With the increasing globalization of the manufacturing industry, we need effective supply chain ecosystems, now more than ever. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that disruptions within the industry can come at any time. And despite not knowing the future, we should always aim to improve our supply chains and make them as strong and as intelligent as possible.
The manufacturing supply chain was due for a makeover. As COVID-19 disrupted many systems, it also accelerated the need for a new model. One that matches the potential of Industry 4.0.
When the pandemic hit, the manufacturing sector was hit hard. Entire supply chains were disrupted and manufacturers could not get the materials and products they needed - at least not within the same framework they were used to. Manufacturers needed to shift their productions to address the new reality.
More importantly, the worldwide event showed the manufacturing sector that it needs better processes and systems to protect its supply chains. It needs an intelligent system, one that is built with live traceability, streamlined processes, and the enhanced connections of the current era.
The industry needs the Digital Supply Chain Ecosystem.
Why Do we need a Digital Supply Chain Ecosystem?
To help manufacturers evolve with the current era, we created the VKS Digital Ecosystem. This is a reinvented supply chain model that enables manufacturers and their partners to enjoy shorter lead times, achieve higher product quality, and produce less waste.
This new package allows companies to improve collaboration and compliance by sharing key process knowledge with the appropriate players in their supply chain.
If you need something built using a specific process, create and share work instructions with your supplier. This way, they have the most up-to-date methodology, making them better equipped to produce what you need. Adding to this, you receive complete visibility into the production of your components while you monitor your suppliers’ progress and quality during and after the work is performed.
But how does the supply chain ecosystem work?
Supply Chain Ecosystem: A network of interlinked people and systems such as suppliers, distributors, raw material handlers, execution systems, process management, and assembly lines. Each interacts with the other to form a collaborative ecosystem that is sharing valuable information at lightning-fast speeds. It is a flow of process and quality knowledge that enables the supply chain to be stronger, smarter, and faster.
With higher levels of collaboration between key players within the supply chain ecosystem, it’s now easier than ever to achieve a lean and resilient supply network. The add-on package allows you to instantly act on VKS users’ feedback to avoid time wastage and better allocate company resources.
Imagine that you are an automotive manufacturer. But you don’t fabricate every component that goes into your cars’ assembly. You have suppliers that build your windows, computer chips, leather seats, etc. Every sub-component needs to precisely fit your design and specifications.
But recently, you’ve had some trouble with one of your suppliers. It seems that the electronic motors for the windows are failing tests almost 5% of the time.
Here’s where the VKS Digital Ecosystem can help. You know how these electronic motors need to be built. Why share your work instruction technology and create an approved process with your supplier?
By giving your supplier a documented and interactive guideline through work instruction software that also captures production and quality data in real-time, you know that the work is being done to your specifications every time.
But now the country of origin of these electronic motors just got hit with an economic recession, delaying shipments of new windows and creating a stall in your production line. You’ll need to find a new supplier - either temporarily or permanently.
To not run into the same issue again, you select a few capable suppliers to diversify your supply chain. With your already documented electric window motor process, standardizing results from these suppliers is easy.
Adding to this, you also have complete visibility and traceability into your suppliers’ production processes. This enables you to monitor quality from different suppliers before and after you receive the electric motor for your windows.
By sharing the specific process with multiple suppliers and tracing quality data, you not only get assurance that components will be fabricated correctly, but you have also effectively diversified your supply chain. This brings greater quality and resilience to your business and product.
How to Use a Digital Supply Chain Ecosystem
In our guidebook of the week series, our very own Mathieu Samson presents the fundamentals of how you can use the VKS Digital Ecosystem to strengthen and take control of your supply chain.
The reinvention of the supply chain is all about an enhancement of connectivity and traceability. With greater connections within the supply chain comes a greater flow of information and better control of your materials, sub-components, and processes.
Your supply chain has always shared similarities with an ecosystem. Every process (good or bad) affects the whole supply chain. But now with industry 4.0 innovation and technology, we can make this ecosystem function more effectively.
Digital supply chain ecosystem technology is enabling companies to enhance knowledge and quality control while also pursuing lean practices and avoiding waste. With this in mind, here are the 4 reinventions that the digital supply chain ecosystem has brought to the modern supply network.
