When Partners Collaborate, Customers Win

Jan. 7, 2011
Today's manufacturers are challenged like never before with weakened economic conditions, a downsized workforce, heightened customer demands and increasingly strict regulations.
Faced with those challenges, they are looking for one supplier of manufacturing solutions—or rather, one source.The concept of a one-stop source made up of multiple best-in-class collaborators who partner on bringing complete solutions to market is a reality that is gaining traction with suppliers and their customers. Demand is growing for a single resource to help manufacturers limit their liability, gain efficiency with one control point and reduce subcontractor costs. Companies today, regardless of size, are simply unable to maintain the infrastructure and overhead required to offer a complete, end-to-end solution. Fixed costs would be too burdensome for the bottom lines of even the largest companies. Companies cannot keep up with the research and development, sales and marketing, supply chain and other related costs required to bring a dynamic solution to market in an ever-changing environment.Fortunately, they don't have to.  Instead, they partner. Partner networks, such as the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork, Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) and others, combine best-in-breed companies, offering products, technologies, application experts and distribution partners that give their customers access to a local, regional and even a worldwide network of specialists.For manufacturing customers who seek the resources and expertise of a network, the competitive differentiator is that these partners, sometimes competitors, set aside their differences and come together, guided by the same principles of trust, loyalty and collaboration when they act together to benefit their mutual customers.Typical Control Systems Integrator Association members understand that when we successfully collaborate, we collectively devise the best long-term solution for customers, and that they benefit from:• More cost-effective solutions• Resources that are closely matched to the industry or application need• More efficient implementations, leading to faster use of automation investments• Consistency and coordination through project management • Improved flexibility and responsiveness to help drive business results.When we have found in our partners a like-minded culture, where finger-pointing doesn't exist and collaboration is the norm, then what's good for the customer is good for the network. Members of the network may have been previously overlooked on their own, or dwarfed by the powers of large competitors; but as a network, their collective power rivals that of the conglomerates they now compete against. The network's ability to stay nimble, flexible and cost-effective is a significant advantage to its customer.We realized long ago that you can't be all things to all customers; so most of us concentrate on our core competencies and apply that expertise to the niches that we serve best. For us, that expertise is process controls—a significant piece of a manufacturing solution, but certainly not the whole. Comparatively, in our multi-company network, that expertise expands exponentially by bringing aboard world-class components that make up our solutions. Together, we do for the customer what none of us could do alone—and we can do it more cost effectively than our large competitors.Integrators can become a single source for our customers, even though solutions are made up of multiple providers. Our clients think of us as a general contractor. We source the partners, define the best available products that make up the solution, and manage the subcontractors. We provide the project management expertise and one-source oversight.Ultimately, partner networks like ours deliver high-value and customer-focused solutions not available from any single automation supplier—and that's a win for the customer.Tom Walther, [email protected], is president of ESE Inc., a CSIA Certified company based in Marshfield, Wis. 

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