A non-disclosure agreement opens the door to faster communication between OEM and supplier. Dennis Jensen examines why this is now so important in the transport industry
Increasing regulatory demands to reduce emissions, along with market pressures and the rapid pace of technological advancement, have long forced mobility OEMs to bring new solutions to the marketplace. Additionally, many countries around the world are now considering or implementing plans to ban the sale of new gasoline light-duty vehicles as early as 2030.
As a result, every sector of the mobility industry is under pressure to develop innovative solutions more rapidly than ever.
While OEMs have highly capable engineering and design teams, it is virtually impossible for any single organisation to have the capacity to solve every problem that might arise when designing and producing a new solution. If an OEM is struggling to solve a problem in-house, the best solution is often to partner with another organisation that has the needed expertise. Such knowledge partners can bring critical capability to the table and work as an extension of the OEM’s team.
Sharing information is critical to the success of the project. A knowledge partner needs more than just the specifications for the proposed solution – it needs access to the relevant data the OEM has already accrued.
But this data needs to be protected. When OEMs collaborate with a knowledge partner, it is beneficial to immediately draw up a mutual non-disclosure agreement (NDA) so that critical confidential information can be shared. This provides a good foundation for developing a solution that meets the project’s required specifications while minimising roadblocks that could hamper collaboration.
As a case in point, one OEM needed to find a way to consolidate fluid management for a thermal-management system into a single solution with separate hot and cold manifolds, each requiring multiple flow paths. The OEM contracted a knowledge partner under a mutual NDA to help design this critical solution. The initial design fulfilled the project requirements and sparked discussions about what might be possible with further refinements.
During these discussions, it was revealed that reducing the size, weight and cost of the solution would be desirable.
These are common goals in today’s mobility market, and it can be challenging to develop solutions that maintain the necessary performance characteristics while meeting these demands. This often requires some careful compromise on specifications, and a knowledge partner often knows where this is best achieved – for instance, sacrificing a little bit of size or adding a little more power may yield significantly greater efficiency. So, as discussions regarding trade-offs on the thermal-management system progressed, a new set of specifications was adopted. This allowed for an innovative design that actually performed better while being smaller, lighter and less expensive than previous versions.
It is common for specifications to change as a project unfolds, and a solution typically goes through multiple iterations before arriving at a final design. But without good communication, that process can yield lacklustre results. The collaboration afforded by a mutual NDA ensures an OEM can get the maximum benefit from its knowledge partner’s expertise, making it possible to break through barriers and keep up with the demand for innovation.