The information highway that will take the electronics industry to supply chain transparency is littered with technology roadblocks. Data is obscured in silos scattered across OEMs and distributors, preventing supply chain participants from getting anything approaching a comprehensive picture.
Removing these roadblocks is a complicated problem that can be simplified if we divide them into two basic categories:
- Supply chain technologies that enable the rapid product-development cycles that intense global competition demands, rather than cumbersome additional steps and processes.
- Data compatibility that harnesses the existing workflow tools in the supply chain and turns them into a technology whole that is worth much more than the sum of the constituent parts.
First and foremost, manufacturers must be able to keep up with the relentless competitive challenges of our global economy. The ever-increasing time-to-market pressures are complicated by the need to protect the intellectual property and innovations.
Faced with such challenges, developers, and manufacturers of electronics products have become extremely cautious about sharing information across the supply chain. They fear that supply chain transparency might reveal too much. Before they embrace an information-sharing solution, they must have utter confidence in its ability to protect their proprietary data and intelligence.
Assuming such assurance, we still have a big data compatibility problem to tackle. The electronics industry's supply chain participants have invested significant time, cost, and energy in disparate workflow tools, often with limited consideration for their ability to exchange data with external partners. We need a way to take the wealth of data they are generating and normalize and integrate it into supply chain intelligence.
Independent repositories for data can act as information “escrow accounts,” where buyers and sellers store proprietary information upon which their transactions depend, without exposing their IP to each other. In numerous chemical-intensive industries, such as cosmetics and cleaning, a handful of platforms host manufacturers' information for the purpose of distributor to generate compliance and hazard communication documents on-demand, without needing to solicit their vendors every instance, and without accessing the underlying, often proprietary, information. Nearly frictionless, this process enables fast go-to-market through consolidation and harmonization of information at the industry level while protecting each party's interest.
The bottom line: Any technology solutions that slow down product development cycles significantly or expose trade secrets are pointless. Technology must convey a competitive advantage, not a handicap. A trusted third party can serve as a hub of globally consolidated information, protecting proprietary intelligence while supplying end-to-end supply chain visibility that facilitates sustainability and regulatory compliance without hindering rapid product development.