When the world’s biggest maker of networking technology finds its own internal communication breaking down, how is there any hope for the rest of us?
For Cisco Systems Inc., the solution was a digital transformation of its information supply chain.
After a probe into escalating customer complaints in 2015, Cisco’s quality control team discovered a number of process failures due to inefficient communication and broken datasets across slow and outdated platforms. At the same time, a changing data strategy required business and I.T. teams to work more closely to create a simplified and streamlined infrastructure: a one-stop shop for all quality metrics.
Cisco decided on a workflow platform that would seamlessly integrate into daily operations to create efficiencies by streamlining issue documentation, tracking and cross-functional communication. A critical requirement was that the platform process and analyze data needed for decision making.
Three Network Criteria
Three criteria needed to be met for the entire network — including component suppliers, manufacturing sites, distribution sites and logistics partners:
In the past, Cisco’s supply chain had issues with non-conforming materials impacting its customers, because many critical steps for identifying nonconforming materials relied on one person deciding whether to analyze the data further — a task made even more difficult because some datasets weren’t accessible to all the right employees. It could take weeks to identify where all defective material was in the supply chain, then additional weeks or months confirming via e-mails that all non-compliant material had been purged.
Cisco decided to focus on a strategy allowing for one platform to access multiple databases; digitize analyses and decision data on a workflow platform; and leverage the shop floor system’s traceability and “Autotest” system — Cisco’s final product-attribute validation check. An added feature also ensured that no orders containing known nonconforming materials can be shipped.
While one company team developed a “Single Quality Metric Platform” to serve as a single source of truth for all quality data and metrics, another worked to break down the factory line stop, stop ship and purge processes into detailed steps. At each step, the team identified which tasks, owners and dependent processes were defined in “as is” versus “to be” states. The “to be” state was defined by:
From there, Cisco built the “Factory Quality Automation” platform, which connected APIs to produce data from components, inventory, manufacturing sites, finished goods, product lifecycle and more. The platform rolled out to 14 manufacturing sites spanning the globe, and as of late last year, all sites were using it to manage their quality incidents.
A ‘Dramatic' Result
Cisco calls its improvements to factory quality incident processes “dramatic.” The company has increased data visibility for faster decision making, and created instant visibility into how those decisions are being executed. More than 30% of manual steps have been automated, while 20% were totally eliminated. Task ownership is distributed to the right experts, and they are brought in at the appropriate time.
More benefits include:
The platform enables a collaborative, virtual environment for Cisco’s component suppliers and manufacturing partners, too, reducing reliance on meetings. Together, they have counted more than 17,000 hours of productivity saved.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.