Tips on how to Flip a Provide Chain Platform into an Innovation Engine


Thought in Transient

The Present Actuality

Most corporations have a digital platform that helps a selected perform, reminiscent of provide chain administration, product design, or operations, and so they tightly regulate who could be a part of the platform.

Haier’s Strategy

The Chinese language equipment producer has prolonged its platform to facilitate a broader vary of collaborations from innovation and design to supplying supplies and elements to fixing technical issues and offering new companies.

The Benefit

The platform permits Haier to capitalize on the experience and sources of its ecosystem, quickly exploit new enterprise alternatives, reply rapidly to disruptions, and obtain efficiencies in a variety of actions.

In early February 2020, when its residence nation of China was dealing with the primary wave of Covid-19, Haier Group, one of many world’s largest producers of residence home equipment, confronted a problem and a possibility. A buyer—Heji Residence, a Chinese language home-furnishings firm—requested Haier for assist in producing cell isolation wards that it wished to donate to a hospital in Wuhan, the positioning of the primary outbreak of the novel coronavirus. These items required fresh-air, sterilization, and sewage-treatment techniques that met stringent medical requirements. Neither firm had produced such gear earlier than, and neither had the design sources and provide chain capabilities essential to go it alone. In order that they teamed up, and regardless of widespread lockdowns due to the pandemic and different enterprise closings for the Chinese language New Yr, they managed to develop a working prototype of the unit and ship it to the hospital in two weeks. That was rapidly adopted by the manufacturing and supply of further items to native hospitals within the subsequent weeks. Heji and Haier continued their collaboration and within the ensuing months developed different variations of the unit, reminiscent of a cell nucleic-acid testing station and a cell vaccination station, to fulfill new calls for.

Such agility required that the 2 corporations rapidly determine the suitable companions in a number of industries, together with industrial home equipment, well being care, and development, and that every one the events concerned belief each other and be prepared to collaborate on the design. Haier and Heji Residence have been capable of get a prototype constructed and examined, configure the availability chain, and line up manufacturing capability in a matter of weeks—all due to Haier’s digital platform.

Haier’s digital platform has enabled shorter order-to-delivery instances, better manufacturing effectivity, and elevated product customization.

COSMOPlat (which stands for Cloud of Sensible Manufacturing Operation Platform) is basically completely different from standard digital supply-chain platforms and different forms of digital platforms. It facilitates a broader vary of collaborations—from innovation and design to supplying supplies and elements to fixing technical issues and offering new companies—and can be utilized by any of its members to mobilize responses to new alternatives or address disruptions. What’s extra, platform membership just isn’t restricted to Haier’s suppliers. It contains corporations that its suppliers have invited to affix and others whose workers have heard in regards to the platform from colleagues at conferences {and professional} conferences and from tales within the media. Haier is planning to make COSMOPlat a stand-alone enterprise that gives companies to corporations in different industries.

Many corporations would profit from having a digital platform with capabilities like Haier’s. On this article, we provide an outline of how Haier developed COSMOPlat, look at the way it differs from digital platforms utilized by different multinationals, describe how Haier and its suppliers leverage the data and relationships created by the platform to resolve issues rapidly, and supply steerage to corporations that aspire to create an identical platform.

How Haier’s Platform Is Completely different

Haier’s digital platform was created in 2012 to enhance the corporate’s fundamental procurement capabilities. The early variations have been designed to put orders, coordinate manufacturing plans, and handle inventories, funds, and different routine transactions. Nevertheless, Zhang Ruimin, Haier’s founder and CEO, quickly determined that he wished the platform to transcend facilitating routine supply-chain capabilities and be capable to mobilize essential sources inside and out of doors the corporate. He hoped to extend the agility of the availability chain—by serving to to resolve issues reminiscent of provide disruptions, sudden shifts in demand, and high quality points—and to grab new alternatives rapidly and effectively. Accordingly, the corporate started including new capabilities to the platform and altered its title to COSMOPlat in 2016.

