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Suppliers as Engineering Partners

Help identify challenges and possible solutions for supply chain partners.

The right supplier can help you reduce costs and lead-time. This is demonstrated by ETM Manufacturing in Littleton, Massachusetts, which specializes in fabricating, machining and assembling metal brackets, cabinets and support pieces. The company also provides design, engineering and consulting services, aiming to reduce costs throughout the customer's supply chain. ETM engineers can help identify challenges and possible solutions for supply chain partners, especially when they are involved early in the product-development process.

Rob Olney, ETM's president, likes to talk about working with customers to improve designs and reduce costs. One company wanted to produce a new air purifier. A top industrial designer developed a great concept, but they ran into trouble building prototypes. The company called for help, and within a few weeks, ETM's engineers had designed and built the parts and had helped assemble them in the air purifier unit.

In another case, the customer needed to make 14 prototype frames quickly. The design had a new feature that proved to be a manufacturing challenge. A piece of tubing needed a slot cut down the middle. It sounds simple, but it had high costs and took some time to make. ETM had never used laser cutting for tubing, but decided to give it a try. After experimenting with fixturing and the laser, they produced a sample that perfectly fit the customer's cost, time and quality requirements.

There is a long list of instances where ETM helped customers reduce costs and lead-time. They used spot welding instead of MIG welding to save time producing one customer's assembly. They also found a way to produce a cabinet without any welding. For a third customer, they eliminated the need for expensive tooling to produce some large curved parts. By finding a way to stack panels more tightly for one more customer, shipping costs were cut in half.

Whether you are the supplier or the customer, a strong relationship, keen skill set and trustworthiness can add up to more manufacturable and profitable products. Suppliers may be able to do more than you think to make your company successful. Simply giving you a quote is not enough these days. The right questions, from both you and the supplier, can determine whether you have the right match.


The article you read was prepared for general information purposes by McMurry. These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.These articles may provide reference to Internet sites as a convenience to our readers. While PNC endeavors to provide resources that are reputable and safe, we cannot be held responsible for the information, products, or services obtained on such sites and will not be liable for any damages arising from your access to such sites. The content, accuracy, opinions expressed, and links provided by these resources are not investigated, verified, monitored or endorsed by PNC.