The lines and shortages at supermarkets have introduced the challenges of supply chain disruption to virtually everyone. Common household goods many people have taken for granted are now hard to find due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Panic buying has made it hard to find toilet paper, cleaning supplies, masks, gloves, groceries, and protective equipment as consumers purchase beyond their immediate needs. While supply chains are still functioning, many cannot suddenly meet the increased demand that has outpaced normal consumption or the shutdowns. While thinking about these types of supply chain disruptions may be new to most people, it is something that executives, product teams, and manufacturing organizations have worried about for decades.High-Tech Electronics and Medical Device Supply Chains
Like the household goods and groceries that are virtually unavailable, the same is true for components, subassemblies, and raw materials used to build consumer electronics and medical devices. In our global economy, it has become extremely difficult for manufacturing companies to gain the necessary visibility into their supply chain partners’ ecosystems. The current pandemic has made the risk to business continuity and growth even more extreme. In fact, an early March survey of Institute for Supply Management (ISM) members and the professional community showed that almost 75% of companies are reporting supply chain disruptions.
Complex designs and supply chains that drive the development and delivery of today’s high-tech electronics and medical devices make disruptions even more pronounced. As we see with the COVID-19 pandemic, recent tornados in Tennessee, past hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, or labor unrest in other parts of the world—threats brought by natural or man-made disasters—can impact your supply chain, whether you have a global network or rely on partners across town.Delivering New Products to Market
Managing the design, development, and delivery of products to market has become increasingly complex and distributed. While it is true in nearly every industry, some like consumer electronics, medical devices, and automotive have become even more challenging by requiring immediate collaboration across the entire supply chain. Consider a device like a camera that once had relatively simple mechanical and electrical components. Today, cameras still have some of those components, but they also include processors, operating software, interoperability features such as Bluetooth and GPS, and dozens of other physical elements like cases and lenses as part of their design.
The companies producing these devices have turned to product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions to manage the complex product designs and product development review processes to get products to customers. PLM software connects people, processes, and product information throughout new product development (NPD) and new product introduction (NPI). This means that internal teams and external partners/suppliers are all on the same page and have the same up-to-date information.
Three Tips to Improve Supply Chain Collaboration
Here are three tips to improve your supply chain stability and performance.
- Cloud-First: Ensure your product development software solution is cloud-based so that you and your key partners have easy access anytime and anywhere. Whether you have a few, dozens, or hundreds of partners, having a single platform to keep everyone on the same page will eliminate design confusion, production delays, and quality issues. Having a single source of truth is also critical to proactively collaborate and identify replacement sources for parts you are no longer able to procure. The Cloud makes it easy for all teams to engage remotely without I.T. support, virtual private networks (VPNs), or other barriers like installing software.
- Supply Chain Enabled: Be sure your system is designed for multitiered supply chain collaboration to ensure transparency and real-time collaboration at every critical juncture. Supplier partners should be able to participate in real time throughout your product development and quality management processes. Your chosen system should provide secure access that ensures every team member, design partner, supplier, and manufacturer has the specific access they need to review or approve product designs without compromising your intellectual property (IP).
- Vested in Your Success: Partner with a software vendor who is not just feature-focused, but future-focused. Ask yourself, where is my current platform going? What gaps did we experience during this disruption and does our software vendor’s current solution or future address them? Is the vendor staying on top of key industry drivers, regulatory changes, and technological advances? Are they listening to your needs and challenging you to evaluate existing systems, processes, and behaviors that might be holding you back?
Solutions to Make the Best Choices for Your Business
We have seen several articles and pundits debate the “rethinking of global supply chains” coming out of this current pandemic crisis. From our perspective, you need to do what is best for your employees, customers, stakeholders, business, and communities. It is our goal to give you the information and solutions you need to make the best choice for your business. During times of growth, stagnation, or crisis, we enable product companies and their supply chains the visibility and resilience needed to speed the design, production, and delivery of high-quality products.
For better or worse, we are all affected by this global pandemic, which is disrupting our work, schools, and families. Companies that want to thrive in the face of uncertain times need to evaluate their development and production processes. Review your current processes and challenges. Then, determine what you can improve upon to come out of this crisis in better shape and prepared for the next challenge. That’s the new business imperative. It’s time to take stock of your practices, systems, and supply chain processes. The next disruption could be just around the corner and may threaten your ability to get products to market as you experience new disruptions or supply chain shocks. Be prepared by answering these questions:
- Will your contract manufacturers be ready?
- Will your component suppliers be ready?
- Will your software systems support easy access and real-time collaboration 24/7?
- Will you be ready to deal with unforeseen challenges?
With the right PLM solution partner, you can be ready for the future—not just the challenges that the pandemic has exposed, but also the opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and improvement we will see as we return to the new normal.
Learn more about using Cloud PLM to secure the future of your supply chain.