Boeing’s much anticipated 787 Dreamliner encountered a laundry list of problems which eventually led to the grounding of many of the planes. There are several different theories as to what went wrong and Boeing could have done better. Many have to do with the decision to embrace outsourcing and overall lack of supply chain management.

In a recent Forbes article, Jonathan Salem Baskin is quoted “It didn’t help that the outsourcing plan included skipping the detailed blueprints the company would have normally prepared, and allowing vendors to come up with their own. Delivered components arrived with instructions and notes written in Chinese, Italian, and other languages.”

With the plethora of video conferencing and visual collaboration technologies available it’s surprising that Boeing had this many issues coordinating and communicating with their remote teams. While we can’t know for sure exactly what went wrong or what Boeing did or did not do; we can offer some suggestions as to how organizations can utilize collaboration solutions to their fullest extend and help ensure a seamless supply chain.

A UC solution is a must to connect internal team members assigned to the project. These solutions can even allow approved external team members, such as suppliers, to connect easily. Features such as instant messaging (IM), screen and document sharing, and video conferencing are key components to keeping the lines of communication open. For example, if a supplier has a quick question about the design, he can quickly IM a team member asking the question or if the person is available for a quick chat. Quick video conferences or even formal meetings with video and document sharing can help ensure consistency and reliability among suppliers.

For more crucial aspects of the manufacturing process, such as discussing blueprints and inspecting components, an immersive visual collaboration solution that includes Datapresence (ability to see multiple sources of data) is necessary. Simply showing a single document while the video participants are minimized on screen will not provide the collaboration experience necessary for such critical aspects of the manufacturing process.

Solutions like Oblong or Cyviz combine video conferencing with the ability to share multiple steams of data in real time creating a true collaboration environment. Team members would be able to see detailed designs and prototypes of the outsourced components in addition to the supplier’s team. Both teams would then be able to communicate, give and receive feedback, and discuss any potential issues. By repeating this process with all suppliers, the organization can help ensure consistency among components. They can also connect and facilitate collaboration between the supplier of Component A which connects into Component B from a separate supplier.

Supply chain management is one of the most complicated aspects of any organization as it relies heavily on communication and coordination between two or more parties. By underestimating the importance of communication, an organization can run into problems similar to the ones Boeing faced. On the other hand, by providing both internal and external (supplier) team members with the tools and opportunity to effectively communicate and collaborate and organization can successfully manage all aspects of its supply chain.