May 16, 2020

How collaboration is changing the manufacturing sector

collaboration in the manufacturing industry
Pinsent Masons
Nicole Livesey
6 min
How collaboration is changing the manufacturing sector
Collaboration is changing the manufacturing sector and businesses need to be prepared to address the issues that accompany it

It has become increasingl...

Collaboration is changing the manufacturing sector and businesses need to be prepared to address the issues that accompany it

It has become increasingly recognised within the manufacturing sector that there has been a shift towards collaborative partnerships in order to enable organisations to remain at the forefront of their industry.

New digital technologies, increasing connectivity, the drive for innovation, a greater focus on services and changes in customer demands are all factors which are behind a push towards more collaborative models.

As a result the traditional linear contracts individually linking participants in the supply chain are reducing, making way for more flexible multi-party behavioural contracts to account for new co-operative commercial relationships.

The shift towards collaboration in manufacturing is a major development for the sector, and one which requires organisations to place greater consideration on how the changes affect their business. A raft of issues such as ownership, management and licensing of intellectual property (IP), as well as their exposure to product liability risk and competition concerns all come into play, with detrimental consequences if mishandled.

Ultimately, good collaboration is built on strong relationships and trust. Businesses can benefit in many ways from collaborating with others, from expanding networks and insights, to accessing new talent pools, techniques, processes and funding, potentially increased productivity, faster growth and increased global reach.

As a concept collaboration is not new, and there are countless successful joint R&D projects involving universities and companies over the years. What has changed is that collaboration has become a necessity for incumbents battling to retain market share in the face of competition from digital disruptors.

In financial services, for example, we have seen the emergence of digital-only challenger banks and other 'fintechs' looking for a share of markets such as payments and peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. Banks have taken steps to develop their customer-facing technology and services in response, including through collaboration, for example with Apple on mobile payments.

Digital technology has helped to blur previously well-defined lines between different markets and unlikely partnerships have emerged between companies which would never previously have worked together. Social networking giant Facebook revealed in December that it would work with Uber to facilitate the booking of Uber taxi rides through its Messenger service.

New commercial tie-ups have also been forged in the manufacturing industry. IT supplier Fujitsu is one of the companies to embrace collaboration in manufacturing. Fujitsu is a member of The Open Automotive Alliance, a group made up of car manufacturers and technology companies that "share a vision for making technology in the car safer, more seamless and more intuitive for everyone".

In Sweden Fujitsu has been working with Volvo where the companies have been trialling technology that can track the weather and report it to Volvo drivers. In Japan, Fujitsu TEN, a subsidiary that manufactures car audio, video, control and navigation systems, is working with Toyota on developing information services for connected cars and also helping Toyota to develop cyber security measures for their vehicles.

Working also with Microsoft and Intel, Fujitsu can control the management of connected car information but ensure that intelligence can pass to and from connected cars and their systems, regardless of the car's make or model, to eliminate information silos and instead provide integrated transport solutions that support better safety, transport routing and real time data use and decision making.

In a further example of collaboration, Audi, BMW and Daimler acquired Nokia’s mapping and location business HERE and have teamed up to support the platform to develop new products for the connected and autonomous car market. Their collective vision for the future includes the development of intelligent real-time maps, location-based services and highly-automated driving, all aimed at creating a more personalised driving experience. It reflects the fact that everyday items – in this case cars – are being transformed into devices capable of transmitting and receiving data in the expanding internet of things network.

The new era of collaboration is increasingly being reflected in business contracts. Companies that would previously just send out standard form drafts and refuse to contract on any other basis are now being more flexible and are much more prepared to negotiate.

This approach requires businesses to think carefully about their IP.

IP rights exist to encourage innovation, but for collaboration to be successful there is a demand for openness. There is a balancing act and a question over how much information should be shared. This is a difficult balance to strike and can often lead to parties not committing fully to the venture and holding certain information back.

There are examples of parties being willing to commit to projects without any security over any IP produced. Defence contracts are one example. In this instance, it is accepted practice that the contractor will not have any exclusivity over any IP as it will be shared across the government. In addition to this, if the contractor is removed, any replacement party will also be entitled to exploit the IP for the performance of the contract. Due to the high value of the contracts firms are still willing to participate.

The Catapult network, which the UK government has developed to support research, development and innovation, enables organisations from the manufacturing sector to collaborate with the academic community sometimes under the express understanding that any IP created will be freely available and not subject to the usual protections. Despite this, the initiative has been hugely successful and many have demonstrated a willingness to share IP.

Collaborative frameworks have also been developed to help companies work together. The BS11000 collaborative business relationships tool became an international standard in early 2016. It provides an eight stage framework aimed at supporting business to collaborate effectively to create value and to deliver mutual benefits.

Similarly The Lambert toolkit exists to assist R&D between business and universities whether on a one to one or multi party basis. There are a number of template agreements to use in different situations, as well as a decision guide and further guidance and can help companies navigate complex IP issues that come with collaborating and sharing knowledge. The original Lambert agreements were revised in 2014.

Working with new partners across industries raises new issues in supply chains. Sharing knowledge with unfamiliar partners and protecting their IP rights without stifling progress is just one example. However, trust and relationships are also critical.

The UK government-commissioned Dowling report published last summer, which focused on business and university research collaboration, provides a useful ranking of the most important factors and barriers to successful collaboration. "Strong and trusting personal relationships" was the number one "key success factor for a successful collaboration" identified by stakeholders.

A shift to a more open approach and a focus on what can be gained rather than what can be lost from the relationship will help companies make a success out of collaborative initiatives. As collaboration becomes more widespread a firm's reputation as a trustworthy collaborator will become so commercially important that the risks of one party breaching the trust will be significantly mitigated. We can expect contract models to evolve to reflect that development.

By Nicole Livesey is a Partner at Pinsent Masons


Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG

Share article

May 12, 2021

Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing

2 min
Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing

Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing


What is Ultium Cells LLC?

Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”

Who is Li-Cycle?

Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.

As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”

Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?

By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.

“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).

"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.

"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.

Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.

"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.

Image source: 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

Share article