Breaking down barriers between engineering and supply chain is good for business

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As the leader of a rapidly growing company, I constantly think about ways to improve our operational efficiency and help our customers do the same. And it’s clearer than ever that a major key to improving manufacturing operations is optimizing supply chain performance – the top business priority for business leaders in 2022 is improve manufacturing and supply chain visibilityafter all.

Although there are many external factors beyond our control that create headwinds (inflation, rising interest rates and the ripple effects of the pandemic), which each organization box controlling and improving is its quality of communication and workflow.

I strongly believe in the power of collaboration to make teams and businesses more efficient, and forging strong collaborative relationships requires effective communication and workflow. And in the world of manufacturing, collaboration (or lack thereof) between engineering and supply chain teams has a huge impact on operational efficiency and the bottom line.

New product development (NPD) and production run smoothly when engineering and supply chain teams are aligned and integrated into the same workflow. But in many organizations, these two teams operate with different goals.

When engineering and supply chain aren’t on the same page

At NPD, engineering teams are responsible for creating new quality products and bringing them to market as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the supply chain team is primarily focused on hitting financial targets and mitigating risk with fluctuating volume targets.

These divergent goals can make it difficult for engineers and supply chain managers to be on the same page for parts sourcing in NPD and work together to achieve common business goals (that’s i.e. bringing quality products to market quickly). And the lack of collaboration not only has a negative effect on timelines, but also creates a slowdown in the development process that hampers desired results.

Obstacles multiply as poor communication wastes time and effort for both teams, whether engineers seeking order updates, buyers stressed by a lack of visibility on engineering activity, team members ignoring duplicate orders, or a number of other issues. . And these issues don’t take into account the (also very real) opportunity cost of staff having to switch tasks away from their most important job to deal with supply issues instead (most engineers spend 10% or more of their time sourcing parts).

The lack of visibility for all parties in parts sourcing is especially challenging in the context of sourcing low-volume custom parts for prototype applications. Supply chain personnel rightly focus on existing product lines and large-scale sourcing where every penny counts. So NPD sourcing suffers, and when engineers are left to their own devices to source parts, it adds complexity and confusion to the process.

One team, one dream

Now imagine the perfect Procurement Workflow: A single location that all interested parties, across engineering and supply chain functions, can access on-demand with up-to-date information on design, purchase, quality and follow-up for each order. Just imagine what it would do for you: faster design iterations, faster time to market, and generally happier, more productive staff. Sounds like (very profitable) heaven, right?

You can make it happen, starting by breaking down the barrier between engineers and supply chain professionals. Ditch the approach of separate teams with different goals and reframe everyone’s responsibilities and goals so that they operate as one product team. A product team where engineering and supply chain work together in service of one goal: to launch products that solve customer problems profitably.

When you see the players on a soccer ball (born football) is warming up before kick-off, you don’t know who is playing in midfield or central defense. You just know everyone in the jersey will play their part and work together to win. It’s time to help your engineers and supply chain professionals remember that they’re all on the same side and working together toward a common goal. Do that, then give them the space and tools to enable the aforementioned perfect sourcing workflow, and you have a product development dream team.

It’s a winning combination.

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