Unless you're an auto buff, you probably don't think much about the individual components that go into a car's design. You just buy the car from a dealer and enjoy it. But cars are extremely complex products that integrate parts and designs from an extended supply chain. For years, the auto industry has been looking to technology to speed the design process and improve the way its suppliers work together. That's now an easier proposition thanks to collaborative design capabilities.
In this week's cover story (p. 38), senior writer Steve Konicki reveals the payoff for companies such as DaimlerChrysler, which has significantly cut the time it takes to communicate design changes to suppliers and to get a product to market. Such techniques were used to develop the 2002 Jeep Liberty, which was designed by DaimlerChrysler and its network of dozens of suppliers. For its part in the Liberty design, supplier Johnson Controls collaborated with 35 major suppliers and a slew of smaller ones. DaimlerChrysler is using collaborative design tools for all its 2004 model-year vehicles.
Of course, collaborative design isn't just for the auto industry. Benefits are being realized by medical-equipment, high-tech, electronics, and consumer packaged-goods businesses. So far, users of collaborative technologies are very bullish. It's "a product innovation revolution," says John Waraniak of Johnson Controls. "Collaboration is the No. 1 river of business for us in the future," says George Ashley of Ingersoll-Rand.
That bullish attitude is leading to market growth. Analysts estimate the market could climb to $22 billion this year. The demand has also caught the eye of professional-services firms such as EDS and Andersen, which have created new divisions, partnerships, and services for the growing market.
In the coming months, we'll continue to cover the innovative ways companies are connecting to partners, suppliers, and customers. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week's cover story. For additional information, see "25 Innovators In Collaboration" and "Collaboration's Still Kicking".
Stephanie StahlEditor [email protected]