By Saul Haro
Sometimes the missing pieces of a puzzle can be right in front of you.
That’s how it was for me and my colleagues a few years ago. We were working in the supply chain and import/export group of a major automotive parts manufacturer and tasked with making sure operations moved smoothly.
It goes without saying that the automotive industry is huge, with hundreds of suppliers contributing parts and services to a single vehicle. But for context, consider that Toyota estimates the average car consists of about 30,000 individual parts – parts that have to be ordered, procured, shipped, delivered, received, installed, and tested. In this light, it’s easy to understand just how important managing the supply chain process can be to a successful production process.
Yet, in this age of Big Data, mobility and social, we were confounded by having to rely on an outdated process that included such manual tasks as poring over spreadsheets in search for anomalies and to ensure orders were coming in, and product was going out on schedule.
The problem for us, as it was with many others in this line of work, was that any deviation in process typically was caught late in the game. This almost always resulted in our group being thrust into a reactionary role and a delayed response. In the automotive industry, where delays can cost a car maker up to $5,000 per minute, problems add up fast.
What I needed – what the industry needed – was a way to connect, or link, the various partners within the supply chain to each other, and in such a way that enabled not just visibility into the “system,” but the ability to be alerted to changes in plan.
In business it’s called ‘exception management’ and it calls for implementing a program to identify and handle deviations in a process. In the automotive industry deviations can span from a delayed shipment to a faulty part.
That’s when I decided to start Macrolynk in 2013 and bridge social with supply chain. I was convinced that building a social network that supported supply chain management would solve a lot of the costly problems and inefficiencies facing this vital part of manufacturing.
Today, our Macrolynk network, which leverages IBM Emptoris Supplier Lifecycle Management, connects all parties in the supply chain to give everyone visibility into every transaction. When errors and deviations occur, the system identifies the owners of the transaction and notifies them immediately via email, phone call or both.
But because Macrolynk is a social network, we can also draw on exogenous data from outside the partner relationships to give people even more insights. For example, we have risk management features that leverage live weather data to inform and counsel partners about severe conditions, such as hurricanes or snow storms that could result in delays. With this information, they can redirect shipments or make alternate plans to get parts delivered on time.
Macrolynk is also a proud member of IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program, a program that has provided our young but fast-growing company with invaluable technical and business expertise. Such support helped us win the prestigious CNN Expansion Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2015 just two weeks ago.
We’re very pleased about our early achievements, but even more excited about the future as we work to solve problems for our clients by connecting the right pieces.