Multi-level supply chain collaboration is critical to building trust within networks as well as across the manufacturing industry.
Problems with quality and unethical practices begin to surface when organizations operate and make decisions based on obscured or inaccurate information. These issues can be caused by factors such as:
- Sourcing vendors based on subjective reviews
- Having limited visibility or access to vendors further up or down the supply chain
- Working using the antiquated notion that responsibilities and communication should be siloed within one-to-one partnerships
When using the supply “chain” analogy to describe operations, complications arise as this linear system only allows for front- or back-end visibility. With this model, manufacturers are lined up one after each other with limited communications between partners in the chain. Each stakeholder can only see who they’re receiving materials from and where their results are moving which is a slow and inefficient process.
In contrast, using a supply “web” structure provides 360 degree visibility of the flow of goods and services. This holistic model is proven to reduce blind spots, increase agility and create a more trustworthy delivery system. Encouraging transparent communications and visibility when it comes to supply webs ultimately allows for end products to be manufactured with increased efficiencies resulting in better quality.
Strong decision-making starts with clarity and ends with quality
According to experts at the Ethical Sourcing Forum (ESF), “the average company knows about seven per cent of what’s going on in their supply chains”. Currently, every company globally builds their own quality systems in isolation from one another. For every new relationship or process formed, a series of analog data entry tasks are initiated. By transitioning this valuable data to a multi-user, tech-driven platform, state changes, audits and processes can be automated, saving costs relating to reporting and managing data manually and also reducing the risk of human error.
Leveraging technology reduces overhead for manufacturers as well as reduces deniability when utilizing industry-standard quality management platforms. From engineering, to design, to even procurement and logistics — the ability to use a web to automatically propagate information for every function and every relationship is an attractive proposition. In terms of visibility, efficiency and overhead, a web structure is a compelling way to increase quality and communications with all manufacturers.
Communication is key
If every supply chain spent the time to complete just one extra round of communications to ensure all questions were clarified in advance, the resource savings would be substantial. By allowing opportunities for stakeholders within the supply web to review the project scope, make revisions and confirm assumptions upfront, it sets the stage for the level of transparency and attention to detail expected in all work produced moving forward.
Expecting manufacturers to produce quality work without effective communication is unrealistic. It’s very difficult to get the job done “right” the first time without clear and efficient communications at all stages of the supply web.
Quality management is a relationship issue, not a product issue
Most factories work with tens of thousands of different customers and each relationship has its own unique silo of information and quality management processes. If this network was transferred to a web, each relationship could be tracked, mapped and analyzed to produce performance data for any single factory or relationship as well as every factory globally.
This data could also be utilized when forming new relationships with vendors and partners within the supply web industry. The decision to work with certain factories could be based on performance data, not subjective reviews online.
True quality management serves dual purposes. Not only does it impact manufacturers’ inputs and outputs, but it also provides visibility, resilience and risk mitigation in case a factory or “link” in your web goes down. By mapping relationships within a many-to-many network, manufacturers can pivot to new factories in the face of disruptions at any point in the web.
Visibility, meaning a true 360 degree view, isn’t possible in a chain. Only the architecture of a web can allow information to flow freely up to and among key decision makers. By accessing complete and fully transparent datasets, better decisions can be made across the web.
Blind spots within supply webs cost manufacturers money, time and valuable resources. Removing these limitations and promoting effective communication removes the risk of producing poor quality products or even receiving substandard results. Inefficiencies within a supply web and miscommunications with partners ultimately impacts a bottom line. Without clear visibility, effective communication and standards for quality, organizational reputations and those of each of the stakeholders within a supply web can be put on the line.