The world of electronics manufacturing continues to adjust to the "new normal." That would be an everyday reality where lead times and pricing changes daily, and fraught political tensions between powerhouse economies create uncertainty about whether supplier relationships can be counted on in the future.
This has required component suppliers and devices makers to innovate in some key ways. Here are seven strategies for managing today's electronic supply chain challenges.
Implement rigorous inspection protocols
By implementing a system of rigorous checks and balances, organizations can ensure that their products meet quality standards and that the components used to construct them are up-to-date and compliant with safety regulations. Additionally, implementing these protocols can help reduce costs associated with product defects or recalls, as well as support customer satisfaction.
The elements of an effective inspection protocol vary based on the industry in which it is practiced but typically include:
- Establishing clear criteria for meeting quality and production standards
- Developing product testing procedures to verify performance specifications
- Inspecting parts prior to assembly to identify damaged or defective parts
- Auditing suppliers and vendors to ensure they are meeting quality standards
- Incorporating post-delivery inspection procedures to assess the condition of products when they arrive at the customer's door
- Utilizing tracking and traceability systems to identify the origin of nonconforming items, if necessary
- Utilizing a comprehensive reporting system that includes detailed records of inspections, findings, corrective action taken, and follow-up activities
Work with a larger supplier pool
This helps organizations reduce their reliance on any single supplier, while at the same time increasing their access to high-quality components and materials. By having multiple suppliers, companies can also better manage their inventory levels and purchasing costs. Additionally, with a larger supplier pool in place, organizations can have greater control over delivery times, product quality standards, and pricing negotiations.
To take full advantage of a larger supplier pool and ensure it's working properly, here are some tips:
Establish measurable performance metrics
Define measurable goals for each individual supplier within the network so that performance can be tracked over time and ensure the best possible results are returned from supplier relationships.
Evaluate potential suppliers thoroughly
When selecting potential suppliers for inclusion in a larger pool, don't just focus on price, look at a variety of factors such as quality assurance processes, delivery times, customer service levels, and other areas that are important to the particular business.
Develop strong relationships with key suppliers
While it's important to have a large pool of available suppliers, it's also beneficial to cultivate strong working relationships with key suppliers so that they understand the business’ needs and can respond quickly when needed.
Move production to less-affected regions
A move to less-affected regions can be a viable option for companies dealing with electronic supply chain challenges. By relocating production, firms may be able to access more reliable suppliers, reduce costs associated with shipping and material procurement, and benefit from tax incentives in certain areas.
When strategizing the relocation of production, however, firms must take into account a range of factors. For instance, research needs to be conducted on potential supplier locations to ensure that their parts are consistent in quality and cost structure. Companies should also look into labor regulations and wage considerations in each region before deciding on the final destination of production.
Improve supply chain visibility
Visibility in the supply chain allows companies to have better control over their operations, enabling them to spot areas of risk and inefficiency quickly, as well as detect opportunities for improvement.
One of the key components of improving supply chain visibility is data collection and analysis. Modern technologies such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, digital sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID), GPS tracking systems and other internet of things (IoT) devices allow companies to track items from manufacturers all the way through delivery to customers.
Simplify demand forecasting
Accurate demand forecasts enable companies to order the right amount of resources at the right time, ensuring that customer service levels remain high and costs are minimized. However, a lack of data-driven insights can make it challenging to create accurate forecasts that account for changes in consumer behavior, seasonal variations, and other external influences.
Here are some tips for streamlining demand forecasting:
- Utilize automated forecasting software
- Leverage historical data
- Use A/B testing
- Conduct surveys
Better data management
Data management involves the careful tracking, collection, and analysis of data to ensure that all processes run smoothly and effectively. To overcome the challenges associated with managing data within an electronic supply chain, it is essential to create a comprehensive strategy that reduces risk and optimizes efficiency.
Organizations must assess their current business objectives in relation to data management needs. Gathering necessary information from stakeholders can help identify potential areas for improvement or automation to streamline operations. Additionally, understanding their current system architecture will provide insight into potential issues or discrepancies that could arise throughout the data-management process.
Reduce transportation costs
This challenge can be overcome by utilizing several strategies to reduce expenses and improve efficiency.
Companies should consider using technology such as route optimization software, which allows them to easily plan efficient routes with minimal effort. Another way companies can reduce their transportation costs is by finding alternative modes of transportation when possible. For instance, instead of relying solely on trucking, businesses can look into using freight trains or intermodal shipping containers.
Finally, companies should strive to streamline their supply chain processes in order to reduce the number of shipments and related costs. This includes exploring alternate delivery systems such as just-in-time inventory management systems that allow for single shipments with multiple items, consolidating orders when possible, and reducing packaging materials to cut down on weight and space needed for transport.
Electronic supply chain disruptions are increasing in frequency and severity. By implementing more rigorous inspection protocols, working with a larger supplier pool, and moving production to less-affected regions, companies can supply the necessary goods and materials while keeping costs down. In addition, improving supply chain visibility, simplifying demand forecasting, and reducing transportation costs can help streamline operations and reduce waste.
Although the global pandemic has thrown a wrench in many industries' plans, those who are able to adapt and overcome these challenges will be best positioned for success in the months and years to come.