Automakers and Tier 1 suppliers need to do a better job of integrating lower tier companies if they want to make product development more efficient, according to a survey by the Fraunhofer Institute and MVI consulting group.

Survey respondents said lower tier companies are not effectively included in current systems.

The Fraunhofer Institute and MVI managers surveyed 100 suppliers and conducted 40 in-depth interviews in Germany.

Thirty five percent of the interviews were with second and third tier suppliers; 18% with first tiers and 11% with OEMs. Most of the rest were with independent development specialists.

"The optimal management of all the participating parties in the complex design chain is one of the biggest demands facing companies in the industry today," said Reinhard Wagner, director at MVI group's PROMIND research team.

But the study's authors said that "project management is a key discipline that is not done with the necessary professionalism."

Project partners cited cost pressures as a major issue in new product development. But over 90% of respondents thought that the growing complexity of new models was also a problem.

Responsibility for better management of the development process lies with the OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, say the Fraunhofer/MVI team.

Most respondents believe a major shift is underway to transfer development responsibility to strategic suppliers. But Tier 1 strategic development partners complained that OEMs were not allowing them to do their job.

On the other hand, OEMs said it was difficult to find suppliers with the competence to develop major modules.

Only 19% of respondents said that 100% of their targets were met in new vehicle development projects. According to the survey results, 54% said that the achievement had been about 90%.

Twenty five percent said that the achievement was only 75% and 2% said achievement was only 50%.

Many suppliers complained about inadequate description of goals by the carmakers. One large Tier 1 supplier said professional management by the OEM is a central problem.

"OEM specifications are often full of holes or not even there, because the OEM doesn't know enough," said the survey participant.

Suppliers feel that they often have to make good when decisions are not taken early enough or changed at a late stage by the OEM.

Carmakers are the most satisfied with the process. But OEM respondents think that there is much potential for improvement, according to the research.