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Supply chains: A link to efficiency

04 March 2013

From the suppliers perspective understanding what an OEM requires is critical to establishing and then growing a business relationship.

From the suppliers perspective understanding what an OEM requires is critical to establishing and then growing a business relationship. If a company is to become a valued supplier its products or services must not only meet its customers' requirements but be able to go beyond them. The supplier must understand the business goals of its customers and where appropriate contribute to the overall strategy. The commitment required needs to be wholehearted but the long term business benefits can be extremely rewarding. The recent Manufacturing Technology Association's (MTA's) supply chain seminar held at the Messier-Bugatti-Dowty manufacturing plant at Gloucester sought to foster understanding by bringing suppliers together with a major aerospace manufacturer. All 30 places were taken up by MTA members and effective exchange of information took place, together with plenty of networking. In addition to presentations from Chris Wilson, managing director of Messier- Bugatti-Dowty, and Graham Dewhurst, the director general of the MTA, a procurement presentation was delivered by Pat Thomas, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty's UK procurement lead & site purchasing manager. The Messier-Bugatti-Dowty presentations explained the company's manufacturing supply chain, production and future requirements. Commenting on the event Chris Wilson said, "We were very pleased to welcome the MTA group to Messier-Bugatti- Dowty's facility here at Gloucester. This allowed an ideal opportunity for members of the wider supply chain to meet and network and understand the requirements we have as a relatively large manufacturer of complex high value structures and the importance of the support of a flexible pro-active supply chain." Specialist in aircraft landing systems, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty is an on-ground movement subsidiary of global aerospace company Safran. In the UK it employs over 2400 most of whom are employed in the design and manufacture of aircraft landing and braking systems. The company also supports more than 22,000 aircraft, making over 35,000 landings every day. The company's UK production strategy includes developing expertise in technology and practices for processing core parts to enable it to become a centre of excellence for the machining and finishing of high strength titanium. The company also aims to become a centre of excellence for out of production spares. After lunch, guests were invited to a guided tour of Messier-Bugatti-Dowty's extensive Gloucester site including the heat treatment, medium and large landing gear manufacturing areas. Visitors were able to see some of the recent investment in the plant including the WFL millturn lathes, the Boeing 787 medium landing gear test rig and the new Airbus axle installation equipment. By all accounts the supply chain seminar at Messier-Bugatti-Dowty was a success and built on a similar seminar at earth excavation equipment manufacturer JCB. However, attending seminars is not the only route to market. Potential suppliers should do their research and target OEMs in sectors where they will have a competitive advantage. Careful consideration of requests for proposals should be undertaken, worthwhile opportunities investigated and then the strongest bid submitted. Opportunities to showcase manufacturing capability should be pursued. Participation in exhibitions where innovations can be demonstrated can pay dividends. Similarly, inviting potential clients to an 'open house' at your premises may produce useful sales leads. Above all a potential supplier must prove that they can deliver and exceed a customer's expectations. A track record of investment in research and development leading to the implementation of innovation will be critical to the long term success of any partnership within the supply chain. The MTA strongly believes in helping to facilitate initial contact between OEMs and would-be suppliers. The feedback from its members has been very positive about this initiative and the Association plans to hold other supply chain events in the future, including events at major automotive manufacturers Jaguar Land Rover and Honda. The clear message is not to limit your company's horizons, investigate involvement in supply chains and look to investing for the long term.