There is always commercial pressure on product developers to find better and more efficient ways to collaborate with partners and suppliers.For high tech developers, though, working in deeply competitive sectors the pressure is on to find tools that will give them ultimate flexibility to connect, outsource and collaborate, even in the face of rapid change and disruption.
With new threats arising every day these developers need the flexibility to quickly scale up and down their capacity by instantly setting up new vendor, supplier and tech partnerships to fulfil new orders and develop new products.
The reinvention of supply chains
As the latest research into the high tech sector is revealing, supply chains are being squeezed and reshaped as never before. Indeed, KPMG are reporting that in areas like med tech, hyperscale players such as Amazon and Apple are threatening to make obsolete or further commoditize traditional device offerings. As a result businesses need to find new opportunities within the supply chain and lever new business partnerships to give their product offerings a renewed, competitive edge.
At the same time there is also an opportunity for SMEs, as technology delivers more flexible and cost-effective ways of fulfilling orders and managing supplier relationships within a vast global market place.
The tools SMEs are using to connect and collaborate, therefore, need to support a whole range of different scenarios and relationships, including those with companies who might before have been considered as competitors.
Choose the right tools for the job
One thing is certain, none of these different functions can be adequately carried out using email or simple file sharing platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox. Now, more than ever, SMEs need document management tools that are flexible, lightweight and secure, while supporting sophisticated information and knowledge sharing between different organisations.
More formal Document Management Systems (DMS) hold the key to creating the kind of connections where the release of complex document sets can be controlled properly and collaborative projects can be securely managed and with the minimum of risk to all parties.
More efficient, flexible and secure transfer to manufacturer.
Whether you’re choosing third party manufacturers to produce individual components, looking to support ‘on demand’ manufacturing requirements, or transferring an entirely new design for mass production, you need an orderly way of managing these processes to achieve consistent quality in the end product.
The challenge for tightly regulated industries and others where precision manufacturing is key, is to find robust solutions but with the flexibility to switch suppliers as and when necessary (as price or logistical challenges arise).
In the first place, a good Document Management System should help you assemble all the appropriate documentation including the specifications and technical files that will be needed by your partner to produce your item to the required standard.
That same DMS should then let you create a new extranet connection instantly at the touch of the button, so all of the relevant diagrams, schematics, QMS and SOP documentation, checklists and flow charts can be delivered to and accessed from one location.
Flexibility remains key. Where logistical pressures can shift quickly - the ability to manage multiple suppliers of the same item is highly desirable. A flexible DMS should let you do exactly this, allowing you to select a new supplier from a bank of options, setting up new work flows for distribution of documentation to them easily without the need for IT support or back end work to take place.
Collaborating with new partners
The latest research in the med tech sector from KPMG predicts a future where established companies are being squeezed out of traditional segments by disruptor tech and hyperscale competitors.
The report suggests that companies will more and more have to focus on strategic alliances and partnerships to add extra features and value into their offerings (or those of others) in order to retain their position in the market. This means larger companies seeking to co-opt the technical innovations of agile entrepreneurs and smaller companies seeking to embed their technology deep into a whole range of new and existing products owned by other companies.
These companies are still technically competitors, but the unprecedented pressures in the sector will necessitate so-called ‘coopeteitve’ actions to power innovation through combined expertise.
More successful collaboration with a document management system
In these circumstances the right Document Management System with robust extranet capabilities will give instant and secure access to collaborating partners, with fine-grained control and security features to guarantee the protection of your IP. At the same time, iterative and collaborative design processes can be managed discretely in a protected extranet environment.
Where you are releasing software for others to design around, just sending an email over with a few links and attachments might result in loss of detail or a misunderstanding about implementation. Sharing a link to an extranet where clearly labelled, approved final iterations of documents can be found, will reduce risk and make for a more efficient process.
Collaborate or die!
There are all kinds of ways the modern high tech sector is demanding faster, more efficient and flexible tools to facilitate a greater focus on unmet customer need and serve new and potentially disruptive business models.
For any product developer whose value is being squeezed by competitors and their offerings increasingly commoditized in the face of new technology - having tools flexible enough to collaborate widely and create different kind of supplier relationships and collaborative partnerships, may even be the key to their survival.
As Tony O’Driscoll professor at Duke University has recently pointed out, in the modern high tech sector:
“Success lies in creating interdependent ecosystems of companies and customers. Companies that organise together, embrace uncertainty and diversity, and create a benign environment for evolutionary innovation will survive. Those that do not are destined to become shackled by the very same value chains that previously brought them success.”