Supply Chain: Collaboration
Among all the dust and heat of Cloud, Big Data, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and SocioMobile trends, Supply chain seems to have taken a back seat. Supply chain has been key topic of discussion and improvement for years now. Have we done enough? Do companies have complete end-to-end supply chain integration in place?
Supply chain collaboration in Semiconductor Industry is still a challenge. First, let me define the collaboration areas:
- Order Management: Placing a PO, PO Commits & Acknowledgements
- Visibility: Work-in-progress, Advance Ship Notifications, Alerts/Notifications, Business Continuity
- Design collaboration: Manufacturing instructions, Production specs, BOMs etc.
- Financial Collaboration: Contract Compliance, Invoice automation
- Supplier Performance & Compliance Management: Performance to schedule, conflict material management
Alright, Big Data has a role to play in all of the above. For improved collaboration, having an analytical tool that gives you easy access, slicing/dicing, drill-down capabilities definitely makes sense. Did I hear some of you say that you would like to get alerts/notifications on your mobile devices, sure that makes sense! Yes, it would definitely make sense if collaboration tools are cloud-based giving us scalability and lower-cost models. There you go, cloud, Big Data and Mobile are back in action.
Why is Supply Chain Collaboration so difficult?
For those of you who have perfect collaboration in place, good for you. For lesser mortals, I think some of the following challenges exist:
- Data Accuracy – Many transactions fail because returned part# is wrong or PO line items got mis-aligned.
- Lack of integration into MES systems at the supplier side – Challenges due to lot splits and merges, manual data-entry causes issues even though we might think we have a B2B link in place
- Lack of complete integration on the buyer side – all the way to planning engine & financial modules of ERP system
- Lack of Systems expertise in smaller companies
- Secure Transmissions
Do you know of companies who still run their planning engines in spreadsheets? Five years back, situation was worse, but I believe Semi Industry has been slowly picking up on this one. Most of the companies now have good solid transactional and planning systems in place. Some lucky ones have product life-cycle management systems in place too. But how many have good solid collaboration infrastructures in place?
How can we improve overall collaboration?
In this age of information economy, we need to collectively find ways of better collaboration.
First things first, we should have a forum where supply chain partners should discuss ways of improving the collaboration. No one will win by hiding, so let’s come out in the open and discuss ways to share information and collaborate. Agreed upon standards and protocols will act like lubricant to help push this information engine.
New technological innovations (Cloud, Big Data, and Mobile etc.) can be utilized for improving supply chain collaboration. I hope someone comes up with a cloud-based collaboration hub where all the suppliers and buyers can get on-board. Suppliers could be rated (Amazon-style) by buyers. Smaller suppliers with less IT competency can compete more effectively with big firms by using predefined adapters and formats for B2B collaboration.
In a software-driven enterprise, strong supply chain collaboration is a must to compete effectively.