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How do you ensure stock visibility during a subcontracting process?

Subcontracting can help you manage non-core or bottlenecked production processes effectively.

Companies that want to cut production and overhead costs, outsource non-core production processes, or that lack...

in-house production capacities find subcontracting a viable alternative. Subcontracting is a special form of procurement that entails handing over a company's raw materials to a subcontracting vendor. The subcontracting vendor processes or adds value to the product and returns it. It is possible to maintain complete visibility and control of the subcontracting process -- from a material's issuance, to material available at the vendor's location to any excess or unused material that the vendor returns.

Companies can ensure complete materials planning for the outsourced processes. Further, there's no reason for companies to compromise on the quality of the products produced by subcontracting vendors; the option to integrate quality inspection with outsourced production is also available.

Let's look at the end-to-end subcontracting process:

  1. The procurement manager creates a subcontracting purchase order containing a list of components the company needs to issue to a vendor for processing. Creating a subcontracting bill of materials beforehand is also an efficient way to ensure that the system only calls for needed components.
  2. The company issues components to the vendor with reference to the same subcontracting purchase order. In this step, the company takes a component's stock off its inventory and the stock now appears in the vendor's inventory.
  3. The vendor adds value to the components or the production process and returns the processed components.
  4. The company's warehouse manager receives the processed products along with any unused components the vendor returns.
  5. On goods receipt, the quality inspector can inspect the delivered product before it is used in other production processes or sold to customers.
  6. The vendor bills the company for the subcontracting services rendered.

Subcontracting as a special form of procurement differs from services procurement. During a subcontracting process, a vendor adds value to a company's materials (components); services procurement entails pure services delivery.

Next Steps

Fine-tune SAP procurement processes

How to forecast material consumption

Understand e-procurement software

This was last published in September 2015

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What challenges has your company faced in managing the subcontracting process?
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One of the main challenges has been the reluctance by our buyers to properly manage the process, hold suppliers accountable for our inventory usage and reporting of batches and serial numbers used during the process
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Subcontractors may be great. Or not. Since they don't hold the primary contract, they're often out of the information flow, a least a step outside the line of fire. A verifiable lineage with ongoing experience (and great client ratings) are absolutely essential. No matter how good they are, they're not quite as vested in the problem as you are. 

When "subcontracting" translates to "outsourcing" the problems can multiply in direct proportion to the distance between you and them. I get far better results when we can all gather at the same table sans Skype.
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