Business Automation and Software Blog

Five Levels of Manufacturing Collaboration

Posted by Robert Baran on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 @ 02:14 PM

CollaborationIn manufacturing, collaboration is nothing new—it’s always been the norm. Group problem-solving, trouble-shooting, and idea generation serve as many top manufacturers’ most successful sources for generating new opportunities. Today, as manufacturers struggle with shortages of highly skilled personnel, while simultaneously attempting to grow without expanding head-count, the value of shared dialogue and effective collaboration is greater than ever. Workers may need to share tasks, mentor recruits, or take on entirely new roles. In these cases, communication within the workforce increases in importance.

The qualities that lead to success in manufacturing revolve around rapid mastery of highly sophisticated processes combining human judgment, precision engineering, and financial accuracy, all united in a highly synchronized framework focused on business goals. The most important collaborative functions include the engineering and design processes, business process integration, real-time financial reporting and analytics, and fully connected manufacturing execution capabilities. A competitive manufacturing company needs constant optimization to retain peak performance and support long term success.

Top manufacturing executives recognize the value of effective collaboration. In a recent study, The Aberdeen Group found that 43% of manufacturers surveyed expect improved collaboration to yield shorter time-to-market for new products; 29% aim for a better innovation process; and 26% expect collaboration to reduce operational costs.

Just as a successful manufacturing organization grows systematically over time, the best way to build a complete framework for successful manufacturing collaboration is through a pragmatic, goal-focused approach. Each type of collaboration has its own tools and priorities, and the implementation of each aspect needs enough attention to deliver expected benefits before the implementation team moves on to the next goal. The most effective strategy for building a successful manufacturing collaboration platform can be approached as a five part process:

1. Collaboration between employees. With Infor® Ming.le™, you get collaboration that’s woven into your business process. Your employee collaboration gets pulled together with information from your ERP system, so that human collaboration functions as a unified whole with your transactional activity. By starting with a business-first approach to social collaboration, you build a foundation for more effective business collaboration later on.

With conversations occurring within the structure of your business system, the content is in context, relevant to the issue at hand, and ready to give you real-time data, so you can react faster. In addition, the integration to the ERP allows broader information sharing along with the ability to store knowledge.

An integrated collaboration system that captures and stores conversations within context of your business processes adds an even higher level of strategic benefit. It allows you to reference information later, add it to account or product files, and pass it along to new employees for training—a valuable capability in light of today’s manufacturing skill gap.

Conversations between workers on personal phones, by texting, or other consumer tools eventually get lost, along with the expertise they contain. In contrast, when you make every conversation part of the ERP framework, you can track, save, share, and catalog it for future reference.

2. Collaboration between systems, resources, and things.  With Infor ION, you get support for integration services, cloud services, mobile services, and advanced reporting services within a single, unified framework. You can incorporate information from business systems and the other resources that are required to conduct business.

That includes more than people—it encompasses meeting facilities, critical equipment, and other capital assets in the collaboration process, too. As a result, you get the benefit of running manufacturing-specific software solutions, while gaining the ability to treat your whole collection of systems as a single source of information, addressing all aspects of your business.

3. Design and engineering collaboration. Innovative product development demands an unusually sophisticated level of collaboration, incorporating far greater complexity than shared social conversations. You can get that with an advanced product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. An advanced PLM solution will support the intricate collaborative process you need to successfully manage and plan your entire range of product lifecycle management tasks, including complex engineering information, CAD documents, product structures, change orders, and more.

Because Infor PLM solutions function as an integral part of your manufacturing collaboration network, you gain both foresight and insight about how you can manufacture current products more economically, create new products more rapidly, and be sure that your entire product line is succeeding in the marketplace.

4. Vendor and customer collaboration. Efficient vendor partnerships can make or break your business.

Just-in-time inventory methods and overnight global delivery schedules require that the channels of communication with your vendors remain open and active at all times. With Infor ERP systems, you get web-enabled vendor self-service portals, so that you and your vendors will know where you stand as you progress toward your common goals, while saving time and money. What’s more important, you and your trusted suppliers will be able to compete as a single team and serve your customers better.

In the same way, the customer self-service portals and e-commerce capabilities in Infor manufacturing solutions streamline your sales process and help you satisfy your customers sooner. Above all, Infor ION delivers deep integration between your customer portals, vendor portals, and your manufacturing ERP system, which allows you to match production to demand more efficiently.

5. Collaborative reporting and analytics. You need to build strategy on sound decision making, drawing on information from many different sources. Without a unified, collaborative reporting and analytics framework, you’re likely to spend more time assembling decision-making information than you spend making the decision. You need sophisticated reports, analyses, and key performance indicators (KPIs) for rapid return of value. You get that with Infor business intelligence solutions, which combine pre-built integrations with pre-configured content and easy ad-hoc report building. In addition, because all the parts of your Infor business intelligence portfolio integrate with each other and with your business systems, you can generate deeper, more valuable reports and analyses than ever before.

As a result, you’ll be ready to transform your entire approach to managing strategic business information. With a fully integrated, end-to-end information solution with industry-specific focus at your disposal, you can turn the data you already collect into a powerful tool for competitive advantage and improved performance.

Pulling it all together

All manufacturers need a richer, broader collaboration architecture that incorporates deeper business functions than newly popular social collaboration tools usually provide. You get a path to the next level of teamwork, a level at which you’ve combined human ingenuity, powerful analysis, and the means to execute strategy rapidly enough to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment with Infor integration and collaboration technologies.

Topics: ERP Software, Manufacturing, Collaboration