Rethinking the Supply Chain

Staying Connected in Times of Uncertainty

Strategic Collaboration Requires a Single Source of Truth

For ongoing communication to result in coordinated effort, there needs to be a single source of truth that ties everything together. Indeed, this is the only way to combat the uncertainty that can so easily interrupt and even disrupt supply chain function. Historically, however, manufacturers have struggled to create and maintain a single source of truth.

As the BSR researchers point out, the reliance on point solutions and systems that were only designed for a given aspect of the product development process is part of the problem. For instance, companies frequently create and manage mechanical designs in mechanical computer-aided design (mCAD) tools. If the relevant software and electrical designs live in a different system, you don’t have a single source of truth.

Keeping track of multiple revisions and continual changes to product designs is extremely difficult when using disconnected tools (e.g., spreadsheets, email, chat solutions, CAD) or, even worse, manual processes. While this situation can already pose communication problems for internal teams, it becomes even more challenging when trying to collaborate with external supply chain teams.

Disconnected tools tend to create disconnected silos of information.

Disconnected tools tend to create disconnected silos of information.

When data is distributed across multiple silos, it increases the chance that teams will iterate on the wrong design revision, which in turn can lead to quality or manufacturing issues. This in turn can lead to shipping either the wrong product or a faulty one to customers.

Cloud-based systems were designed in part to remedy this situation by providing internal and external teams access to the latest version of product design. With a shared space for collaboration, teams can avoid the need to pass information across multiple systems or implement complex integrations.

A single, cloud-based solutionAt the same time, a cloud-based single source of truth doesn’t mean giving all partners full access to each aspect of every product design. OEMs need to protect their strategic intellectual property (IP). With the right cloud system in place and security roles properly configured, supply chain partners can be granted specific access to the information necessary to do their jobs, and nothing more.

Of course, such controlled access can be applied to everyone involved in the development and product launch process, granting access and permissions to stakeholders as needed. What’s more, systems with controlled access rights or policies can track decisions and design changes while providing a full audit trail in case quality or compliance issues arise later. In other words, a single product development system solves multiple problems at once.

When it comes to product development and commercialization processes, product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management systems (QMS) provide the single source of truth that teams, both internal and external, need in order to work together. Thanks to these solutions, teams can review, approve, and collaborate on the connected product record, speeding up the review and approval processes for new designs, engineering change orders, quality issues, and project tasks. In addition, this single system provides enhanced visibility and traceability throughout the entire product lifecycle, eliminating development and manufacturing blind spots. Ultimately, it is this single system that provides the necessary foundation on which optimal supply chain collaboration rests.