How to optimise your engineering partnership

Paul Boughton

In a subdued global economic environment, manufacturers and brand owners are faced with a common challenge - how to do more with less. Johan Frithiof reports.

Engineers, business leaders and managers remain preoccupied with helping their business establish a competitive advantage with diminishing resources. While manufacturers struggle to cope with weakness in production capacity, de-skilled workforces, lack of historic R&D investment and new competitors.

So, how do these enterprises overcome such obstacles, break into new markets or reinvigorate existing product portfolios? The answer is simple but, as always, the devil is in the detail.

The aim is to get innovations to market with greater speed, quality and consistency than the competition. Forward-thinking businesses are investing in the future, forging strategic partnerships with engineering specialists.

A systematic process for product development will ensure efficiency and reduce potential errors, sometimes resulting in friction and waste. Take engineered materials - before the R&D project even begins, a valuable partner will calculate price-versus-value expectations and what the client's product has to compete with in the market.

They'll look at aligning the project and its outcomes to fit with client's strategy and ensure it's technically feasible before commencing. The partner should have a proven process in place to ensure the best, tailor-made solution is provided.

Client and partner must discuss agreed deliverables and ensure they align with the client's requirements. Evaluations should include: design requirements; product dimensional data; compliancy of performance requirements and standards; testing regimes; relevant processes and treatments; price, volume, timing, etc.

Then the viability of product concepts should be established to filter out those that don't meet the objectives. Criteria for achieving the optimum result should be discussed before a quote is formulated.

The partner should then finalise the product specification and prepare it for manufacturing. Samples should be produced for client testing, approval and feedback.

Approval of initial samples should result in financial commitment to cover the trial stages, until agreement is reached to move to industrialisation stages.

The product should undergo a pilot plant process to reduce risk, before committing to full-scale production and time tables and volumes/ramp up should be established and agreed.

On cempletion, the final sign off with appropriate documentation can be accomplished.

A process which allows for flexibility in application, yet aids steady progress by setting out broad parameters and necessary outputs, will provide transparency throughout and the best result for both client and partner.

Enter X at

Johan Frithiof, Commercial Director within the Engineered Fabrics business of Trelleborg, Trelleborg, Sweden.

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