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Alliance Brings E-Business Technologies to Wisconsin Manufacturers

MADISON, Wis –Small and mid-sized business in the state will soon be able to benefit from a new alliance announced today between Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Consortium for Global e-Commerce (UW CGEC) which will bring e-business technologies to local manufacturers.

Helping Wisconsin manufacturers apply e-business technologies to supply chain collaboration among manufacturers and suppliers is the purpose of the new partnership between the two industry leaders.

The strategic alliance was formed with the joint purpose of assisting Wisconsin’s small and mid-sized manufacturers compete in the global marketplace while keeping Wisconsin’s firms competitive locally and globally.

The alliance stems from a 2002 workgroup, sponsored by UW CGEC, that examined collaborative product development explained Dr. Raj Veeramani, UW Professor of Engineering and Business and Director of UW CGEC. The workgroup found that there were significant benefits that could be gained through OEM/supplier collaboration.

The group, which included representatives from Harley-Davidson, Case New Holland, Rockwell Automation, Brady Corporation and Endries International, concluded that there was a need to develop cost-effective and validated e-business models for how OEM’s and suppliers, particularly small and mid-sized suppliers, could collaborate on product development said Veeramani.
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The alliance will focus on developing and disseminating proven and cost-effective approaches for e-business-enabled OEM supplier collaboration he added.

Often, original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the global market said Ron Eigenschink, supplier training manager for WMEP.

“Small manufacturers cannot compete on price alone,” noted Eigenschink. Therefore they must value add to their products in order to keep them competitive. One strategy has been to deliver additional value to the OEM’s and keeping their supply base in the state. Some examples may be product development or rapid order fulfillment.

“It is a good partnership,” said Eigenschink. “We help them and they help us.” Others agreed.

Michael Klonsinski, executive director of WMEP explained. “The reality of today’s world is that suppliers need to provide more than parts. They need to provide value added services such as collaborative product design and rapid-order fulfillment that will distinguish them from low-wage competition,” he said.

UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley noted that the partnership is one of the many ways the university follows through on its mission to encourage economic development in the state.

“This type of partnership is just one of the many ways UW-Madison benefits the state economy,” said Wiley

The goal is to help 30 Wisconsin manufacturers per year in the learning and application of e-business in a supplier-OEM linkage context.

A pilot project with John Deere and Oshkosh Trucking have just been launched and industry supporters are hopeful that lessons learned from this pilot project will be disseminated to small and mid-size manufacturing companies through educational and training activities said Veeramani.

“When Wisconsin manufacturers engage in business-to-business collaboration to create responsive supply chains, it benefits not only individual companies but the economic development of Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry cluster as whole,” added Veeramani.

UW CGEC typically offers assistance to large-scale business and counts among its clients list American Family Insurance, CUNA Mutual Group, Lands End, Harley Davidson and Rockwell Automation.While WMEP is more likely to help manufacturers whose employees’ number under 500 people.

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Judy Frankel is freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin and a regular contributor to Wisconsin Technology Network.

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