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Here’s how a proactive cabling partner can help solve supply chain issues

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If you’re anywhere in the manufacturing industry, you’ve experienced supply chain issues. They attack everyone from engineers to purchasing agents to sales and customer service specialists. A supply shortage like everyone is experiencing today has been a unique difficulty. Still, business like yours has to keep moving, and even in extreme cases, supply chain challenges are obstacles that you can overcome.

The question is: How?

In this article, we’ve detailed our method for solving supply chain problems proactively and how partnering with the right custom cable manufacturer can help guide projects through widespread supply chain issues. If you’re looking for a custom cable manufacturer or wire assembler it’s worth making sure they’re taking all the appropriate steps to ensure your production can run smoothly.

The ripple effect

What makes supply chain complications so extensive is the way they spread from point to point. If you’re still waiting on a wire harness that you expected to arrive weeks ago, your production process is at a standstill. Further up the chain, your cable manufacturer may be waiting on a series of connectors to kickstart their production. Their problem became yours.

This is what makes bottlenecks so dangerous and widespread. It is also what makes it so important to partner with people who are well suited to handling their supply chain problems proactively — before they become your supply chain problems.

We’ve broken down the three stages in the proactive supply chain problem-solving process you and your cable provider should take:

  • Identify the potential problem 
  • Target a solution 
  • Communicate with customers 

Identifying potential problems in your supply chain

The first step to overcoming a supply chain challenge is identifying it, and if the obstacle can be identified while it’s still just a potential problem, you will approach solutions with the gift of foresight. This can be easier said than done, depending on what tools are at your disposal.

Below is an image of the proprietary Parts Issue Tracker that we use at Multi-Tek to stay on top of our entire supply chain.

There’s a lot of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software out there that can help you with identifying supply chain problems, but we like ours for several reasons. One is that we developed our Parts Issue Tracker in-house. We’ve built it to target the specific issues that may arise in our supply chain, so we’re able to update the parameters dictating whether we’re notified of a potential production holdup in real time.

If you’re using a third-party ERP without significant support, you need an in-house systems manager who can customize and maintain the software to work for you and scale with you. Our systems manager has been here a long time, and he’s done it all. If any event, like a part shortage, shipping mistake or supplier shutdown, has produced a supply chain worry or threatened to delay our production process at Multi-Tek, they’ve set up the program to help us counter that.

Our Parts Issue Tracker is actively tailored to what we need, and the insights we gain help maintain our 99.8% on-time delivery record.

The Parts Issue Tracker is proactive. Rather than letting us know when a part has missed its estimated delivery date, our buyer is able to interface with the program based on feedback they’re receiving from our supplier about delivery expectations. This ensures we understand ahead of time whether any changes in our supply chain threaten our production, empowering us to fight off supply chain issues before ever passing them on to our customers.

To access more detailed information on why a component is delayed, the Parts Issue Tracker links to the part’s manufacturer or to the marketplace where we gain insight into the supply market.

But identifying the challenge is only the first step. With a better understanding of why we’re facing the supply chain problem, we have a clearer idea of the solutions available to us.

Leveraging expertise to invent solutions

More than likely, a supply chain issue takes one of three general forms:

  • The part is ready, but standard shipping is delayed 
  • The part is out of stock with the supplier 
  • The part is out of stock industry-wide 

To leverage advanced knowledge of potential supply chain problems, you must act flexibly to provide solutions. What processes begin when a part you’re expecting is running behind? Do you have a plan of action? Our problem-solving process can act as a guide for yours.

If the component is in stock but unable to ship by the predetermined method, we may investigate other options like two-day shipping or overnight air. With some components, however, due to volume or weight, this can be cost-prohibitive.

If the component is out of stock with the supplier, we can search for the part elsewhere. Expertise plays a big role here, both in knowing which suppliers to trust and responding to situations in which there’s no market supply. It’s possible that your supplier is out of stock because everyone is out of stock, in which case experience is a handy guide to available solutions. In the case of most parts, we know of an identical part with a different model number or a part that is functionally equivalent but may have some different non-essential features.

The early identification of replacement parts is important as it allows ample time for customers to evaluate the form, fit and function of the replacements to ensure they’re fully compatible with existing products and won’t compromise quality.

Quality control is crucial for any customer, as well as ensuring all necessary certifications are met. We make sure that any adjustments on our end make sense not only for our project but for our customers. Flexibility requires expertise on custom cable assembly as well as communication oriented towards customer service.

Communicating to ensure proper delivery

When production finishes on a product — when the goods are packaged, loaded onto freight and hauled away — your work doesn’t just disappear into the dusty American sunset. You are making products for people. And therefore, when solving supply chain problems, it’s important to consider all relevant parties.

  • Are any of your customers’ expected shipping dates changing as a result?
  • Are any ongoing supply chain issues threatening lead times?
  • Have any specs (no matter how small) changed to counter supply chain problems?

If so, there’s more you can do to fight supply chain issues: You can communicate.

If adjustments to projects must be made, calling your customer is an old-fashioned but effective way to face the challenge and offer a solution that works for everybody. The worst-case scenario is receiving a call asking “What’s going on?” weeks after an expected delivery. International supply chain issues or no, organize proactive outreach around delays. You can’t keep every supply chain issue from occurring, but you can see them as an opportunity to build stronger relationships with your customers.

Keeping customers in the loop throughout the process builds trust and helps make sure projects come off perfect for everyone. Your customers may even be able to collaborate with you on solutions to supply chain problems. We attest that the relationship between you and your customers will be more mutually beneficial if it goes beyond the transactional, and you truly act as their partner.

In one particular case, when working on a cable assembly for an OEM PCB Manufacturer, we were unable to secure enough of a particular connector — it just wasn’t available on the market — so we reached out to the customer to discuss. And it turned out that they had enough of that part in their buffer inventory to supply the component to us. We kept our production moving and delivered the cable assembly in plenty of time, enabling our customer to complete their project without a misfire.  

Need a proactive cabling partner to help handle supply chain challenges?

You now have a map for navigating supply chain problems. But what about your suppliers?

We hope they’re doing everything we would do — or at least everything they can — to help keep your production line moving and your business growing to meet demand.

If you have questions about how partnering with a custom cabling expert can make your supply chain more dynamic, efficient and friendly, request a quote. A custom cabling expert will reach out within an hour or two to learn more about your project and talk through what a productive partnership would look like.