Improving Supplier Collaboration for Faster Time to Market

By Kerri Doyle

These days, there is a greater importance on getting products to market faster, more efficiently, and with greater quality, especially in industries like aerospace and defense, automotive, life sciences, and high tech—all verticals in which product demands are increasingly becoming more complex and competitive.

In the aerospace industry in particular, which faces expanding commercialization of products, competition continues to grow. Suppliers have assumed more responsibility for greater portions of the product, and it’s clear that supplier integration into the product development processes is critical to success in this market. Why? Think about the high amount of contractual obligations facing aerospace manufacturers today. These come in at multiple levels and require various processes and interactions between internal and external personnel. Intertwined business processes with a deep level of detail require visibility and traceability in order to manage them efficiently. Without automated and repeatable processes using integrated technology to manage suppliers, supplier data, project schedules and deliverables, changes, etc., manufacturers are at risk of slower production, higher costs due to errors and rework, and ultimately loss of market share.

Because sourced components compose a substantial part of most of these industry’s products, and in light of the pervasive reliance on suppliers and the complexity of products, manufacturers need to ensure business processes are extended to external teams, and across the value chain. They need to establish secure and efficient processes that exchange design data from sources such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and build on that by incorporating efficient methods for sourcing new parts from suppliers during product development (for example, issues and change management, and involving engineering minds and other key stakeholders in sourcing, as opposed to simply purchasing).

While it was once sufficient to manage each step of the product lifecycle within the four walls of our businesses, manufacturers are now tasked with including their suppliers in each phase of the product development process to provide greater traceability and a streamlined development process to get their products to market faster.

Some recommendations to help manufacturers achieve these objectives include:

1. Integrate suppliers at each phase of the product development process

Suppliers will need to interact with key stakeholders across the business, including engineering, purchasing, compliance, quality, and manufacturing. Ensuring that suppliers are able to engage early on with key stakeholders at each functional area of the product development process will help to increase productivity and reduce the risk of recalls and non-compliance.

2. Find the right technology to get suppliers integrated with enterprise software: Technology will continue to be a crucial element of any program geared towards better engaging suppliers, but just as we see disparate systems and data sources persist within an organization, the problems associated with poor integration can be many times worse across the value chain.

3. Capabilities and functionality to seek when implementing a solution that will be rolled out to suppliers should include:

    • Easy-to implement, minimal-install, cloud-based solutions
    • Integration with existing enterprise applications (PLM, ERP, Quality Management, MOM, etc.)
    • Easy to learn and use
    • Support for multiple use cases (design data exchange, sourcing, program management, material disclosure)

In this emerging, competitive landscape, manufacturers need to adopt a well-thought-out strategy in order to pull suppliers into the process, and such a strategy ought to include the adoption of the right technology, and the right solution that can sufficiently span the supply base and effectively engage and integrate suppliers. However, getting suppliers on board with a comprehensive product program is no easy endeavor, and given the complexities associated with cultivating supplier engagement, it is imperative to start strategizing and implementing now.

To find out more about Supplier Integration strategies and solutions, please visit Siemens PLM Teamcenter.

About the blogger:

Matthew Littlefield co-founded LNS Research in 2011 and is now President and Principal Analyst. In this role, Matthew oversees LNS’s coverage of the industrial value chain, including EHS, MOM, APM, and QMS. His personal coverage includes digital transformation and the Industrial Internet of Things. As a recognized industry expert he contributes to the widely read LNS Research blog as well as many other industry publications. Matthew is also a sought-after public speaker and continually advises manufacturing executives on how to best leverage technology in their operations.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at