“You order a product online, the order is sent to the factory and, in a couple of days, a pair of shoes tailored specifically for you are in the mail”, wrote the Finnish-language news magazine Tekniikka & Talous (Technology and Economy) recently in an article titled “Tehtaita palaa Eurooppaan”, meaning “Factories are returning to Europe”. Is this a utopia?
Business success requires flexibility (competence and resources) and transparency (demand and supply information). Flexibility can be increased through networking – which, in turn, creates a need for efficient information management. Information management in business networks is a common problem that companies are now trying to solve.
The manufacturing industry today is ever more dependent on the ability to efficiently collaborate with complex partner networks – such as suppliers, subcontractors, service providers, logistics companies and resellers. Companies are largely aware of this, and many have incorporated networking into their production strategy. As they have done so, however, they have been struck by how challenging the collaboration and information management can be. At the first stage, companies have addressed these problems by re-organizing themselves and by investing in roles that take care of collaboration and information management. In this context, some companies might also develop solutions such as isolated point-to-point Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) connections or standalone collaboration workspaces.
Strategic capability: Data and collaboration management in business networks
The companies succeeding with living networks want to develop their information management competencies. A functional network needs a dynamic collaboration tool and mechanisms to effectively manage commercial, qualitative and product information. Flexibility will increase when you are able to quickly add suppliers according to current capacity or competence needs. The network will function more efficiently when order details can be transferred between the client company and different suppliers in real time. The workload will be reduced when possible changes and exceptional situations can be immediately addressed with the right data. And both customer and partner satisfaction will improve when both the customer and the network are able to monitor the progress of orders and the situation of the supply chain without any unnecessary middlemen.
The management of information and collaboration in partner networks is crucial for Finnish success stories. We at Roima have personally witnessed that success requires seamless information management across the entire partner network.
What do you think? How important is this, for example, in the maritime industry, in machine and component manufacturing, at Valmet Automotive’s Uusikaupunki car factory or in the food and beverage industry?