How can manufacturers keep their competitive advantage in the new era of collaborative manufacturing?

23/11/2021
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The manufacturing sector is undergoing a change towards collaborative manufacturing partnerships and joint ventures to keep up with the fast developments and to remain at the forefront of the industry. Flexible multi-party contracts and co-manufacturers are increasing in popularity. This allows organizations to reallocate their money to other business areas and scale up rapidly instead of having it bound to production. They also gain access to new talent pools, new insights, greater networks and increased global reach.

“72 % of the world’s manufacturers consider an improved sharing of data with suppliers is required for improving their operations.” 

- World Economic Forum, 2020 

With increased collaborative manufacturing, contractual agreements with suppliers have been changing form as the market has become more agile. OEMs have been moving away from standardised contract drafts to being a lot more prepared for flexibility. Agreements and partnerships get formed on a mutual benefit basis so that partners or suppliers can take bigger ownership of projects and deliver higher quality and more cost-efficient results in the interest of both parties. However, with this more open way of working, businesses face bigger challenges with IP and data management. The IT infrastructure of companies in many cases is not changing as fast as needed and many companies still operate with legacy systems and strict IT regulations that make external collaboration overly complex.

We see that companies generally have isolated systems for different processes of the supply chain. The different departments that work with the supply chain i.e. production, purchasing, engineering and quality/compliance, work on the same information while storing and working with it in different systems. This discoordination makes the collaboration across the supply chain ineffective, prone to costly errors and IP leaks.  

So, how can companies adjust when their processes and systems are disconnected from one another?  

Collaboration hub disciplines

An approach that is capturing the interest of many companies is using a collaboration hub. The hub being a data repository that integrates internal systems of different departments, as well as the systems of external companies to provide coherent data that can be seen and used from different views. The integration of data from different departments and external companies follows an agreed collaborative process, independent of the varied processes each company follows internally and independent of IT systems used inside each collaborating partner. This removes headaches around format incompatibility when sharing data and having to buy costly licenses to be in synch with systems of customers/suppliers. The hub approach also reduces the risk of IP loss or theft because only the data intended for sharing is in the hub repository. Finally, the hub provides process support for purchasing, engineering, quality and production in their communication of when, what and how products, systems or components should be produced by a third party supplier. It supports users at every step of a project’s lifetime and hence substantially reduces the time wasted in finding the right information, delays caused by forgotten follow-up actions, and stress invoked by unstructured collaboration. 

Now, you may ask yourself – is the hub yet another system that can become a legacy system just like others? 

Well, the hub itself can become a legacy system, but the data will not be killed or become unextractable. The collaboration hub designed by Eurostep is based on an open standard that makes it almost independent of import and export formats. This makes data extractable in any format without having to worry about vendor lock-in. The hub also adds flexibility as collaborating partners can change and replace their internal systems without impacting all other partners in the hub network. Partners can easily be added as well as being terminated with full control.  

Learn how improving collaboration and data sharing capabilities can save the manufacturing industry up to 100 Billion USD and find out how ShareAspace’s hub-based approach in Design to Manufacturing will get you at the forefront of collaborative manufacturing.

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