1. Instant Communication
A natural ecosystem is defined by seamless interactions across multiple organisms. Much like the ecosystems we find in nature, the VKS Digital Ecosystem provides a way for businesses to seamlessly interact with other companies within the supply network and around the world. With lightning-fast connections, global supply chains collaborate to assess risks, seize opportunities, and adopt the best practices available.
Imagine interacting with a system that facilitates faster and more in-depth communication around the world. Knowledge is shared in real-time, enabling you to address issues immediately, share non-conformance pictures, continuous improvement ideas, and more. Factors like risk assessment, process sharing, and traceability are at your fingertips.
With greater connectivity the whole supply chain works together as one unit, enabling a stronger and more collaborative network.
2. Streamlined Process Sharing
With the digital supply chain ecosystem, sharing and collaboratively creating process methodology is streamlined. In the case of new product lines, quickly coordinate with your suppliers so that they have the information they need to make the product that you need.
This reciprocal interaction is one of the key strengths of the digital supply chain ecosystem. Now manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors get the work instructions, control plans, and processes that meet their needs.
The VKS Digital Ecosystem also enables companies to pursue quality after the sale has been made to the customer. For a moment, let’s return to our automotive example.
Cars inevitably need maintenance after a certain amount of usage. Just like sub-component manufacturing, these maintenance operations will need to be performed with a specific methodology.
You, as the car manufacturer, can share the correct maintenance practices with distributors and maintenance facilities. Now, even the maintenance and installation of new parts follow your quality guidelines, further enhancing the quality of your product and its reputation.
3. Control the Process with Complete Traceability
A key factor of the supply chain ecosystem is the ability to receive production data from your suppliers in real-time. This knowledge enables you to proactively plan your production and distribution. As data is captured at specific steps during the process, you gain visibility into key factors that affect your business.
Productivity: If cycle times are taking longer than expected, you can adjust your production and/or coordinate with other suppliers to adjust the rates of production. The smarter the network the more flexible and resilient your supply chain will be.
On-Time Supply: Similarly to monitoring productivity, also adjust your distribution schedule as you gain in-depth visibility into your supplier’s lead times.
Compliance: See if your suppliers are complying with the established best practices. The work instructions need to be followed to achieve superior and consistent quality.
Quality: With production data being captured during fabrication and assembly, you have complete visibility into how every individual product was made.
From here, you also have the ability to collaboratively work with your suppliers to improve processes and refine production details. In this way, continuous improvement is achieved for the whole supply chain.
4. Diversifying Your Supply Chain
As we briefly explored in our automotive example, it’s not uncommon to find a business with one supplier for a specific item or material. The advantage of depending on one supplier is that it’s easier to manage. But this advantage comes at extreme risk.
With an effective supply chain ecosystem, companies manage multiple suppliers without getting overloaded. Each supplier is given the same instructions and manufacturers can monitor their production and capture data as needed.
Shortly after the pandemic hit, VKS partnered with The Ventilator Project visionaries that were working around the clock to provide the world with an affordable and scalable ventilator solution. Using our digital work instructions, the TVP team was able to quickly share the detailed step-by-step directives with their medical supply chain ecosystem and get manufacturers started towards a waste-free and efficient production of ventilators.
Redesigning the entire production model with thorough visual guides ensures a standardized production process by anyone undertaking the build. The Ventilator Project team went a step further and integrated all the necessary quality checks within the work instructions that also allow for an added layer of traceability and process control within their supply base.
Stemming from our TVP partnership and our extensive digitization capabilities we envisioned the Digital Ecosystem package as a smart manufacturing supply chain solution where manufacturers share just the right amount of knowledge and best practices with their suppliers.
And this, all while benefiting from continuous real-time communication to quickly improve processes along the way!
Digital Work Instructions: The Smart Supply Chain Solution
Supply chain transparency is another crucial capability offered by the VKS Digital Ecosystem. It empowers companies to respond to disruptive events with ease. Having the ability to track the live status of jobs ensures tight cooperation between the parties and makes room for proactive planning.
The need for a remodeled supply chain can still be felt among manufacturers challenged by the pressures of this new era. VKS users bypass those constraints and easily share comprehensive digital work instructions overseas in more than 30 languages.
To sum up, the VKS Digital Ecosystem enhances supply chain communication, builds resilience, and eliminates waste, all while increasing your production's efficiency.