Plant Link was created in 1995 with the goal of providing the automotive industry
with the key services and products needed in today's competitive environment.
Since its start Plant Link has proven extremely successful in managing
product quality and supply coordination for companies engaged in the provision
of components to automotive manufactures. An important part of the Plant
Link service is determining what the automotive customer wants, when he
wants it and ensuring it is delivered on time. This may sound like a simple
task, but often it is not. In most industries the supplier expects the
customer to order what he needs. Not so with many automotive customers.
They expect their suppliers to determine what to ship by connecting in
to their data bases. The information may have errors and may not give the
true picture. Quantities may change with in "lead time." The
automotive customer however may well consider it is the supplier's responsibility
to detect the errors and requirement changes. Usually there are complications
in the interpretation of the supply requirement information communicated
and also in the methods used to make the physical connection to download
Fundamental to the Plant Link success story are two factors, the employment
of the best and most experienced personnel in the industry and the automation
of as many processes as possible. The founders of Plant Link already had many
years experience working in automotive supply, automotive quality and resident
engineering. The electronic test equipment design facility at Plant Link provides
masses of technical support and capability to the company. We have been able
to develop an extensive range of dedicated software to resolve every aspect
of the supply business.
The net result has been a virtually faultless supply coordination record
since the start of Plant Link in 1995. In 1999 Plant Link was presented with
Contractor Appreciation Award” and in 2002 with Intel's "Q&R Support
Recognition & Appreciation Award."
Downloading Customer Requirements
The automotive industry uses a variety of different communication
systems and data formats to provide information and their weekly
supply requirements. A supplier is expected to use the methods
of each of his automotive customers and normally can not use
his own. It is necessary to connect to the automotive customer
at least once per week (may be daily), download and interpret
the data and then organise supply accordingly. The systems vary
widely in both the physical connection and how information is
presented. Commonly it is expected that the supplier obtains
the specialised terminals and/or software necessary and logs
on to the to the customer data bases. A supply coordinator then
reads and interprets the data and enters it manually in to the
supplier system. The Plant Link solution is different and is
a totally automated one. Plant Link have built electronic links
in to every automotive customer and customer plant serviced.
As each customer has different formats for transmission and data
presentation, Plant Link has created software to extract the information
and format it in a consistent manner. The data is then downloaded
directly in to the Plant Link Supply Data Bases with out possibility
of human error during the transfer process.
POU (Pay On Use) / Consignment Warehousing
If the automotive customer uses "POU" (Pay On Use) warehousing, then
the situation gets very involved. There will be a greater amount of data that
will need to be accessed, interpreted and acted upon. Material may be "line
fed" in small quantities many times per day causing multiple daily inventory
adjustments. Inventory control and supply requirement calculation become significantly
more complicated. A data link or equivalent will be necessary to obtain status
information from the POU. The warehouse operators may be performing hundreds
of "line feeds" per day, hopefully with out a single human error.
However, mistakes do happen even with extensive use of bar code equipment.
This causes incorrect POU stock levels and/or incorrect requirement calculations.
Unfair as it may seem, the automotive customer will often expect the supplier
to detect and correct the errors. Plant Link resolved these issues with the
Plant Link Supply Database.
Click here for more information.
JIT (Just In Time)
A JIT (Just In Time) environment will reduce inventories and add pressure and
often stress to the situation requiring frequent monitoring of customer requirement
changes and warehouse information. Warehouse stocks are kept to a minimum and
variation in planned builds by the customer can run stocks down dangerously
close to zero. The automotive customer may consider it is the supplier's responsibility
to monitor levels and ensure adequate stock despite the unpredicted changes.
This may well mean that the supplier must provide a local supply coordinator
who can visit the customer frequently, or actually work at the customer's site.
Plant Link employ local and resident supply coordinators to help resolve these
issues. The Plant Link Supply Database is crucial to correcting errors and
keeping track of changes. Any quality issue putting material "on hold" can
have disastrous effects. (See following section). Click
here for more information on the Plant Link Supply Database.
Quality Support, Resident Engineers & Avoiding "Charge
Local quality support, or a "resident engineer" may be necessary
to provide immediate reaction to quality issues. This is particularly the case
if JIT (Just In Time) is in operation. With out this a quality problem can
quickly lead to an "all stock on hold" status and a resultant "line
stop." In the automotive industry this can soon result in a line stop
at a car assembly plant. A "charge back" of the consequential costs
is common and can become very expensive. A car assembly plant line stop is
something to be avoided in all circumstances. Plant Link engineers have many
years of experience in the product lines we serve and in the automotive quality
issues encountered. We have been resolving automotive and component quality
issues for more than 30 years. In addition, we ensure an engineer is with in
a few hours of every automotive customer plant. At some plants we employ "resident
engineers." Plant Link has proved very effective in preventing line stops.
Local failure analysis by Plant Link engineers followed by problem isolation
down to specific lots or by "screening" has enabled the release of
sufficient material to keep the lines going.
SBI (Self Billing Invoice) & Payment Reconciliation
The POU warehouse can introduce massive complications when it comes
to calculating payments received. The customer may well be making "line feeds" of
material to his manufacturing facilities every few minutes. Each line feed
triggers a payment. By the end of a year there can be thousands of payment
line items. Occasional customer warehouse handling errors incorrectly identifying
a lot number, component type, quantity, etc can create a nightmare when it
comes to payment reconciliation. Plant Link is aware of many situations where
reconciliation has never been achieved despite massive amounts of effort at
the supplier. The problem was resolved by Plant Link engineers who automated
the processes involved, developed specialised software and built electronic
links to the customer financial data bases. In the last few years the Plant
Link SBI Data Base has been successful in correcting >99% of all errors
and achieving annual reconciliations to with in a few $s. Click here for more