After a presentation in EMEA, I was asked if our solution would effectively provide the value of the fable: “THE LITTLE DUTCH BOY WHO SAVED HOLLAND”.
When I quickly answered “yes”, the person who had asked the question said “I was afraid of that. We have too many one-off solutions”. Based on the company’s quick fix mentality, he went on to discuss opportunity costs in informal/hidden enterprises. I was not sure if I misinterpreted the fable or we had translation issues. This caused me to investigate the content of the fable, and as it turns out, I was wrong about it. In short, the little Dutch boy was quick to see the risk and plugged the hole which saved Holland. Unfortunately, he could never remove his finger (lost opportunity costs) and an increasing number of boys were needed to plug new holes (hidden costs of informal enterprise). Rather than providing a scalable fix, the town had to keep finding more boys none of whom could ever leave. Many of you have enterprise solutions (i.e. hard spots) that must evolve at a measured pace, while business requirements evolve more rapidly. For each new initiative, it is easy to deploy a point process and a manual process to fill the gap. You get a quick fix but the enterprise often does not benefit, and you are often processing the same data multiple times. Even with one single document management solution, each process uses different metadata, and you have multiple versions of documents.
A simple way to measure effectiveness of your document based process is bench-marking a retailer’s or customer’s audits and recertification processes. Let’s start with audits. The good news is that most of you have solid quality programs that you want to show off. The bad news is the prolonged time required to prepare or preposition documentation, and the cold sweat concerns about an auditor requesting a missing document. You have a document management solution or a couple of shared drives. How hard can it be to find the current supplier documents? Watch the audit preparation team hustle to pull together the supplier data. It can be a real eye opener. We are usually challenged about these statements. If you don’t have these issues, you have the best in class capabilities. Unfortunately, manual processes are the most common strategies to manage supplier documentation. This is a common scenario that we see:
How many different product groups and R&D people per group are working with one or more sales rep per supplier? What is the risk? Based on the source of data, the assumptions may be wrong and you would expose the launch (rework) and production quality (first pass quality) to risk.
With each sample request or line trial, you get more data and documents that might be in Quality or R&D.
If no changes to material attributes are requested, you may revisit product information every 2 years or more. Having the wrong or conflicting documents have a long tail effect on R&D effectiveness and product quality.
While it will take some effort, you will be amazed at how many times a supplier or item document is touched and data is re-entered. A quick review of common development cycle highlights the number of touches or risks of working with old data. Since multiple projects across departments can use the same experimental item, multiply this example by the number of departments.
If we just stop here, you can see how audit preparation is a challenge. We commonly hear that Supplier Quality support teams are consumed by audit preparation and support.
Next, let’s talk about recertification, based on Customer or Safety Legislation, ensuring material and supplier data. Accurate, up to date and complete Supplier and Material Information Compliance needs to be core competent. To assess your risks, consider what % of your materials and packaging has been updated in the last 2 years. What % of items is added each year? Is your backlog growing? If all product development and quality are based on this data and these documents, is the risk level acceptable? While audit prep and support are struggles, material and supplier information compliance are usually black holes. Based on audit issues,
You should be able to identify recertification items, communicate with the supplier, have visibility into the status, have automated dunning capabilities, have escalation processes and manage supplier risks. If you claw back the time to find documents, create emails, update tracking spreadsheets, manually dun suppliers and not to re-enter data multiple times; key quality and compliance resources can be focused on improving quality rather than doing clerical work.
Somewhere between documents and the hard spot is a new category of systems of engagement providing solutions that can support multiple business processes and roles. System of Engagement solutions are designed to be agile and complement your enterprise systems. When information and documents are approved, the systems of record (PLM, ERP, QMS, CRM and SCM) can be updated. A potential solution to these issues would be as follows:
Don’t settle for just documents; wait for a hard spot (PLM or ERP) to get changed or continue to fill each gap individually, and look at Systems of Engagements!
A recent post provides a strategic view of the future of Systems of Engagements. Most of you can get started and incrementally implement it and evolve into this vision.
Next, using a Copacker or Toller example, I will describe getting started with a System of Engagement and a phased approach to strategic implementation of a System of Record.
Over the next few weeks, I will continue to share my PLM Odyssey, “better practices” and business strategies for agile innovation and compliance strategies. No two process companies or PLM implementations are ever the same, but many are remarkably similar. Stay tuned to find out how you might benefit from the PLM journey of others.