The 5 Most Common Challenges Executives Face when Updating Your Supply Chain Technology

At Open, we’re speaking to supply chain executives every day about the challenges they’re facing through the adoption of new technologies within their supply chains. While many of these challenges are unique to the company, or depends on factors such how large and complex their supply chain is – we were able to identify 3 big challenges that are common across all of our customers.

Here, we outline those common challenges and discuss how we’ve helped our customers overcome them to create high quality, high performing supplier networks.

Challenge #1 – Security and Compliance

Security and compliance are critical factors in adopting cloud technology for your supply chain. In addition to having concerns over cloud security and needing a system to meet 240 point security assessments, you also have unique requirements specific to your organization. Big companies like Raytheon, Collins or Lockheed, for example, have some overlap between their requirements, but they also have a number of unique requirements. It can be a huge challenge to find an IT partner that can meet both their compliance requirements as well as their customization requirements.

Many of our customers are in industries like aerospace and defense contracting where their #1 challenge with bringing in new technology is finding a vendor that is ITAR compliant and understands and complies with department of defense requirements. Open leverages tools like AWS GovCloud and follows ITAR compliance requirements to ensure any of our customer’s data is maintained in a secure environment that conforms to those specific requirements.

Our team has both technical and quality people who make sure that many of these security features are enabled out of the box, and then we are able to work with each individual customer during their implementation to define their unique requirements within our system for each of their suppliers and processes, ensuring our customers maintain their specific quality standards with each of their suppliers and processes.

Challenge #2 – Finding an “All-in-One” Solution

Often, we talk to executives who are searching for one solution that will solve all of their supply chain problems. Unfortunately, there is no such thing – there are no individual systems on the market today that can address all of their requirements.

To overcome this challenge look at what will give you the most “bang for your buck”, instead of looking for the mythical “all-in-one” solution. Prioritize your needs or problems, and begin your search there to identify solutions that can address those specific problems to see immediate business value. Many solutions can take months or even years to implement, and so perhaps you need a solution that can begin adding value from Day 1. Or perhaps you need a solution that transitions your people away from managing supplier communications via email and PDF reports, into a collaboration system.

We have one customer who had to learn this the hard way. They spent over 3 years evaluating, purchasing and implementing an ERP system they were told would do everything they needed in one system, only to discover there were big gaps it couldn’t solve.They told us they wish they’d done it differently and started with Open to start tackling smaller “digestible” problems right away while they went through that lengthier ERP selection process so they could have seen a better overall ROI and addressed some of their problems earlier.

Challenge #3 – Using a Features/Functions Requirement List

We regularly have initial conversations with supply chain executives who have a long list of features and functions they require. Usually, someone on their team built this list by looking at all the available options on different vendor websites. This method usually results in a company purchasing a solution that doesn’t actually solve any of their problems.

At Open, we ask our customers to bring us their problems list instead. By articulating specific problems you want to solve, you can work with your IT partner to make sure the solution is focused on solving problems and getting the desired outcomes you seek. Even out of the box solutions will come with customizable settings and workflows, and by measuring against problems-solved instead of features/functions included, you ensure that investment delivers a strong ROI to your business.

Challenge #4 – Finding a Solution that’s Adaptable

Some companies have a deliverable that is engineered internally and produced externally, for example GE generates intellectual property and has an incredibly large supply chain where they have to go out and source the components to build. Other companies may have an engineered solution where more than 50% is built in-house and then they are buying parts through their supply chain. Businesses come in many combinations, and these and other factors can make it difficult to find quality management systems that can adapt to each type.

Because every supply chain is unique, you need to find a solution that can be customized and scaled to meet the needs of your organization, both now and in the future. When talking to IT vendors, ask them about their experience working with customers that are similar in size and complexity to your company.

One of the bigger issues we’ve seen occurring with many companies has been the lack of adaptability in their current quality management systems when Covid hit. Prior to Covid, most quality engineers would spend roughly 80% of their time on-site at their suppliers, and they could manage their quality processes primarily through these face-to-face interactions and on-site assessments. When Covid led to many lock downs, these quality engineers found themselves trying to manage supplier relationships and quality from a home office. For Open customers, there wasn’t much of an impact due to the adaptability of our product to enable supplier collaboration from anywhere. For many companies that hadn’t adopted a cloud solution, they found themselves struggling to manage supplier quality.

Challenge #5 – Integration with Your ERP and other IT Systems

“Are you able to integrate with our ERP?” That’s usually the first question anyone asks us at the end of our demo. Since there is no “all-in-one” solution, integration is a critical requirement for many companies so your systems are able to share data and many processes can be automated and scaled.

That’s why we built Open with a number of tools that enable our system to customize how and where the data is managed. We can integrate with most ERP systems, including Oracle and SAP, as well as other databases holding supplier lists, master data, parts data and more. While Open can host many of these data, not all customers want to host that information within one platform – they want to connect with their legacy data and data lakes that are already established. Regardless of where the data is hosted, Open can integrate and share this data within your IT ecosystem according to your existing business workflows. If you want to improve those business workflows, Open has the ability to do that, too.