It’s time to collaborate

By failing to fundamentally change the way they work, manufacturing companies are not taking advantage of the Internet to connect them and their trading partners for true realtime collaboration.

Until now UK manufacturing has been relatively buffered from the impact of e-business.

Research by the CBI, together with KPMG Consulting, identified that across all industry sectors manufacturing has the lowest number of e-pioneers and the highest number of e-laggards – those that have yet to evolve their e-business activities beyond email and related IT.

By failing to adopt new practices and fundamentally change the way they work, manufacturing companies are not taking advantage of the internet as a communications network that can connect them and their trading partners for true realtime collaboration.

Research and consulting organisation, Aberdeen Group suggest that the most successful companies will be those that effectively leverage the internet to automate, streamline and integrate all business processes – from product development and supply chain management to sales and marketing – to enable intra- and inter-enterprise collaboration and business process flows.

In order to effectively collaborate businesses need to think about supply chain transparency and creating a culture encompassing both technology and employees, that facilitates this. Transparency demands a culture that encourages the exchange and sharing of information, both within and outside the organisation, and supports technology investment.

Whilst tangible benefits may not always be easy to quantify, for example increased customer satisfaction or reduced time to market, collaborative manufacturing can offer a transparent view to all trading partners and deliver real benefits through streamlined processes, reduced variances in supply and demand and improved product development cycles. Consider the benefits to your business of the real-time sharing of information, such that demand changes are immediately visible across the entire supply chain, reject deliveries are instantaneously communicated to the supplier and product designs can be jointly viewed by all parties.

Technology is evolving to facilitate increased levels of integration, coordination and collaboration whilst addressing the top concerns of every company – availability and security. Rapidly changing market conditions require collaboration across the entire supply chain, rather than just immediate customer and supplier relationships, and it is through trading hubs that the collaborative and network capabilities of the internet will be harnessed without costly integration projects. Not just the large organisations, such as GE and Ford, can take advantage of the internet but even the smallest companies now have the means jointly to analyse, optimise and execute on data and business information.

Change will continue at an accelerating pace and those companies that fail to develop a collaborative strategy will awake to find that opportunity has passed them by and so has the competition. The route to collaborative manufacturing takes time, resources and real commitment – but can ensure survival in a global marketplace.

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