Reviving The Automotive Manufacturing Supply Chain

With a complex supply chain that uses multiple systems to identify risk, manufacturers find themselves with a large amount of data to store, interpret and put to use.

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Danielle ElliottDanielle Elliott

To the average consumer, it may seem as if today’s auto industry is riddled with mishaps, recalls and CEOs looking for government funding: Ford recently issued a recall for faulty door latches, which allowed car doors to open while vehicles were moving. And GM just announced a massive recall to fix airbag issues attributed to buggy software. Car manufacturers’ announcements — while generally well-communicated and announced swiftly — affect millions of people, attracting more attention than most other types of recalls. The GM and Ford issues specifically are indicative of quality and supply chain issues in the auto industry and unfortunately, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

The common thread in these cases is that auto manufacturers are struggling to manage their massive, incredibly complex supply chains. Once an issue surfaces, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack to pinpoint exactly where and what went wrong. Issues can stem the entire supply chain — from suppliers through to OEMs — so the difficulty comes with figuring out where the issue arose and how to fix it with minimal disruption. When it comes down to it, auto manufacturers test for quality as much as possible, but can only do so much to control for supplier quality issues. Clearly, there’s room for improvement.

This is where supplier management software systems come into play. The auto industry, as a whole, needs to be using quality management systems (QMS) and supplier management systems to continuously evaluate their supplier network for weaknesses and identify areas for improvement. These systems can manage issues found along the supply chain and help mitigate them in the moment, as well as prevent them in the future, which will ultimately lead to better manufacturing times, fewer recalls, and enhanced customer experiences. As important as targeted software is, having skilled people, and effective processes is necessary for that software to yield successful results.  By creating supply chain task forces — employees devoted to identifying supply chain weak spots and implementing solutions — auto manufacturers will be better suited to reinforce their supply chain resilience and effectively mitigate risk. 

Getting Your Backend Systems To Communicate

With a complex supply chain that uses multiple systems to identify risk, manufacturers find themselves with a large amount of data to store, interpret and put to use. With all of this information, it is imperative that auto makers can easily mine the data and use it to inform their current and future decisions (as well as learn from past mistakes). One problem many manufacturers run into is when backend systems don’t communicate with each other properly, meaning information is lost and somewhere along the line a ball gets dropped.

One way to avoid this is to make sure your software includes common data standards such as open data protocol (oData), which allows organizations to streamline information exchange by centralizing their data analyses and analytics tools. Other quality control standards like the auto industry’s IATF 16949 can also be incorporated into today’s software to ensure compliance efforts are being tracked and reported. Even though it may take time to consolidate systems or set up processes to make their systems work in congruity, automotive manufactures will find it pays off in the long run.

The fact of the matter is that the automotive supply chain has become almost too big to handle, leaving manufacturers struggling to find a way to identify and prevent quality risks. But by embracing today’s tools and technology, automotive manufactures can simplify supply chain management. Instead of focusing on the reactive management of defects and recalls, companies can create proactive improvement initiatives that increase quality control, compliance and ultimately, customer satisfaction.

Danielle Elliott is Product Marketing Manager at Intelex.

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