German photographer Tom Nagy is thought for his large-scale pictures of immense and monumental areas, together with landscapes, cityscapes, and industrial amenities.
Gallery Inventory

Haier has deployed COSMOPlat in some 20 international locations, and though its direct advantages are tough to quantify, senior administration believes that it has been instrumental in reaching substantial positive aspects within the type of shorter order-to-delivery instances, better manufacturing effectivity, decreased stockout charges, sooner receipt of funds, and elevated functionality for product customization. Different member corporations report that COSMOPlat has helped them considerably. Compaks RV, a producer of motor properties, tenting trailers, and leisure autos primarily based in Rongcheng, China, decreased its manufacturing cycle from 35 to twenty days, trimmed procurement prices by 7.3%, and elevated buyer orders by 62%. Different members, together with Heji Residence and Tongyi Ceramics Science and Expertise, a Chinese language producer of ceramic merchandise, say that the platform has allowed them to enhance efficiency in areas reminiscent of product improvement, procurement prices, manufacturing cycle instances, gross sales, and web earnings.

Over the previous 5 years, we examined greater than a dozen platforms developed by different corporations and located that Haier’s differs from them in vital methods. One is that COSMOPlat supplies a a lot wider vary of built-in capabilities to facilitate the collaboration of a number of corporations up and down the worth chain. Many main corporations have digital platforms devoted to produce chain administration. Some superior platforms, reminiscent of GE’s Predix and Siemens’s MindSphere, assist members use superior applied sciences, reminiscent of Trade 4.0 digital capabilities (web of issues connectivity, cloud computing, analytics, and synthetic intelligence), to enhance the operational effectivity of factories and merchandise within the subject. And others, such because the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s Open Innovation Platform, give attention to product improvement—designing new chips within the case of TSMC. COSMOPlat is each a provider administration system and an innovation engine.

One other distinction between Haier’s platform and people of others is the extent to which it controls the provider community. Many corporations determine which suppliers could be a part of their platform and designate the duties they are going to be concerned with. Haier, against this, doesn’t restrict membership to its personal suppliers; nor does it specify who will work on what. Moderately, it posts an outline of an issue it’s going through on COSMOPlat and lets any provider—present or potential, even one from a unique business—supply options or have interaction in collaborative efforts to search out one. Many massive corporations additionally tightly management the collaborative course of, whereas Haier doesn’t. The related events work collectively on discovering an answer with out Haier’s continuous involvement. Such an natural strategy to tapping the capabilities of different organizations and marshaling wanted sources is especially useful when the chance for providing a brand new services or products has a short while window and the corporate doesn’t have already got the requisite design capabilities or suppliers, or when it faces a serious or sudden disruption.

Broaden the Position of Provide Chains and Platforms

Constructing a platform that, like COSMOPlat, is each a supply-chain administration system and an innovation engine requires an organization’s leaders to broaden their perspective. They need to consider the platform as a device for the next.

1. Enlarging the provider community rapidly.

Many corporations give attention to enhancing the effectivity and agility of their present provide chains. A typical strategy is for an unique gear producer to map out its multitier provide networks, develop data hyperlinks with the community members, and create a monitoring system to watch and coordinate the circulate of merchandise and data amongst suppliers. However as climate-and pandemic-related disruptions have pushed residence up to now 5 years, an organization could must considerably change its present provide chain or kind a brand new one when a disaster happens or a brand new alternative arises. A digital platform like COSMOPlat can drastically expedite the method of bringing in new companions—typically from sudden locations.

2. Wanting past procurement.

A main purpose of digitizing a provide chain is often to handle the circulate of supplies and items (reminiscent of orders, deliveries, inventories, and forecasts) and the companies immediately associated to them (reminiscent of funds and logistics) amongst members of the availability community. However when alternatives come up that require the event of radically new services and products, an organization may have an array of latest gamers: people who have design and product testing capabilities, possess related IP, and may help quickly ramp up manufacturing, ship merchandise, and supply after-sales companies. A digital platform may help find such gamers rapidly and make it straightforward for them to work with each other. Additionally it is helpful in figuring out and bringing on board experience that might be useful in creating and producing services and products simply showing on the horizon. A digital platform may help construct out an growth of the mandatory capabilities—for instance, 3D sampling to evaluate variations of latest designs digitally, digital actuality to see or expertise how a brand new design works underneath a variety of circumstances, and digital prototyping instruments to validate the bodily and engineering properties and compatibilities of a brand new design.

3. Producing new alternatives and options.

Concepts for brand spanking new alternatives or options to issues can come from all elements of the ecosystem. However simply offering a digital platform isn’t sufficient to steer members to supply options or take part in efforts to attain them. They have to really feel assured that the collaboration will profit them, which entails specifying the principles of engagement and the methods prices and advantages might be shared.

A Nearer Look

Let’s now look at the structure of the COSMOPlat system. The platform consists of three modules.

