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3 Ways to Streamline Supplier Collaboration During the Specification Lifecycle

3 Ways to Streamline Supplier Collaboration During the Specification Lifecycle

The specification management process requires multiple departments within your company to work with a variety of vendors in gathering product data throughout the product lifecycle. Yet, many companies do not have a unified system in place to collect this data and share it across product lines, projects and departments. Without a centralized system, the specification lifecycle is significantly slowed down as you spend time collaborating with suppliers through email. In this article, we will discuss three ways to streamline supplier collaboration throughout the spec lifecycle by increasing visibility, automating your review and approval process, and employing version control in your processes.

Increase visibility

Communication and visibility with suppliers and Contract Manufacturers (CMs) is a very important part of the specification management process. Ensuring that CMs have the latest version of a specification is critical to a business, and if this process is done poorly there could be an expensive manufacturing waste cost, and potentially even expose a product manufacturer to legal issues. 

Therefore, a supplier/vendor portal that automates the delivery of the latest version of specs to CMs is necessary. These portals are platforms that allow businesses to connect and collaborate with their third-party suppliers through the internet. Connecting a digital vendor portal to a formula-based product lifecycle management system allows you to create specific objects or folders for each vendor or supplier and link those objects to related documents and projects. Suppliers can use the portal as a means to keep track of their business relationship, locate the latest version of specification and its references, and even be part of the approval workflow. The company operating the portal can track the same data across multiple suppliers and identify which supplier is utilized for creating which components in a matter of seconds.

You are also able to pre-approve vendors your company has worked with in the past for new projects or products. Data from vendor documents can now live in a useable format from the very start within your specification management system, enabling you to review, approve and transfer vendor data quickly as the product lifecycle moves forward. Without this visibility, your specification lifecycle is error-prone and inefficient.

Automate your review and approval process 

Review and approvals are another very important part of specification management. If your company performs review and approvals using file shares and email, it leaves your processes at risk of human error and inefficiencies which can lead to rework for employees, late payments, and delayed delivery of product. Additionally, manual processes tend to be less transparent as some employees and suppliers might not be aware of certain steps in the process and fall behind. 

As a result of the consequences of manual supplier management, many packaging and manufacturing companies have transitioned to automated approval workflows. With an automated process, businesses can create a personalized approval process and make sure work is completed the same way every time by helping users through this process step by step.  Because everyone is instructed to do their work according to a pre-approved procedure, automating your review and approval process will improve your organization’s compliance.

An automated review and approval process means that, instead of taking time to manually send a spec down the approval pipeline, a spec management system automates this practice for you. Automated emails will notify stakeholders when a spec reaches each stage of its lifecycle and notify suppliers when specs and related documents become effective. Your company will be better connected to your suppliers and your business processes can flow much more efficiently.

Employ version control

Version control is a method of tracking changes to documents and files so that you always know which version is current. It also enables you to maintain old copies of your documents in the event you want to review changes or need to restore a previous version. Supervising products and communicating with suppliers results in the creation of a lot of documents. By using specification management software with version control, you can efficiently track and control changes to these documents directly within your software. 

When you have multiple revisions and no streamlined way to control versions, the risk of working from the wrong file is very likely. Every time someone works from the wrong file, you are increasing the risk of errors being included in the final product and creating rework. What happens if someone changes or even deletes a document by accident? If you do not have the capability of restoring old versions, all of your work is lost. 

Version control features ensure that the data users are viewing is up to date when important specs are being passed and edited by various suppliers and coworkers. Even further, you will be able to track and manage the changes made to each document, ensure that content cannot be accessed by unauthorized users, get notified if there are pending updates that are awaiting approval, view the most current content and know who reviewed/approved it and when, and respond to external audits with history reports. For these reasons, version control is an integral part of supplier collaboration.

If your company is looking to streamline its supplier collaboration, ENSUR Specification Management Software can help. ENSUR is a comprehensive system for creating, maintaining and publishing your specifications and business documents. Fully integrated with our document management features, the software allows for complete control over who can access which documents and tracks all activities with the ability to create reports for visibility and compliance. ENSUR’s version control features guarantee that your employees and suppliers are always working from the correct version of a spec or document. The system integrates with your email client to send email notifications to internal and external stakeholders at each step of the workflow, improving collaboration and increasing the efficiency of your processes.

Request a consultation to discuss how moving your manual processes to a specification management system can give you the business efficiency you need by increasing visibility, automating your review and approval process, and employing version control.

Tags: specification management, supplier collaboration