3 Ways to Streamline Supplier Collaboration During the Specification Lifecycle

| Product Lifecycle Management | Food & Beverage | Specification Management
Posted By: Hollie Farrahi


During the specification management process, dozens of departments at your company are working with hundreds of vendors to gather and update product data throughout the product lifecycle.

Raw data from vendors are your building blocks for formula and ingredient specifications. Yet, many companies in the food and beverage industry don’t have a standardized system in place to collect this data and share it across product lines, projects and departments.

Without a centralized system for gathering and processing vendor product data, specifications may get completed on schedule, but they live without context in relation to the entire product lifecycle. Your Innovation team may be using its own specifications, which will eventually be used by the Procurement department, which may be working in a totally different system, and so on.

We’ve identified three key ways to improve the collection and use of your supplier data using the Selerant Supplier Collaboration Portal (SCP), a dedicated vendor communication tool that directly connects to Selerant’s formula-based product lifecycle management software Devex.

1. Digitize Vendor Onboarding

When you want to source a new vendor or an ingredient from an existing vendor during project formulation, you’re collecting a flurry of order certifications, vendor documentation, regulatory documentation and other data fields.

Ingredient data from your vendors ends up living across unconnected Excel files and ERP systems, making it much harder to prove that data is completely accurate within all the specifications needed to evolve a formula recipe into a final product.

Connecting a digital vendor portal to a formula-based product lifecycle management system allows you to create specific objects or folders for each vendor or supplier and link those objects to related documents and projects. Within Devex, you can create a section for a master supplier and subdivide projects or documents by facility or ingredient origin, keeping all new certifications and orders associated with that supplier in one place, no matter how nuanced. Requests for initial documentation can be sent to the supplier directly in the Supplier Collaboration Portal.

You’re also able to pre-approve vendors your company has worked with in the past for new projects or ingredients. If you’re working with co-packers, you can loop them into the process by pushing ingredient and recipe data through the secured portal.

Data from vendor documents can now live in a useable format from the very start within your PLM system, enabling you to review, approve and transfer vendor data quickly as the product lifecycle moves forward.

Want more detailed tips for improving your supplier communication? 

Download the new ebook, “Controlling Specification Management Throughout the Food & Beverage Product Lifecycle"

Get the ebook

2. Standardize Supplier Questionnaire Templates

After onboarding vendors into your PLM system, you’re likely sending the same kinds of questionnaires to multiple suppliers and facilities. Instead of sending different versions of the same document to those supplies and storing them in separate systems, can you digitize your questionnaires for standardized vendor communication.

The Supplier Collaboration Portal already includes pre-built questionnaire templates specifically for the food and beverage industry. These templates are sent to vendors as a web form they can fill out and immediately send back to you. The Devex PLM system digitally processes their replies and pulls data directly into ingredient lists and internal specifications.

These questionnaire templates can be modified for each vendor and ingredient, enabling you to work with a huge set of relevant pre-configured templates and engage with suppliers quickly. Your departments can work from the same general supplier templates while accurately capturing the nuance of each supplier relationship.

A few examples include:

  • Raw materials questionnaire
  • Finished goods questionnaire
  • Facilities questionnaire

By having all possible questionnaires used across your company built in advance, you can easily send the same questionnaire to multiple facilities or vendors at one time. For instance, if you’re working with multiple orange suppliers, each with slightly different ingredient classifications or facilities, you could send all the suppliers the same but slightly modified questionnaire and associated that with the correct site formulas.

3. Build Triggered Supplier Tasks into Your Internal PLM Workflows

Connecting your supplier portal with Selerant’s Devex PLM workflow and document management capabilities is what really transforms your vendor relationships from one-way sporadic communication to into active collaboration. Devex enables you to set and trigger vendor tasks directly within your internal PLM workflows, setting a condition that the entire process won’t move forward until the correct vendor data has been gathered and populated into your specifications.

For instance, if you know a flour vendor’s gluten-free certification will expire in the next six months, you could configure a workflow in Devex to initiate the certificate renewal process at the exact right time in the product lifecycle. At the set time, the system would send an automated message to the flour vendor within the Supplier Collaboration Portal prompting them to upload an updated certificate.

Once uploaded, the system would automatically route the new certificate into the PLM system, populate any necessary data from the document into related project documentation, such as an ingredient list, and archive the outdated certification.

Within the system, your team can set deadlines for supplier responses or internal feedback related to other gates of the product lifecycle and track the history of all your supplier interactions. The user interface provides visibility into the progress for both you and your vendors by showing if and when vendors have read your messages and providing one place where vendors can see new, overdue and completed task requests.

In order to guarantee all your departments are working with accurate product data in their specifications, your vendors need to be active collaborators in your internal specification management process.

Having one system for digitally collecting and processing supplier data makes it possible to paint a full picture of the source, use and modification of product data throughout product creation and launch. By connecting vendor onboarding, data gathering and information requests directly into your PLM system, you’ll gain both an organized, easily filtered viewed into vendor data and make it possible for departments to share product data across projects and specifications.