Supplier documentation 4.0: Saving time with the “autopilot”

In the article “Digital supplier documentation – your competitive advantage”, I outlined how complete technical documentation that complies with standards and guidelines is the backbone of special purpose machinery and plant engineering and needs to be provided parallel to the production or manufacture of the plant. When preparing the overall documentation, the supplier documentation consumes an appreciable share of the time. The complexity of this process ties up valuable resources in the organisations of all the partners involved along the value chain and necessitates elaborate project coordination.

Process-driven cloud technology is the key to establishing efficient supplier documentation that integrates all of the parties involved. Uniting the advantages of a cloud with those of intelligent, process-driven supplier documentation software will minimise the amount of manual work and achieve the greatest possible degree of automation, transparency, and traceability.

The “autopilot” handles everything: Efficiency through automated, cross-company processes and transparency in the cloud

Efficient utilisation of cloud-based supplier documentation such as Fabasoft Approve presupposes process organisation across departments and companies. Specifically, this involves all of the process steps that are required to create the complete documentation for the end customer and that are executed between the manufacturer or plant manufacturer, its suppliers – that is, product manufacturers and their sub-suppliers – and the customer. In the mechanical and plant engineering industry, these processes are particularly time-consuming and frequently lack transparency. Endless rounds of coordination, multi-stage reviews and approvals, a flood of – often randomly – circulating documents and records, as well as deadlines that have to be observed, all add up to a heavy administrative burden for the project participants. But more than anyone, it is the product manufacturer who faces the great challenge of maintaining a clear and constant overview. Digitalising the processes involved in creating technical documentation across company boundaries thus constitutes a decisive step towards greater efficiency in supplier documentation.

Simple process modelling and automation with the BPMN Editor

A graphical workflow editor that complies with the BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) 2.0 standard provides businesses with a simple tool to incorporate all relevant stakeholders into the workflows and to build customised, cross-company processes without requiring special programming skills. To this end, ready-made process modules are provided for tasks such as editing, approval and release, which are allocated to the different project participants in the BPMN Editor and executed by the Fabasoft Workflow Engine. The best approach when digitalising business processes is to focus on roles or positions so as to prevent the need for workflow adjustments in the wake of personnel changes. In the form of a digital to-do list – a so-called worklist – users can see the tasks that need to be completed and also receive notification by e-mail. Tasks can be processed sequentially or simultaneously as required. A graphical process overview offers even greater support for everyone involved. For direct data exchange, Fabasoft Approve also features a number of interfaces for connecting to existing ERP (SAP), CRM, and PIM systems and supports conventional file formats and standards.

Once the processes are digitalised, the “autopilot” takes it from there: In place of the manufacturer’s laborious and error-prone manual project coordination by e-mail, telephone, and voluminous spreadsheet lists, the system offers automated coordination, testing, and approval processes, including deadline management with a reminder function.

Complete transparency based on central data storage and continuous accessibility

Every document and every piece of data is stored centrally and securely in the cloud in keeping with the “single source of truth” principle. All authorised users have permanent access to the most current documents from any device. Thanks to automatic synchronisation, users can also work in offline mode. Once the Internet connection is re-established, the data is synchronised to the system without any action required on the part of the user. Each time documents are modified and approved by internal and external process participants, these actions are recorded and revision-secure, making each access and each change fully traceable and ensuring total conformity with all compliance requirements. A complete and constantly accessible overview of the documentation status, all processes and tasks, and all deadlines and schedules greatly minimises the manual workload while eliminating errors resulting from differing document versions and preventing added costs incurred by missed deadlines.

Supplier documentation made simple

The demands placed on supplier documentation are steadily increasing. With cloud-based supplier documentation such as Fabasoft Approve, product manufacturers and plant engineers can quickly and easily create complete documentation for the end customer that complies with the relevant standards and regulations. Cross-company processes are run digitally and transparently in the cloud, automated workflows replace the unstructured exchange of data and information as well as costly, time-robbing routine tasks. All of the participants along the entire value chain will benefit from substantial gains in time and productivity. As soon as the “autopilot” takes the helm, it sets the course for corporate success – we just have to hand over the rudder.