Technology & Supply Chain Relationships with Customers & Suppliers


Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) technology is used widely in business. However, can you be sure that you are getting the best out of the technology if you are already using it? Here are some of the questions you should be asking:

Do your CAD systems talk to your CAM systems?

Technology that integrates design and production functionality is now available. It is cost effective too, whatever the size of your organisation.

Are your design workstations networked?

Computer-controlled, networked design allows designers to ‘talk’ virtually to each other, as well as to customers and suppliers.

Does your production process get it right first time?

Computer-controlled monitoring systems are now available to tighten up your quality control procedures to ensure accuracy and cut waste.

Get your internal processes linked and co-operating

Automating the links between your various production processes means that information can flow more quickly. Find out if you have logjams, and whether you are waiting for information, components, or both. Identify and do something about the bottlenecks, and you’ll fulfil orders faster and provide a more flexible service.

Think about integrating all your general administration on computers, from quotation to dispatch. This should allow you to start production sooner, and respond to customer needs that much quicker. If you also tie in your CAD and CAM capabilities, then efficiency increases are practically inevitable: human error will be reduced and you will see real cost savings.

Many businesses are now using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems as a central ‘brain’ for their business’s processes. ERP systems manage and maintain links between every aspect of your business, from personnel to purchasing to production. They can allow you to forecast your production requirements more accurately, so that the stock and raw materials needed for production can be ordered later, saving on storage costs.

Many ERP systems can now be tailored to cater for your particular needs. Over recent years, choice and functionality have grown while prices for most systems have actually fallen. An investment in an ERP system, or an upgrade of your existing package, is well worth considering.

Get linked and co-operative with your suppliers and customers
Linking your production processes with your customers and suppliers is the next big step. You can be more responsive and make fewer errors if your production is linked closely to a customer’s CAD/CAM systems.

Similarly, establishing closer links with your customers means that you can benefit from inside knowledge about their requirements. This can increase your efficiency, helping to sharpen production schedules and making it possible for your customers to hold less stock without increasing your own stock burden.

Production Best Practice Implementation Plan

1 Decide what you can do to streamline and set e-production priorities

  • Consider an improvement that you want to make in your production process – it should be quantifiable in terms of cost saving, reduction in human error, volume of production, or a combination of these.
  • List priorities and see if your current technology is up to the job of achieving them. If not, consider alternatives or upgrades.

2 Audit your production process

  • Create a process map of your business to identify where logjams, queues and poor information transfer occur. Also identify processes that work well. Decide where improvements in information flow would be most beneficial to your business as a whole.
  • Involve your staff, and even suppliers and customers, in the process. This should help you gain a fuller picture of your production processes, from initial concept to delivering the right product or service on time and to specification.

3 Compare your requirements to reality

  • Are there any standard systems or technology packages that could enhance the connectivity of your business’s computers?
  • Use the resources of your trade association or industry body to keep you up to speed with what’s new and relevant to you. The European Foundation for Quality Management offers a powerful set of tools to help analyse your processes, and your local college or university may offer consultancy, information or partnerships.

4 Talk to your key customers soon

  • You may eventually want to link your systems to those of your customers. Find out what systems they use, and determine whether or not yours are compatible.
  • You may need to move to compatible technology solutions in order to retain a competitive edge over other potential suppliers.
  • Keep customers informed about what you are doing to streamline and integrate your systems. This could help to influence the systems that they adopt.
Technology & Supply Chain Relationships with Customers & Suppliers business advice – Crown Copyright © 2004-2011
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