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What is data-driven collaboration in the supply chain and how to build it

By February 4, 2022

As a vendor or manufacturer, you now have the ability to establish an entirely new kind of relationship with your clients — one where validated, real-time data makes you a better partner and a nimbler problem-solver.

Those who have worked in quality assurance long enough know how inefficient conventional quality assurance methods can be.

One such expert is Art Isaacs, Chief Compliance Officer at InMocean Group. Having held a broad variety of senior positions in quality, compliance, and engineering, Isaacs has seen first-hand how data-driven collaboration builds trust and long-lasting returns between manufacturers and their buyers.

Why you need data-driven collaboration

With the rise of network platform technologies, data that would have taken days or weeks to procure and analyze is now available automatically and in real-time.

As Isaacs pointed out in a recent webinar, “you’re dealing with it instantaneously. If you wanted to, you could sit and watch it happen live on your screen.”

And while raw data is the first part of data-driven collaboration, it is the type of data — and how you present it — that makes the difference to clients and to your own operations.

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The conventional method of acquiring data “was cumbersome,” said Isaacs, who has managed to dramatically improve his operations with a collaborative, data-driven approach. He goes by the “Right First Time” approach: the earlier you catch an issue and the more effectively you can share that information across your production network, the better. Today, real-time data is the only way to do this effectively.

Furthermore, Isaacs said you must have “the ability to gather this data and to analyze/organize it in a way that makes sense to you is key.” This is what allows you to get ahead of problems.

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Another advantage to data-driven collaboration is the ability to standardize communication across your supply chain. Isaacs, who works with factories around the globe, stressed that “standardization allows you to use codes that keep people working in their local language.” This improves communication and efficiency over the entire supply chain.

Technology is not the only thing that’s changed since Isaacs started.

“Requirements for sustainability, for environmental concerns, as well as quality and compliance, and now even efficiency” have also increased. The ability to analyze raw data and demonstrate control and understanding of production “gives the customer a level of comfort and trust in what you’re saying and doing.”

How to build a data-driven relationship with your clients

The following strategic tips will help you build trust and reliability with clients:

1 — Do it right the first time.

Show clients that you’re able to catch potential issues early on — not just at final inspections.

A data-driven technology platform enables proactivity across your supply chain, with real-time sharing of information.

Isaacs noted that he was able to “reduce overtime in our factories because we don’t have to do as much rework… Doing it right the first time increases your factory’s efficiency, reduces your overtime, and reduces your overall cost.”

2 — Standardize.

The standardization of workflows is key to successfully managing quality operations across different countries, factories, and product lines.

Standardization is one of the biggest benefits of modern supply chain software. As Isaacs put it, “If a defect [protocol] says the same thing in different languages, we’re all talking the same language. That makes for much better understanding across the board.”

3 — Have the ability to zoom in.

You can’t resolve what you don’t know. Having the ability to zoom in on problems and root causes will increase the capacity of tackling issues before they escalate.

"On Inspectorio Sight, we’re able to drill down to the point that we can pick out offices, factories, even lines on the factory, where something needs to be addressed," explains Isaacs.

This lets him know where to allocate resources. Furthermore, standardization ensures he’s always comparing apples to apples and can demonstrate it to the customer.

4 — Always think beyond data.

The power of data is in extracting meaningful insights from it. This is how companies are able to analyze performance and improve efficiency – with data-driven decision making.

According to MIT Sloan, “Data alone doesn't get us that far…The key is thoughtful business-driven data usage which enables us to extract insight that we can use to make business decisions.”

As Isaacs phrased it, “It’s not just the data — it’s what you do with the data.”

“We have to present it in such a way…to say ‘This is what we’re going to change going forward, and it’s not only going to result in a better product, but also a more sustainable product,’” said Isaacs.

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5 — Expect higher expectations.

With greater capabilities come greater client expectations. Buyers want to know how the products they purchase are produced, and you need to be prepared to provide them with that information.

Clients will increasingly expect to have the answers they need on rapid turnaround — an expectation you can only satisfy with a data-driven supply chain solution.

Using such a solution, you can respond to such requests promptly and accurately. Isaacs has first-hand experience with this: “The better you can do it, the better you can get your data together, and the more standard the format, the better off you are.”

6 — Demonstrate your savings.

Historical data lets you show what you’re capable of and how your way of doing business will benefit your buyers.

A platform like Inspectorio Sight analyzes your historical performance to show key performance indicators (KPIs) of interest to clients.

7 — Keep an eye on the right KPIs.

Tracking production performance in factories located across the globe can be extremely challenging without the right technological tools.

Clients are interested in many different metrics, but Isaacs says the following are especially important:

  • Performance
  • Compliance
  • Safety
  • Product quality
  • Factory efficiency

Make sure you always have KPI data available and up-to-date.

Data analytics = vendor empowerment

In the COVID-19 era and beyond, it will be data-driven organizations that lead the way. To be one, you must be able to acquire strategic insights into what is influencing your KPIs — and that requires analytics reporting. This will help foster a data-driven company culture where trends lead to predicted outcomes and new insights.

Inspectorio Sight gives you the capability to show customers your level of understanding and control over your products, as well as the flexibility to take on new challenges without taking on significantly higher risk.

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