E-collaboration ruined by poor communication skills

12 December 2002
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12 December 2002 | David Arminas

Purchasers must build inter-departmental teams capable of using e-collaboration applications if companies are to make the best use of their expensive supply chain software.

Andy Airnes, head of major equipment procurement at BAE Systems, told the Eyeforaerospace conference in Toulouse that poor communication and inter-departmental practices often ruin online collaboration.

“It is okay to have a business process in place,” he said, “but we need people skilled in its use and capable of having the best communication with all departments who use it.”

A major stumbling block for e-collaboration, where a prime contractor and its first-tier suppliers work online to develop new products and source equipment, is poor communication between purchasers, engineering departments and suppliers.

Airnes urged purchasers to build a team of people from different departments, as BAE has done, to communicate with one voice to the supplier.

“The original equipment manufacturer and their suppliers must feel they are on the same team with the same objective before they can work together to get rid of non-value added waste in their operations. That is when you get real collaboration.”

Airnes, an electrical-electronics engineer by training, acknowledged purchasers and engineers have traditionally had problems working together.

Andy Levett, e-supply chain manager at Goodrich, agreed that getting engineers to buy into e-collaboration can be tough.

“On our engineering side in Goodrich, this is still an issue,” he said. “Suppliers often want to know quickly that something, such as a radius, can be changed. But engineers want to download drawings, take them away and have a think about it.”

Mike Clayton, new product development manager at forging company Doncaster, whose clients include Rolls-Royce, said: “The roadblocks are getting relevant data from an engineering department, where sometimes there is an element of protection about the company’s information.”


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