Mar 28, 2008

Eaton looks for suppliers but is raising the bar

Tips from Malcolm Herrington of Eaton Aerospace in the UK on becoming a supplier are valuable to any manufacturer looking for business in a high-value supply chain. And it’s not about cost

Companies like Eaton are examining their supplier base, and Herrington says, jettisoning those that aren’t keeping up with technology and manufacturing savvy. Companies that aren’t looking over their shoulders at what can be done in developing countries are going to be losers.

'We've gone beyond just wanting good quality and on-time deliveries, they are givens,' Herrington said in a press release from the Subcon Exhibition, which will be held April 22-24 in Birmingham, UK. “Skill and equipment levels are taken for granted; we expect suppliers to have modern machines,” he continued.

The deeper questions Eaton is asking potential suppliers are about planning methods, warranty returns, internal yield and scrap rate. Herrington expects suppliers to be practicing the whole philosophy of lean manufacturing. Like serious attention to quality methods ten or so years ago, a competitive differentiator is becoming a basic requirement.

Herrington also looks for those that can do things like in-house heat treating, welding, and plating, because, as he said, “those are where things can go badly wrong, and when you sub them out they are out of your control.”

Programs like those of Airbus can have a life of 20 to 30 years, so making it as an Eaton supplier can ensure a secure future for companies committed to continous improvement.

These qualities have to be coming to the fore for all sorts of manufacturing supply chains, in the UK or elsewhere. It’s time for companies to redouble their lean improvements, and the opportunities are out there.

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