Rob Phillips explores the benefits of supplier days and the importance of including the battery manufacturer in the early stages of the design process
I was recently invited to a supplier day by an OEM, where the plastics, fan, motherboard and smart battery providers got together with the design engineers from the client to talk over a new project. I call this type of gathering a precipice meeting; it allows you to work together as a team, standing on the edge of a precipice before the project truly begins.
In the 'bad old days' suppliers in each of those categories were usually pitted against each other, one manufacturer played off against the other, and the purchasing team would try to pick out good ideas from the various proposals.
Today, the modern precipice meeting is smarter and more inclusive, allowing suppliers to prove their worth by creating the most functional solution, not simply the cheapest. The purchasing people are partnered more effectively with the designers, which can only be a positive when it comes to the end product.
Medical technology is one of the world’s fastest growing industries and, because medical devices and equipment can be life-critical, they demand designs which are innovative, but also safe and reliable. During the early stage of the design process it's invaluable to share ideas of best practice and discuss the possible pitfalls. The input produced can have a huge impact on the design and its ultimate success.
Design engineers are clued-up when it comes to their product as a whole, but they can't be expected to be an authority on every component of the design. As battery experts we believe that OEMs should not be shackled by commodity batteries and we relish the chance to align ourselves with creative manufacturers. For us, a huge amount of energy and anticipation goes into every project and it's exciting to play our part in delivering a new generation of medical device.
Of course, it requires an element of trust between each of the members of the group, because they share their intellectual property, but the end result is a better environment and product for all involved. It's not just the design engineer who comes away with new ideas, having different manufacturers in the room means that you can all gain insights into areas outside your sphere of activity.
Precipice meetings are an opportunity to test a project and fix the potential problems a long time before manufacturing begins.
Rob Phillip is managing director of Accutronics, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, UK.