Designing for Excellence with your Supply Chain | 2004

All of our product data was kept in file cabinets in my early new product introduction (NPI) efforts. In order to release a printed circuit board (PCB) for production, we physically handed copies of the designs and CDs to the PCB house—we “pushed” the data.

We consistently got design for manufacturability (DFM) input for every new release, whether it was favorable or not. If the response was “good,” production got underway right away. If the PCB was “bad or ugly,” significant changes had to be made before it could be produced, taking up valuable time in our project timeline.

Despite the fact that all of my clients now manage their product data using PLM systems, many of them are still preparing and sending physical data packages to their supply chain, which results in lost opportunities for PCBs and other product data. The ultimate finished good or marketable product is made up of hardware, software, and packaging subassemblies in addition to the electrical components. In order to analyze and explore how to Design for Excellence (DFX) for other criteria like test, cost, safety, reliability, and logistics, each of these subassembly designs need early supplier involvement and input.

You’re losing out on crucial DFX cooperation if you’re handing your product design over the wall to your suppliers late in the NPI cycle. It is impossible to respond to supply chain criticism while also asking partners to start ramping up volume production. This will likely result in manufacturing issues or delays. The key to DFX is involving your supply chain partners in collaboration early in the product development process and through final shipment of your products.

I recently finished a project to develop and implement my customer’s Supplier Collaboration effort using their product lifecycle management (PLM) system, therefore I’m still thinking about this issue. Think about these four keys to success when setting up supply chain partner collaboration:

1 Protection

When working with suppliers, security is always the first priority. Never violate the intellectual property of your business in order to handle or maintain data communication with a supplier more easily. Prior to giving users access to your PLM system, you should consider and respond to the following questions:

How can you ensure that suppliers have access to the product data they require from each supply partner while prohibiting access to private or sensitive information?

Do you need to impose export restrictions or regulatory restrictions?

How can you guarantee that your most sensitive data pieces are subject to valid security filtering?

What security features will make it possible for you to include suppliers in your transformation processes?

How will secure connections, data encryption, and information transmission be enforced by access to your PLM system?

2 “Push” versus “Pull” of Data

In one of my most recent customer engagements, the suppliers experienced delays in accessing product data to keep builds in sync with the most recent, released product data. Rather than manually creating static product data packages that would need to be physically picked up by the suppliers, my customer opted to invite suppliers into their PLM system, upgrading from a strictly “push” method to a real-time “pull” method. for production. The four walls of my customer broke down allowing their suppliers the ability to access and retrieve critical product information in real-time whenever it was needed.

3 Process Maturity 

Although supplier collaboration was a business requirement when my customer first deployed their PLM system, they chose to “walk before they ran” by rolling out supplier collaboration in a subsequent phase. This allowed their internal teams to become accustomed to the system and allowed their own processes to evolve, mature, and stabilize before inviting suppliers to participate.

4 Instruction

To assure success, some level of training is always required. The new framework for supplier collaboration was introduced to my client in a controlled manner with supplier testing, training, and feedback. Along with relationship managers from the supplier, the trainees also included the practical resources who would be getting system notifications. It was crucial that they were aware of the necessary tasks and gave them plenty of experience, as well as discovering the accessible contacts and troubleshooting solutions. Additionally, they were requested to report any problems with their access to sensitive data in order to ensure the continued integrity of the security model.

Does it fit your needs?

While there isn’t a single formula for effective supplier collaboration, there are best practice suggestions that may be considered for their applicability to your business. The necessity for and advantage of involving your suppliers in a collaborative model on your PLM system as early in the product lifecycle as feasible increase in proportion to how much of your production and supply chain is outsourced. Only when all stakeholders involved in the design, development, and manufacturing processes are involved throughout the NPI process can DFX be completed.

Ask yourself why you don’t include your supply chain in a pull model if you have one, and think about how it will affect your ability to quickly bring high-quality products to market.

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