If you’re relying on spreadsheets to manage supplier interactions and for collaboration, you’re likely opening up your manufacturing business to more risk than is healthy.

Studies have demonstrated that close to 90% of spreadsheets contain errors—serious ones. “Spreadsheets, even after careful development, contain errors in 1% or more of all formula cells,” writes Ray Panko, a professor of IT management at the University of Hawaii and an authority on bad spreadsheet practices. “In large spreadsheets with thousands of formulas, there will be dozens of undetected errors.”

Spreadsheets can work well enough for small companies with simple processes and not many products or suppliers to keep track of. But over time, what was a simple spreadsheet can quickly turn into the spreadsheet from hell. No one quite knows how to read it or use it, so no one can possibly detect any errors. Then, all it takes is a couple of hidden rows, an inaccurate formula, a missing decimal point, or a couple of transposed numbers, and your business and reputation are on the line.

While all the columns, rows, and grids make it seem like a spreadsheet is a highly structured, controllable document, nothing could be further from the truth. The data within it is uncontrolled. It’s not connected to any other systems; no one person truly owns it; and no one person can verify its accuracy.

Yet, if your A&D company is like most, you’re emailing spreadsheets around (or maybe you’ve graduated to sharing them via the cloud) to collaborate with your suppliers. Big mistake.

With unstructured collaboration processes, like the sharing of spreadsheets, users can never be sure that they’re working from the latest, most accurate information. Spreadsheets are outdated almost as soon as they’re saved and emailed. All it takes is one person to make a change, or reverse a number, and the information users are relying on is useless.

Beyond user error and version control, it’s virtually impossible to cleanly import information from a spreadsheet into an ERP system, purchasing system, or quality management system. Chances are, the formatting won’t match up and someone will need to perform all kinds of data manipulation to normalize that spreadsheet data and make it usable.

If that information isn’t easily usable, it’s impossible to verify that suppliers are meeting quality standards, and document all the processes for AS9145 compliance. In an industry where quality and reliability are matters of life and death, tracing and guaranteeing parts throughout the supply chain is vital. And it’s impossible to have that level of traceability using spreadsheets and emails.

An unstructured approach to collaboration truly like is an inefficient, inaccurate recipe for disaster.  Find out how LiveSource can help you clean up that recipe and make collaboration an effective, efficient asset for your company.