Supply Chain Challenges and Innovations
Challenges to the RFP and RFQ Process
Because the requests for qualifications (RFQs) and request for proposals (RFPs) process requires the transition of intellectual property, it has to be preceded by an expensive and time-consuming process to establish a trusted working relationship and intellectual property (IP) protection via non-disclosure agreements and other legal documents. Only a few firms, from a pool of thousands of potential suppliers, receive the RFP/RFQs. When asked, few manufacturers can clearly define a procedure they use to select suppliers. Nor do they claim, with any confidence, that their existing supply chains have engaged the best suppliers from this larger pool.
Furthermore, the most cost effective time to engage new suppliers is early in the design process. Feedback from these suppliers can help drive design solutions that can be more easily manufactured with existing methods. The RFP and RFQ processes are of little help in this early stage communication.
The innovation of Product Lifecycle Management and 3-D Modeling
At the same time, both the rise of the Internet and the ability to rapidly share data supports new applications that track and predict supply chain activities . Proprietary product lifecycle management (PLM) products now can provide manufacturing support from initial product design to the final delivery to customers .
These PLM systems deliver “CAD-to-build” business processes based on the IP of the “full geometry” of the component being manufactured. Two important outcomes are produced in this process. One is a 3-D model can that accurately represent the product while at the same time obscuring any specific IP. The second is the identification of required process geometry directly associated with the manufacturing of the part. Both of these components have the potential to enhance supplier discovery and shaping of existing supply chains.
PLM products continue to become more accessible, especially to small and medium manufacturers (SMMs). For instance, Jeff Moad writes in his article, Jul 30, 2012, SMBs and the Digital Manufacturing Technology Gap, "At the same time, digital manufacturing technology providers such as Siemens PLM are getting more serious about coming up with new models that could make it easier for SMMs to access advanced manufacturing tools. At its Digital Manufacturing Symposium held in Indianapolis last week, for example, Siemens PLM Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Engineering Software Zvi Feuer said his company is developing a series of cloud-based analytic applications aimed at optimizing processes at the plant-floor level. The applications, for things such as line balancing, time analysis, and dimensional analysis, could be available within 12 months, Feuer said."