Automakers have taken the first step in electronic collaboration with their suppliers by developing portals, but so far these Web-based communication tools are mostly used to push information out to the supply base.
While they offer some interaction – like electronic request for quotes and an electronic response – todays portals have yet to reach a stage of full collaboration, according to a supply chain management study by IBM and the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan.
Most of the portals today are pushing data out, but there is not a strong ability to share data back and forth yet, says Linda Ban, an associate partner with the IBM Business Consulting Services Automotive Team. That functionality is currently being implemented.
The automakers are making efforts to get information out there more rapidly for their suppliers, Ban says. IBM and OSAT interviewed 29 executives from 16 global automakers and suppliers in the United States and Europe.
One of the things we heard very clearly is manufacturers are focusing very strongly on portal technology, Ban says. They want to present one face and have one source of information to all of their suppliers, have one place for them to go for their functionality. They want them to have accessibility to information.
But full collaboration demands a two-way transfer of information and knowledge, something that few manufacturers mention when discussing their portals, according to the study.
The next step is for automaker portals to reach the advanced stage known as integration collaboration in which business processes are linked in real time. That means, for example, engineering design collaboration between automaker and supplier, supplier selection, and quality monitoring through the portal in real time.