Bad Data Management Means Lost Business: 3 Tips for Suppliers

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Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Martyn Davies, director of product management at Rocket Software.

The biggest manufacturing brands in the world demand rigorous data workflow processes between them and their suppliers — and it’s easy to see why. There is no doubt that supply chains will only continue to become more complex, and increase the level of risk, especially when they are geographically dispersed. Global companies need to implement robust processes to ensure that data is managed, processed and protected to the highest standard when it is exchanged and shared with others.

If you can’t prove that you’re able to handle your customer’s high value data reliably and securely, you’ll be at risk of losing significant business opportunities to other companies who can satisfy the needs of the big brands. When you consider the incredibly high value of particular pieces of data, it makes sense that manufacturers will want a proven, reputable supplier. For example, product design data in computer-aided design (CAD) files often require millions of dollars of R&D, as well as intellectual capital to be invested in their creation. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential that they are exchanged and shared securely, and with a rigorous audit trail of who sent what to whom, at what time and when.

To put the complexity of the data landscape in perspective, General Motors works with at least 1,500 product development-related suppliers, each of which has to integrate with specific processes and data to enable them to design, manufacture, and supply the required parts and systems for different vehicles. The level of supplier integration depends on many factors, such as the relationship type, total contract value and the volumes of the products needed by GM. This means that often suppliers have to invest in training and software licenses to ensure that they are granted access to General Motors’ supply chain systems. Essentially, suppliers are faced with making the appropriate level of investment based on their potential for long-term revenue.


So how can you make sure your data management technology is up to the challenge and to ensure that you’re in the running to top the list of preferred suppliers, and win more lucrative contracts?

1. Be Nimble and Flexible

More than 2.5 quintillion pieces of data are created every day. And a lot of this growth comes down to the amount of information being created within supply chains and manufacturing. Getting to grips with data management really comes down to having the right technology in place to allow you to integrate seamlessly with multiple company data management systems. Different companies have different mandates around how suppliers should access their systems and data. This means that you need a plan to navigate this complexity.

Any software that you may implement will need to come with inbuilt flexibility so you can adapt to the requirements of each individual manufacturer you may be working with. Don’t be fooled by thinking it’s a case of “one size fits all.”

2. Share the Data Burden

The idea of a shared economy doesn’t solely reside with consumer-centric businesses such as Uber and Airbnb. As a supplier, you should also be looking to collaborate with other suppliers in the network to optimize your supply chain processes.

While you may have access to data that is specific to your products, being able to connect with others that are involved at different stages of the chain lets you offer a greater benefit to manufacturers and show them how you can add value to their business.

3. Quality Over Quantity

Figuring out how to access data, and finding a way to analyze it in order to draw meaningful conclusions, can seem an overwhelming task. It may be tempting to assume that the complexity around data will be mirrored within your IT environment. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Ideally, you should be looking for a solution that minimizes the need for IT investment, both on the supplier side and the manufacturer side.

Simplicity is key to ensuring that you’re receiving the right data at the right time. Anything to the contrary could mean you’re left with out-of-date or inaccurate information, which will impact the end product. If you’re working with version three of a product design, but in fact version four is the most recent, the product you produce will likely be useless, which can significantly delay the entire product development and manufacturing lifecycle.

To be chosen as a supplier by the big players in the manufacturing game, it all comes down to good data management. If you can work smarter by streamlining your processes and adapting to disparate supply chain processes, you can rest easy knowing that you can stand up against the competition.  

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