Manufacturing and Supply Chain Go Social

Manufacturing and Supply Chain Go Social

Social media vendors are leading the charge to break down communication barriers and enhance the flow of knowledge throughout the workplace, regardless of business function or geographic boundaries. By enabling social software initiatives that span across departments, markets and businesses globally, they have obtained a strong sense of how effective collaboration tools can alleviate many of the common problems related to communications and workflows in every business.
The leading social media technology vendors provide platforms that are able to cater to each customer’s unique needs for business productivity,  employee engagement, customer service, collaboration, social connection (both internally and externally) document management and project management.  The real-time information the system provides is used for decision support.
In the case of social manufacturing and social supply chain, organizations are trying to find a way to adopt this technology to benefit and ease often-disjointed collaboration between departments, trading partners, customers and suppliers. This also leads to miscommunication of information and processes between departments and trading partners which can create costly errors or time delays.  Social media technology is bridging the gap for internal and external uses that were not available before.  The use of this technology and now the addition of mobile capabilities have catapulted organizations to look to non-traditional software vendors for help in facilitating collaboration, decreasing cycle times, reducing errors and even scheduling of resources.
The convergence of technologies and areas in which now comprise the Social Business software category has recently exploded to incorporate many functions that were often separate systems that did not talk to each other at all, causing information silos and communication breakdowns.  The social business category has consolidated several system types such as CRM, PLM, document and content management, partner portals, project management, scheduling, customer service and HCM.  These system types are rapidly evolving and as organizations find more uses, the category will continue to expand going forward and creating it will include several more categories going forward to create a new social platform.  Open API’s, integrated capable workflow engines and easy systems integration enables organizations to leverage their current IT investments and share data among many systems.  Many social software vendors now can aggregate many feeds, data types and databases for ETL purposes thereby collaborating to include ERP data for accurate and transparent information dissemination.  Social software has evolved so quickly workflows and business process integration can reside within the social software to further leverage existing systems by consolidating the data to make it readily available and convenient for customers to use.  
Social software now serves many functions and can provide the organization a platform to enable multiple business tasks and operations from one system.  The use of mobile has further increased the capabilities of social software to provide a flexible framework that capitalizes on social technology collaboration even at the shop floor level.
The case study below is from Socialtext which highlights how a manufacturing company not only decreased cycle times, saved money, increased collaboration and assisted with scheduling of resources. This is where social technology was applied to a non-traditional environment (manufacturing) of which the results speak for themselves.   
One of our greatest success stories comes from custom mold and manufacturing leader, Industrial Mold and Machine (IMM). They have been leveraging Socialtext not only to address their core communication issues, but also to improve manufacturing processes on the production floor. IMM implemented Socialtext as a way to share information from order to production, in essence uniting front and back offices with unified information.  Additionally, IMM uses iPads, which are provided to all of their mold makers on the production floor to tie order details to the manufacturing process.  Leveraging Socialtext on the iPads, enables IMM to smooth and accelerate the production process, which typically is a dynamic one, with the need to react and implement changes in real-time. With Socialtext, those changes are communicated, recorded and centralized for future learning and innovation.
This sheds light on and supports the perception that social collaboration works beyond the standard knowledge worker use case. Lawrence Housel, IMM’s Head of IT and the person responsible for implementing Socialtext internally, feels the biggest effect social software has on the manufacturing industry is the way it supports and expands teamwork:  
“Manufacturing is done by a group of people working together, passing information and material back and forth. When manufacturing organizations are focused properly and executing in unison they are capable of unprecedented production. This type of “in the zone” manufacturing can occur in any successful company, but social software helps make it a more consistent and repeatable circumstance.”
One of the challenges for IMM was keeping IT simple for their employees of all levels and ages, enabling apprentices to connect with experienced leaders and facilitate teamwork with digital collaboration. The Socialtext platform provides the infrastructure for IMM to train the next generation of apprentices, which is nothing short of imperative in this line of work.
According to President Wendy Wloszek:
Collaboration is how you turn an underperforming employee into a companies’ asset, creating a system where everyone can be a winner within. We always try to view the uninformed or unskilled as a challenge to create an environment where they can be successful. Converting the expertise of industry veterans into information that can be redistributed to others in need of it has been area that we have had success since implementing Socialtext.
IMM quickly realized the return on investment with Socialtext and has obtained significant measurable results, in fact they have seen a 20% increase in “cut time” with a 40% decrease in labor hours. Industrial Mold is almost 100% mobile, incorporating the use of iPads on the production floor. Combining the mobility of the iPad with the information and collaboration Socialtext provides, has transformed their business and enabled them to successfully recruit a new crop of apprentices in a very tough labor market.
While all industries alike can benefit from sharing knowledge throughout employment ranks, it is wonderful to see the industrial sector and companies like IMM realize the benefits of social technologies, even on the shop floor. Socialtext emphasizes keeping it simple yet effective, and through this approach has strived to provide businesses like IMM with the social tools to achieve success and continue molding the future of social collaboration.
Social business is rapidly evolving and redefining this software category daily. Larger companies using Salesforce with Chatter can attest the to the collaboration aspect gained in manufacturing and customer service.  This new exciting software category has changed significantly changed even within the last year to include several new social aspects and system unification strategies.  Social business software has come of age and will change traditional system classifications by combining several disciplines.   

About Socialtext:   Socialtext accelerates business performance by making it easier for employees to find the colleagues and information they need to solve challenges new and old. By simplifying people's ability to share expertise, ideas and corporate data, Socialtext removes knowledge silos that have traditionally hampered companies' ability to respond to change and serve customers efficiently. With Socialtext, people collaborate openly around key business processes in a secure, internal environment, and work together to drive new business opportunities.

About Eval-Source
Eval‐Source is a consulting firm that provides all enterprise software selection and strategic technology consulting services for organizations to achieve success in their IT initiatives. Our consulting practices encompass cloud and on-premise software evaluation services, ERP, Supply Chain, and technology strategy consulting. Our Tru‐Eval selection system allows organizations to avoid IT failure, receive greater ROI and provide accurate decision support for enterprise software. Eval‐Source is an industry leader in the analysis of software technology and our thought leadership has placed us in the elite of consulting/analyst firms. What sets us apart is our unbiased best in class consulting services that provide our clients with value, direction and success in selection, planning and optimization of their technology systems. Eval‐Source provides the professional services that put your needs first and allows you to achieve success in your IT initiatives. We are the source for “getting it right” in IT procurement.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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