Growth through innovation is an important part of Harris Corp.'s success. Harris, a Melbourne, Fla.-based manufacturer of tactical radios, IT systems and other complex communications products for government and commercial customers, grew its total revenue by 9% to $5 billion in fiscal year 2009, with $738 million coming from new products. Nearly 7,000 of its 15,000 employees are engineers and scientists.
An award-winning supply chain operating system plays an important role in Harris' growth strategy. The system, called Expo, helped the company earn AMR Research's 2009 Supply Chain Excellence Award for Small to Midsize Businesses, and is part of a larger "supply chain transformation" that has been under way at the company for the past several years, explains Janice Lindsay, Harris' vice president, supply chain and operations.
"Growth is our mantra as an organization. We know that if you're not growing, you're dying," Lindsay says. "So we have to make sure that in the supply chain organization, we're positioning ourself for that growth."
Driven by its own mantra -- "right item, right supplier, the first time" -- the supply chain organization implemented Expo, a composite application that is "designed to foster collaboration and integration at the intersection of product development, operations excellence and customer response," according to AMR. To create the system, Harris leveraged its own internal IT capabilities as well as those of vendors such as Cambridge, Mass.-based search applications software provider Endeca.
"Growth is our mantra as an organization. We know that if you're not growing, you're dying."
According to Harris' Lindsay, one of the first goals for building the system was to improve supplier visibility and spend management. To do that, the company needed to gather data from its disparate IT systems and build "internal capabilities to house all that data." Then the supply chain team implemented business analytics tools to allow the company to view information on its spend.
"Before this, we couldn't tell as a company what we were buying, who we were buying from and how much we were spending," Lindsay tells IndustryWeek. "Those are some basic questions."
Another goal for Expo was to improve the company's strategic sourcing capabilities. As part of the overall supply chain transformation, Harris has been "working very closely with our supply base to pick the right few, and then get much deeper within the relationship with those critical few," Lindsay explains. Bottom-line benefits include year-over-year cost reductions, favorable pay terms and inventory management assistance.
Expo's Engineering Desktop Portal (EDP), which delivers information on materials and suppliers into the engineering design process, is among the tools that enable strategic sourcing. EDP is an engineering search-and-discovery tool that, according to AMR, "integrates Oracle Agile's PLM, Endeca's search capabilities, PartMiner's electronics specifications and market data from partners such as Avnet Electronics for part and supplier selection."
"With EDP, [engineers are] able to reuse and source the best available components and materials from preferred suppliers, with engineering changes quickly communicated across the internal and external partners," AMR wrote. "The detailed, granular information about parts and suppliers collected throughout the supply chain on a daily basis (for example, if manufacturing has an issue with a particular part, it enters a caution flag into the system) becomes accessible to engineers early in the design process, allowing all relevant criteria to be considered in the decisions engineers make."
Lindsay notes that tools such as EDP help eliminate "the wasteful looking around for items to put on the bill of material so [engineers] can spend more of their time on the innovation challenge."
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