Manufacturing Engineering

When Collaboration Starts Early, Good Things Happen

In critical use projects, “chance” is not a good thing. A collaborative relationship between all parties involved means you go from leaving things to chance to a great chance you’ll work together in the future.

Manufacturing and engineering collaboration benefits both the vendor and the customer. By involving the manufacturer early in the design process, the client can limit risk, reduce cost and save schedule time. Equally important, collaborative relationships encourage accountability, streamline project management and give everyone involved a sense of ownership.

The Benefits of Early Collaboration

Instead of simply handing off designs for a manufacturer to build, customers should borrow their vendor's experience and thought leadership by asking them for design input. The best critical-use manufacturers can identify potential problems, waste or unnecessary processes, and then suggest alternatives during planning.

These cost-saving, time-saving and risk-reducing measures are only possible, however, if collaboration starts early in the process. If the vendor is excluded from preliminary planning, the project can mature to a point where significant redirection is no longer possible. Design cycles are long, tedious processes that can take months to complete, and even the best manufacturers can't steer planning in the right direction if they aren't on board from the beginning.

Accountability and Shared Reputation

A manufacturing team is never more motivated to get results than when they are tasked with bringing their own ideas to life. When a customer decides to move forward with a design that the vendor recommended, that vendor has an elevated stake in the project. When the manufacturer's input is accepted, the pressure is on that manufacturer to perform, to get results and to prove to the customer that they chose wisely by collaborating early.

Not only does collaboration provide accountability, but it gives the customer an extra bargaining chip when the project is finished. When a customer works with a vendor known for integrity and excellence in a specific area of expertise — such as titanium welding — the customer shares the supplier's credibility. With a technically recognized expert as a partner, the customer can better sell to their end clients.

Failure to Collaborate

If the manufacturing team is, for some reason, excluded from early planning they should still notify the customer if they find a tweak that could have helped the project — even if it is too late to implement. This is not to patronize or say I told you so, but to plant the seed for next time.

Even though the planning is too far gone to change, the customer benefits by learning what could have been done differently. The customer should consider it free advice for a future project with similar challenges.

In the rare case that either party refuses to collaborate or shuts down lines of communication and creative input, the other party should simply walk away. No one benefits when the free exchange of ideas is stifled.

By including the manufacturer in early planning, customers can save time and money while reducing risk and creating accountability. When all stakeholders are involved in the initial design, all parties are unified, motivated and driven by a sense of ownership.