies. Now with COVID-19 forcing employees and the companies they work for to work remotely or to shut down physical manufacturing to avoid the spread of the virus—the stakes are even higher.

For companies in the high-tech, consumer electronics, or medical device industries, there are many concerns to address how you can continue to manufacture and deliver products to market with the disruptions we all face. As you consider your supply chains and their ability to continue building and shipping products, what can you do to meet consumer demand as the workplace shifts to sheltering in homes across the globe?

For those of us in the product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management system (QMS) software industry, we understand how cloud-based solutions help manage some of the supply chain risks caused by mandates for employees to work remotely.

So how are companies using PLM systems in the short term to overcome disruptions to their supply chains? Let’s take a look at one such company, Legrand, which designs and produces lighting and smart home technologies. Their CEO posted a message addressing his company’s response to COVID-19.  After first sharing how they are ensuring the safety of their employees, LeGrand provides a message to their customers with the following points on how they will operate to continue to meet customer needs:

  • Working with our factories to maintain normal production capacity.
  • Placing advanced orders for long lead time parts and components to reduce the risk of supply disruptions.
  • Using air freight to expedite the shipment of products to reduce the risk of local inventory issues.
  • Offering substitute products, where applicable, to offset product shortages.

The Role of PLM and QMS in Managing Supply Chain Risk 

Supply Chain CollaborationAfter considering his message, it points out two obvious areas where PLM software can play a role in managing supply chain risk:

  • First, analyze your data for long lead time parts. However, be careful as to how you define long lead. A few weeks might be a better standard considering current events.
  • Second, use the data you have already defined to select alternate sources and move them from the potential list of suppliers to the approved supplier list (ASL), so you can leverage existing substitute parts as needed.

From here, you can easily add a few more to bolster your ASL:

  • Alternate sources reduce risk. Take the time to add to your ASL. Use your knowledge, or electronic component databases like Octopart or SiliconExpert, to find alternate sources. Solutions like Arena PLM allow you to perform this action directly inside the system with a Supplier Item Lookup option.
  • PLM solutions help you drive real-time collaboration with your suppliers and ask them for insights throughout the new product development and introduction process.

For those in the med-tech industry, QMS solutions provide a few additional ways to address the current challenges we face today:

  • Consider reviewing your standard operating procedures (SOPs) to make any necessary changes and create no-touch interactions in product manufacturing.
  • Implement or update quality process workflows, like corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs) or supplier corrective action requests (SCARs), with specific tags or categorization of current issues you face.

Moving Forward With Cloud Solutions

COVID-19 is changing how we live, work, and interact. It is impacting virtually every country and company in some way. It is no longer enough to simply consider your organization. You need to adopt a new collaborative mindset to provide tools and ways to communicate in different geographies and time zones. Today’s cloud solutions can enable teams to continue to move product development and manufacturing forward in many cases, even when teams are forced to work from home or when employing social distancing measures.

I shared a few ways that Cloud PLM and QMS software can help, but I’m interested to hear what you are doing to deal with the current product development and manufacturing realities stemming from the COVID-19 virus. As we collectively look for new ways to drive business operations forward, sharing your insights is valuable. Please comment and share your experience and ideas.