Supplier Discovery and Nevada’s Request for Discovery Process

Posted March 19th, 2013 by in

REA250 and its local, regional, and national partners have developed a new approach to supplier discovery know as the Request for Discovery (RfD) process. The goal is to identify non-proprietary manufacturing processes in a wide number of suppliers and link those to the specific component requirements of manufacturers, i.e. a net that manufacturers can use to catch suppliers for qualification and selection.

The RfD development process is currently supported by the Nevada Governor’s Office for Economic Development. Over 150 suppliers and 10 manufacturers have been loaded into the system and are deploying the RfD process with very successful results. A new federal proposal has been submitted to expand these activities.

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Screen shot of the current manufacturing process “cloud” for Nevada including 49 suppliers. The green highlights demonstrate the processes from an example supplier.

To support the RFD process, a database was created of supplier manufacturing processes and associated attributes such as max geometry limits. The manufacturing process standards were adopted from the Manufacturing Processes Reference Guide (Todd et al, 1994) and have been adapted to support the next generation of Internet search capabilities. These search capabilities allowing for greater efficiency and flexibility in finding both direct and partial matches of existing terms as well as broadcasting needs for new materials and processes as they arise.

In the RfD process, consistent questions are asked of suppliers. These questions are organized into a “taxonomy”, and the answers are used to describe any relevant differences between suppliers’ offerings. The result is an extremely detailed taxonomy that is expressed as an XML schema. Based on the RFD taxonomy, OEM’s then input their desired manufacturing processes and attributes as well as other capabilities, certifications, material expertise, etc.

The resulting search of the suppliers identifies the best matches to the requested RfD taxonomy. For example, the a OEM can specify need to drill 15 holes of depth 4 inches into a steel work piece size 2 feet by 1 foot by 6 inches having a tolerance of 1/100 inch as part of the manufacturing processes needed for a component. This is a clear requirement to which the supplier can say whether they are capable or not and the OEM can ask without divulging IP. Once these suppliers are identified, manufacturers can then filter by geographic locations, certifications, and other requirements as a part of their network strategy. This can include a range of matches from 100% to partial matches based on how similar a supplier’s manufacturing processes are to those that were requested. While this may seem simple, the initial results have been astounding.

Screen shot of the “cloud” that represents the number of Associations that Nevada supplier belong to. The larger the text, the more suppliers have an association with that organization.

Screen shot of the “cloud” that represents the number of Associations that Nevada supplier belong to. The larger the text, the more suppliers have an association with that organization.

  For instance, a major OEM in Nevada challenged the team to find any Nevada suppliers who could deploy a certain deformation manufacturing process that only two suppliers in the US could provide the manufacturer. After completing an RfD search, a supplier 0.5 miles away, and unknown to this manufacturer, was using the same manufacturing processes for a different product. Currently, that supplier has open production capacity and discussions are under way to connect the two organizations together.

 In another instance, a manufacturer was looking for a series of specific manufacturing processes for a new technology. Using the RfD process, they were able to identify the three suppliers (and the 4 next best possibilities) for all of their manufacturing needs within 20 minutes of initiating a search. While the manufacturer then used traditional methods to qualify these suppliers, the overall time to develop a network strategy was minimal.

In the next phase of the RfD development, the team expects that the search strategies will become more complicated, expanding to include suppliers from multiple states, as well as focus closely on highly localized solutions.

REA250 is looking for the best and brightest suppliers in the state to join this project. Additional funding is under development to subsidize the cost of workforce training, alternative lending, and business development resources while connecting suppliers with new manufacturing customers in Nevada as well as nationally.

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