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Supply Chain 4.0: With Web Solutions to the Optimal Quality Control Loop

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The world is constantly changing - especially in the area of digitalization there are always innovations and constant further development. This particularly affects companies that are active in industry (e.g. the automotive industry). In order to survive and keep up with digital change, companies must first and foremost simplify their production processes and make them more transparent, cut costs and still guarantee high quality. This involves identifying potential sources of error in the supply chain and optimizing them accordingly to reduce complaints or even rejects.

The Time of Supply Chain 4.0 has come!

In order to implement the measures for improvement, companies must network their production process and integrate intelligent communication between customer and supplier. The solution for this are web-based tools - the Supply Chain 4.0. In this article we will show you, on the basis of the individual steps of the supply chain, which optimization potentials exist and how the Supply Chain 4.0 can provide for a significant improvement of the complete quality control loop. You will also learn how a web-based solution can help you to exploit the potential of digitization within the supply chain.

Step 1: APQP

The first step in the supply chain is advance quality planning, which defines the requirements that the customer places on the product to be realized in order to determine the quality in advance and avoid possible errors. A uniform documentation structure is required for this. The problem at this point, however, is that it usually involves large amounts of data, which leads to confusing versioning. The parties involved are therefore often not at the same information level, which in turn leads to communication problems. However, an Internet solution within APQP can help: The versioning is optimized by an "agile" schedule that can be found again and again in the history and is continuously adjusted. In this way, all information for customer and supplier is always visible and up-to-date.

Step 2: Feasibility Assessment

In the feasibility assessment, the examination with the supplier takes place to determine whether the respective parts can be manufactured under the specified conditions, whether they meet the specified quality and where design optimizations may need to be made - in short, whether the respective supplier can meet the requirements. This step can often take a long time and often leads to misunderstandings in communication due to the use of different media, since customer and supplier are not always on the same level. In this way fast errors develop, which it applies to avoid. Supply Chain 4.0 ties in exactly with these points - through a web-based solution, no more data has to be converted and the supplier's suggestions can be directly used internally. On the one hand, this saves a lot of time and on the other hand, it ensures precise, direct and structured communication to discuss characteristics with each other.

Step 3: Initial Sample Test Report or Initial Sampling

Initial sampling is the quality assurance within the supply chain to avoid "bad surprises". It forms the basis for series production and evaluates the supplied part. This part should be as free of defects as possible in order to ensure that it is also suitable for later complaints. It should be ensured that the supplier can deliver the desired quality. Here, too, depending on the complexity of the part, this can be a lengthy process involving several recursion loops and associated with problems in communication. Online solutions can provide a clear structure for a faster and more orderly process. Communication becomes clearer as all data that is important is centrally available to customers and suppliers in one place. This means that everyone is up to date and has an exact overview. In this way, all measured values, targets and agreements are complete and do not have to be laboriously collected, e.g. in e-mail traffic. This significantly reduces the error rate and saves a lot of time and thus also costs.

Step 4: Complaint Management

Together with the supplier, we check where defects can be found and how they can be eliminated sustainably. The supplier must be able to guarantee freedom from defects. It is also important to learn from these complaints by documenting them in a knowledge base. Complaints are often forwarded by e-mail and in a Word document, which makes communication more difficult. In case of queries, the interlocutors have to refer to a confusing e-mail traffic, which can lead to misinterpretations under certain circumstances. This process is time-consuming and not efficient. Therefore, the use of web-based solutions is recommended in this step, as they enable continuous, fast communication. Both the customer and the supplier receive accurate error documentation, including documents, and thus both have the same level of knowledge. All information is in one place, saving time and providing a clear structure for both the supplier and the customer.

Step 5: Action Management

Action management is the joint to-do list of supplier and customer for detailed actions. In the form of dates, descriptions, etc., lists are created in which specific tasks are assigned to the corresponding activities. In this way, it is documented which tasks have to be completed by whom until which date. The problem with this is that these measures have to be selected from a confusing collection of documents, which means a high investment of time and the risk of something being overlooked. Therefore, it makes sense to create a central storage location online, which allows all parties involved to view the due data. Progress is regularly documented in the lists, so that they are always up-to-date and complete and measures can no longer be forgotten. Both the customer and the supplier have access to the data at any time. This also allows better preparation for decision-making meetings.

Step 6: Audit

Audits can be carried out at different points in time during the entire product development process with different contents and facilitate the decision for or against a supplier. It is a kind of standardized catalog of questions or evaluation that is regularly "queried" in order to obtain various snapshots and create a well-founded supplier evaluation. The planning and execution of audits is organizationally very complex and very time-consuming due to unclear documents. In order to have all audits with documents, photos, etc. at hand for all parties involved, there is a central web-based solution to have a structured overview and to carefully document the evaluation results. This makes all audits transparent, easier to understand and view.

Step 7: Supplier Evaluation

As a central element of the supply chain, this step uses criteria (e.g. audit results, number of complaints) to objectively assess points such as the supplier's adherence to delivery dates, processes, quantity reliability and resources. This is an accompanying process throughout the entire collaboration. The problem here is that the business partners have insufficient information on the current supplier evaluation, which is why the preparation for supplier meetings is time-consuming. The introduction of a web solution can facilitate the process - formulas are used to calculate key figures and compare criteria. Evaluations, lists and documents are collected in a central tool and regular evaluations are carried out. As a result, the large amounts of data that are generated can be better handled and become more transparent for both supplier and customer. The customer and the supplier are always informed about the quality data and its calculation and have an overview of the history of improvements and the supplier portfolio. Based on the calculated results, the customer can also make a fact-based decision about his suppliers.


The digitalization of your supply chain brings you faster to your goal in your process flows. With clear structures, centralized Internet solutions and coordinated processes, you can achieve significant cost optimization for vendor parts, reduce potential for errors and also increase quality by producing fewer rejects. Communication with your suppliers is the be-all and end-all, which also functions much more transparently, clearly and quickly with the tools of Supply Chain 4.0. Misleading mails or confusing document volumes are avoided, which also minimizes the time required. Thus, the optimization of the supply chain through a variety of web-based tools enables you to create a closed quality control loop that is perfectly coordinated.

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