Cooperative innovation and design.

This module helps completely different corporations collaborate within the design of merchandise and elements to make sure that they are often manufactured effectively and transported and delivered safely and economically. It additionally facilitates communication and information sharing. For instance, a element for a brand new mannequin of a house equipment could require a ceramics firm and a provider of an digital management field to work collectively. This module supplies protocols for the trade of knowledge between the design groups as they give you options to technical issues. It supplies templates for undertaking administration, displays goal dates for necessary milestones, and manages mental property permissions. It helps transfer from a prototype to large-scale manufacturing by figuring out the factories with the suitable capability and placement, automation, high quality management, and product check requirements. The module may also be used to survey potential finish customers to get suggestions on design, hear about any issues, and study different options that the product ought to embody. These actions could also be initiated by any COSMOPlat member—not simply Haier’s suppliers.

Manufacturing sources integration.

This module facilitates procurement, manages orders, and coordinates the circulate of supplies within the manufacturing of the ultimate product. It configures the availability chain and permits suppliers in several tiers to discover capabilities and coordinate their manufacturing capacities. It creates an in depth structure of the manufacturing course of, supplies dealing with system, and labor necessities. It additionally permits product feasibility testing, prototyping, and ramp-up planning. Most different supply-chain-management platforms lack the power to include many provide tiers and dynamically change the availability community.

Distribution and repair.

This module permits platform members to coordinate or combine their particular person capabilities in distribution, logistics, and after-sales companies to help the wants of latest merchandise. For instance, it permits them to work collectively to determine what advertising channels to make use of and the way to develop the channel companions; to find out the place inventories of a brand new product might be held (the ultimate meeting manufacturing facility, particular distribution facilities, or retailers’ warehouses); and to plan processes for order achievement and supply. It additionally permits service help and restore (whether or not duties ought to be achieved in-house or outsourced, how and the place to retailer spare elements, and so forth) and the administration of returns.

Tom Nagy/Gallery Inventory

Any firm could apply to affix any of those interactive modules with out being formally invited by Haier or anybody else. All it must do is full a questionnaire and supply documented proof of its {qualifications} and capabilities. As soon as an organization registers, Haier conducts a cursory overview, which regularly takes solely a day. That provides the corporate entry to nonconfidential data on COSMOPlat, reminiscent of basic descriptions of points needing options and which members could also be engaged on them. As a substitute of placing an organization by way of a proper certification course of on the outset—as many main corporations do, and which might take weeks—Haier permits corporations to discover the platform comparatively painlessly. If an organization desires to affix a undertaking, Haier performs a rigorous analysis to verify its manufacturing or technical capabilities and its observe report on high quality, pricing, and sustainability. This due diligence, which can embody on-site visits, often takes no quite a lot of days. If the overview turns up severe issues, Haier drops the provider and blocks it from the platform.

Haier intends to maintain increasing COSMOPlat’s capabilities. New capabilities will embody vitality and carbon-reduction administration, digital financing, and cross-border commerce companies. It is going to additionally develop “digital twin” capabilities—the usage of digital fashions of bodily objects or techniques to enhance how they’re designed, manufactured, operated, and serviced.

Creating a Related Platform

Making a platform like COSMOPlat requires an organization to be extensively identified and respected, have expertise managing a number of tiers of suppliers, and have an affordable degree of experience in digital applied sciences—stipulations that put such an initiative past the attain of many small and medium-size corporations. The excellent news is that it may possibly begin small and develop progressively, and not using a heavy dedication of sources on the outset. As Haier did, an organization can construct modules which have restricted performance, progressively add extra options, after which hyperlink the modules for higher communications between them. It may be taught by doing and use early wins—even small ones—to construct confidence amongst each inner and exterior stakeholders and generate financial savings that can be utilized to assist finance subsequent steps.

A digital platform like COSMOPlat can present advantages in regular instances and through crises. By enabling its members to arrange and conduct work sooner and extra effectively, it may possibly alleviate the requirement for expensive alternate options reminiscent of carrying massive emergency stockpiles of supplies, elements, and closing merchandise or constructing intensive buffer manufacturing and logistics capacities. Equally necessary, it may possibly assist an organization’s worth chain evolve organically in order that it may possibly higher serve right now’s wants in addition to people who emerge tomorrow.

A model of this text appeared within the July–August 2022 problem of Harvard Enterprise Assessment.


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