10 Barriers to Supply Chain Collaboration

Do your people excel at making technical files and data accessible and usable to all parties across the value chain?

Have they got the right tools to help them communicate and collaborate on technical content with suppliers, in real time and in context?

For most manufactures, the true answer to both questions is, “Not really.” Which means “supplier collaboration” looks like a cumbersome mix of manual processes, technical limitations, makeshift workarounds, and insecure file-sharing.

In the day-to-day activities of gathering the data, collaborating, and ensuring security, we find there are ten common barriers to supplier collaboration that10_Barriers manufactures struggle with most often.

Unless you’ve already formally identified the gaps to collaboration in your supply chain (and are rolling out a plan to solve them) it’s a good idea to take two minutes to run through this top-ten checklist and see how you fare.

Why? Because although these ten barriers are common, each one is also quite solvable. More on that below.

For now, read through the list and take a mental tally of your score out of ten. How many of these barriers sound all-too-familiar? (Just like in a golf, a high score here is not a good thing.)

10 Barriers to Supply Chain Collaboration

Barriers to Gathering Data Effectively 

Without an automated process, collecting data that suppliers need takes work from various groups in the product development organization. This leads to frustrations all around, such as: 

1. Engineers are routinely peppered with questions and asked to pull together files and data for suppliers, often while it is in different phases of completeness.

2. Supply chain managers and procurement don’t have control over the process, and have to rely on others (i.e. Engineering and IT) to package or directly share technical data with suppliers. 

3. Procurement specialists have to manage the tricky job of getting specific files to numerous suppliers using a mix of email, FTP sites, or granting access to a PLM system. 

4. Each step is often a manual process, with a high risk of human error.

Barriers to Communicating & Collaborating

Once data is collected internally it needs to be communicated clearly to suppliers. This is often done with email or some sort of file share that have their own set of problems, such as:

5. Conveying structured data, such as with BOMs and hierarchical CAD data poses challenges for interpretation.

6. Manually assembled data packages often lack consistent formats leading to confusion and misinterpretation.

7. Discussions around product data are often lost in email threads and disconnected from the product data.

Barriers to Security

A variety of mishaps tend to occur once information is passed to suppliers, such as:

8. Once data is downloaded there is no control of it and multiple versions stored in several locations can cause very expensive errors.

9. Emails and file shares are not secure, introducing the possibility of IP leaks.

10. Suppliers must continuously question if they are working with the most recent data.

How did you do?

Now that you’ve got a score out of ten, go a little further and see where your current state of collaboration puts you on the Technical Data Collaboration Maturity Model, which you’ll find inside out new eBook, The Technical Data Collaboration Maturity Model: Where Are You on the Path to a Next Generation Supplier Portal.

Understanding the model can help your company chart a path towards overcoming the most common collaboration hurdles while reducing errors, increasing quality, and improving on-time delivery of sourced components.