Collaborating for Product Development

(Sidebar to "Collaboration Proliferates as Companies Go Global" from the December issue of Automation World)

Outsourcing goes beyond manufacturing these days. Many original equipment manufacturers—particularly in high technology and aerospace—turn to outside partners for product development and design. For partnerships that involve design for manufacturing, close collaboration is essential.

“Most of our customers view us as part of their internal team,” says Saleem Muneer, chief executive officer of Catalyx Engineering, an Anaheim, Calif., company that provides precision machining and prototype machining for companies such as Boeing, Eaton Corp. and BF Goodrich Aero. “We see collaboration as a competitive factor. If we’re not collaborating with our customers, we’re going to get left behind.”

  Catalyx began collaborating using whatever tools were quickly available. “We used to do collaboration using WebEx,
e-mails and phones,” says Muneer. “The drawback was getting everyone on the same page. Most of the time, our project engineers were spending time identifying where everyone was.”

The common tools of collaboration also pose another serious drawback—the lack of security. Since Catalyx works with clients in government and the military, the ability to protect information is critical. “We have to be able to share data, but security is a big concern,” says Muneer. “A lot of our customers are in aerospace, so we have to follow their security criteria.”

In order to better facilitate collaboration and offer it in a secure environment, Catalyx turned to a software-as-a-service vendor, Clarizen Inc., of San Mateo, Calif. Using Clarizen, Catalyx engineers can meet with customers and suppliers on a secure third-party Web site. One of the advantages of using the Clarizen tool is that suppliers and clients don’t have to subscribe in order to meet on the site. “One of the biggest challenges we were able to overcome with Clarizen is we didn’t have to ask our customers and suppliers to buy or install anything,” says Muneer.

here is a learning curve involved in bringing partners onto the Clarizen site, but Muneer notes they came around very quickly when they realized it’s secure and reduces time in meetings and phone calls.

To see the main story this sidebar was taken from - "Collaboration Proliferates as Companies Go Global" - please visit http://www.automationworld.com/view-3766

More in Control