Are you a micro-supplier?
March 6, 2011
The interconnections between companies and their external stakeholders become more intense by the day. The world’s leading provider of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry, ASML, is a company where several hundred external business partners are very closely integrated in the design, development, integration and servicing of the systems used to make CPU’s, GPU’s, memory modules and other advanced microchips. Up to 90% of the total system costs are supplied externally and business partners several tiers deep in the supply chain have access to relevant technology and product development information from ASML. It allows ASML fast access to new innovations created throughout its value chain, without the need to invest themselves in all these areas. ASML focuses on the high value-added integration role, including product competence and manufacturing cycle times while the business partners design and manufacture specialized subsystems.
But not only suppliers become an integral part of the companies’ eco-systems. With the internet entering homes and mobile phones, the companies’ communication, distribution and sales channels end literally before the eyes of the consumer. The opportunity to tap the knowledge and creativity that becomes available this way is capitalized on my an increasing number of companies.
Companies that integrate consumers into their value chain are among others LEGO, shirt retailer Threadless and Unilever’s Ponds Institute. At LEGO consumers are invited to submit their idea’s for new products and are even financially rewarded if their idea proves to be a commercial success. At Threadless consumers are invited to interact very closely with the design department to shape the new collection while the Ponds Institute seeks your views about your look and feel in order to personalize the skin care they provide to you. Being it capturing new design idea’s, sourcing subassemblies from external business partners or test prototypes with consumers, an increasing number of companies embrace an ‘open’ innovation and cooperation model, contrary to the closed, vertically integrated approach companies like IBM, Bell Labs and Xerox are famous for.
In the future, everybody will have the opportunity to become part of a companies value chain. And not just because the company wants to have a share of your wallet, but because you as a consumer can have a tangible effect on the companies long term success. We can all become micro-suppliers.