More often than not, one-size-fits-all business-type solutions are often a poor fit in one area or another for many businesses.  Specific nuances of their industry are often overlooked leading users  to becoming “creative” in ways they shouldn’t be in order to make these solutions work for their specific needs.  However, in the manufacturing sourcing arena, one solutions provider is doing things differently.

Logo of Directworks

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Based out of Wexford, PA, Directworks is very upfront in stating that their sourcing tool is specifically designed for direct materials spend within the manufacturing industry.
According to Michael Cross, Director of Marketing for Directworks, “manufacturers need sourcing and supplier management solutions that have been built around their specific needs. It is at this stage of the product design process where profits are truly established.”
One of the main points behind Directworks is the problem people in procurement constantly face; chasing after spreadsheets saved who knows where and trying to bring them together into one concise document to share with co-workers and suppliers all the while trying to keep track of updates throughout a project.  A monumental (and somewhat impossible) task to say the least!
Another pain point Directworks alleviates is the problem with suppliers who tend to fail at filling out mandatory fields on spreadsheets leading to hours and days of wasted time and effort chasing down information.  Within Directworks, quotes are not permitted to be incomplete as the fields are immediately flagged.
Directworks is a SaaS/Cloud-based application / database system.  A big advantage to Directworks is that there is no need for additional hardware for your IT organization to maintain.  It also has private “email” capabilities within its system.  If specifications change, everyone involved has the opportunity to see the changes at the same time.
RFQ’s are configurable by you and you are then able to line up supplier quotes all in one area, on one screen which proves to be a huge timesaver.
Directworks contains many standard and highly configurable reports to capture the particular information needed for your organization to make decisions based on a wide variety of specific details.  The most popular of these is the total cost analysis report.  This report shows you who the best supplier to choose is based on cost savings and other weighted overall fields.
Directworks is also a secure workspace in sourcing solution.  It allows for pure sharing and collaboration between employees and vendors / solution providers that login in through an encrypted Internet portal.
A most important feature we found with Directworks is the viewing tool which allows you to look at engineering drawings created in any software format.  Thus, those collaborating do not need the same software to exchange ideas and create enhancements.  The viewing tool also has a security feature that allows you to share images at any level.  So if you only want a collaborator to see particular spec levels of a drawing, you can share just that particular to allow editing, suggestions, etc.  Another great feature you can use in the tool is the ability to zoom in extremely tight on specific areas of the image and insert questions pointing to the exact point in question. 
The reporting features of Directworks are very strong and if there are reports missing to your particular specifications, their technical support staff will help you create the reports you need for your organization.  For example, you are able to run cost savings reports to find outliers based on a percentage difference (too high or too low) of price per part.  You can then export this data to Excel (or other spreadsheet applications) and show your suppliers where they are out of line in comparison with other suppliers.  Our point of concern here would be potentially sharing supplier information amongst competing suppliers so one needs to tread carefully here in an ethical manner.
Directworks can help with you direct materials spendThe quote scenario report in Directworks allows you to show the best way to produce a product and allows you to target numbers for even greater savings.  For example, if one of your suppliers is a little bit higher on a particular part than on others, you can create this report and indicate within the tool to your supplier(s) where they could possibly do a little better.  Overall the quote scenario report saves users a considerable amount of time allowing the user to focus on more quotes and negotiate greater cost savings.  The quote scenario template also handles such details as a VAT (value-added tax) and currency conversion capabilities for overseas suppliers.
In the RFP area, you are able to run extremely detailed reports showing cost savings, manufacturing time, net-terms, delivery terms, lead times, and many other options.  Within this area you can add user (and supplier) comments easily as well.  Thus, if a particular proposal looks, by “running the numbers” better than other proposals, the comments area allows you to red flag potential concerns (for example lead times).  This area allows for data-driven decisions for sourcing projects.
Directworks has a wide variety of reports that track cost savings at various levels such as project level, supplier level, etc.  Within these reports you can measure and graph actual cost savings against estimated cost savings. 
Among this plethora of reports within Directworks is a supply chain social responsibility report based on watching for suppliers who use conflict minerals (tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold, or 3TG).
Directworks offers enterprise licensing based on annual revenue and is always free to use for suppliers.  Included in the enterprise license fee is 24/7/365 technical support (for users and suppliers) which is based in Pittsburgh, PA and Shanghai, China (with English speaking and Mandarin Chinese speaking support specialists).
Mr. Cross suggests that you have at least one Directworks power user who knows the platform inside and out and can help other users who don’t need to have that level of expertise to use it effectively.
Mr. Cross also mentioned Directworks realizes the importance of having a simple, easily adaptable UI (User Interface) and from the in-office demo we attended, we believe they have succeeded in this area.  If you and your team are comfortable using Microsoft Outlook, it is most comparable in terms of look and feel.
A powerful feature Directworks offers (and strongly encourages customers to try) is their Proof of Value (PoV) pilot program which gives users 2 to 3 months to learn and use the capabilities of Directworks within their own business to get used to doing real work with the system and seeing the potential cost savings and benefits of the system. 
Directworks target market is for manufacturing organizations averaging $400 million dollars (US Currency) and above in revenue.  Their largest customer is in the $100 billion dollar revenue area and runs thousands of reverse auctions per month within the tool.  To further quote Mr. Cross, “Whirlpool knows how to do sourcing, but we can show them how to do it faster and more efficiently”.

Overall, Directworks is worth serious consideration for any large-scale manufacturing organization that is looking to improve cost savings, time savings, project management, innovation of products and secure exchange / viewing of documents.  Visit Directworks at .