How Collaboration Among Manufacturers can Solve Common Problems

While manufacturers are highly competitive and protective of their processes and patents, they're also engaging in more collaboration to solve industry problems and advance new technologies.

istock-598086884-compressorThis is evidenced by the recent news that five leading manufacturers in Massachusetts are joining forces to redefine chemical management.

A workgroup comprised of Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Waters Corporation, Essilor USA, Analog Devices, and Entegris have met to share best practices and to drive proactive chemical management that goes beyond simply meeting compliance. Kevin Johnson, director of environment, health and safety at Siemens, said the workgroup has been helpful in improving chemicals of concern to management by using the best practices of their peers. “In addition, we were able to help advance the overall efforts of proactive chemicals management by sharing the things we do well,” said Johnson.

Collaboration isn’t uncommon in many industries. Tech companies are now joining forces to research and present best practices for artificial intelligence. Partnership on AI, a joint force comprised of Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Deep Mind is formulating best practices on AI technologies to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about it.

“Collaboration has become a necessity for incumbents battling to retain market share from digital disruptors.

While even competing manufacturers have long collaborated on initiatives through trade groups and organizations, they’re also working through models that more closely resemble partnerships. What’s new is that collaboration has become a “necessity” for incumbents battling to retain market share from digital disruptors, said Nicole Livesey, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons. She points to Fujitsu as an example of one manufacturer embracing collaboration through the Open Automotive Alliance. In another example, Audi, BMW and Daimler recently acquired Nokia’s mapping business HERE.

Yet, as collaboration influences the sector, manufacturers need to be prepared to address the issues that come with it. She said that good collaboration is built on strong relationships and trust, and that it can produce many benefits, including expanded networks, access to new talent pools, increased productivity and faster growth. Manufacturers also will need to think more about how these changes affect their business models and must make way for more multi-party behavioral contracts to cover new co-operative commercial relationships.

“A raft of issues such as ownership, management and licensing of intellectual property, as well as their exposure to product liability risk and competition concerns all come into play, with detrimental consequences if mishandled,” said Livesey.


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