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Deeper collaboration between customers and suppliers in the manufacturing industry

The days where someone owned every piece of information are gone. I still can remember when Tesla gave their patents for anyone to be used to take the electric car industry forward. I believe the trend for trust is building to be the most influential topic in the 2020s.

In the manufacturing ecosystem, the trust has been there but without sufficient transparency. Since the collaboration has been on a level where both sides share enough information to be confident that the other side would not use it to gain a better position within the partnership or in the market.

From a close environment to transparency on all levels

I have come across the question so many times in my career: “Can I share this with the 3rd party?”. The question is always phrased in a way that they think the answer is still negative. Why do they phrase the question so that the answer would be, in most cases, negative? Would the answer change if they would ask it the other way or even state that I will share it if you don’t have a good reason to deny me not to do it?

Transparency is a wicked thing in business. Some individuals think it’s about sharing confidential information, and some think it’s obvious to be transparent and honest in business relationships. Where is the value if it’s not to be used for developing the business or the partnerships? Today most of the value chains are more than just one manufacturing company.

Deeper collaboration, investments, and demand sensing

The time when collaboration between two companies meant buying and selling services rather than a partnership is gone. It was still called partnership, but the focus was only to find ways both sides could benefit from each other on a money level. Money was defining the partnership and dictated the way both sides made decisions.

Today more and more companies are building relationships and real partnerships. These partnerships go on a deeper level, not only focusing on the processes or producing the end product for the customer. They go more in-depth and broader throughout both organizations into sharing data in real-time, sharing knowledge, supporting each other to be stronger in the market. 

Both sides invest in the future, but there are other ways to invest in the partnership. The more significant part in the partnership can also do an investment round into the smaller counterpart. These investments can secure the future of both organizations. Investment can also be seen as a way to communicate transparency to the market at the same time.

Demand sensing is one of the hot trends in the manufacturing industry at the moment. Giving something that helps the suppliers to prepare and move faster could define the quality, speed of the delivery, and at the same time, can build a better customer experience.

Knowing that if they would get some insights about the next six to eighteen months of the pipeline, they could prepare their organization, hire more people, buy the materials, and make investments in different levels for it. The most significant influence of this transparency is the investments the supplier could do to be prepared, but also to invest in the future.

Transparency is the new black, and trust is the new big data

Transparency is defining the future of partnerships. Companies have started to think that there are fewer reasons not to share something. Before building every partnership with transparency, the counterpart needs to show that they can be a trusted partner on every level.

Trust is a fascinating thing. In the business context, individuals look at it on an individual level. They think of the people they operate with first and secondly the business as a whole. This creates a mixed truth for these individuals. They could argue in a meeting that they don’t trust the partner even if they only operate and experience the partnership on a person or a team level. Those who look at the partnership from the bigger picture, evaluate the partners on a data level, or have a responsibility towards the customer can give a truthful answer to the question.

Useless data, machine learning, and AI. Trust is the key!

Even if there is development on all levels of technology, still the partnerships are built on trust. The trust also will go to the technology levels. Today we ask that “Can we trust the counterpart on a business level?”, but in the future, we have another question to answer as well. The bigger question in organizations internally, externally, and in the partnerships ask that: “Can we trust that data enough, can we make a business decision based on it?”

Trust in insufficient data could kill companies. Building a business case on data that does not have any relationship with reality could have the worst consequences for the business. 

I believe that transparency comes with a significant burden of trust. The trust comes with the option to make decisions on the data in a way that your organization feels confident in making impactful decisions based on the data transparency gave to your organization.

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