In the new automotive world margins are tight. Customers expect to get the car they want when they want it with the correct specs and at a competitive price. As ever these pressures are being passed right down the supply chain and companies are consistently seeking ways to drive down costs, increase efficiency and add value to their product.

The auto industry has always been at the forefront of new supply techniques such as just-in-time delivery and quality-improvement programmes but with the ever increasing pressure goes a constant battle to strip costs and add value in new and innovative ways.

Some companies are seeking to shorten the order-fulfillment gap between component suppliers and end customers, some are outsourcing production or leaving inventory management to their suppliers and others are trying to exploit the Internet - all this in an attempt to deliver their product faster and quicker than their competitors.

Much of this is being driven by the top tier manufacturers as they seek to collaborate with subassembly houses and systems integrators and pass greater design responsibility and modulation processes down the chain. The recent online collaboration between the major manufacturers led by Ford and General Motors has massive implications for the industry as a whole as they put the blocks in place towards moving their supply chains completely online.

The real questions for all the participants in this market are ' Where should I position myself to stay competitive and who should I partner with to make sure I don't get left out in the cold?'. Each supply and manufacture company must completely rethink and realign its supply strategy and they must do it soon before the pace of change means it is far too late.

You can find out more about how to engineer the automotive value chain around lean thinking, strategic partnerships and cutting edge technology at IQPC's Automotive Supply Chain conference. Held at Cumberland Hotel, London on the 26th & 27th June 2000 It will address the critical steps to achieving a collaborative supply culture, better anticipating marketplace demands and maximising profitability, return on investment and customer value. For more information about the conference please contact Sarah Blackburn on +44 (0)20 7430 7363 or email sarah.blackburn@iqpc.co.uk