Building Unexpected Ecosystem Partnerships to Increase Global Competitiveness

American manufacturing is on the rise and it appears to be destined to claim the number one spot in the world in the next several years, but it will only happen if United States (US) manufacturers remain focused on improving their overall competitiveness. As the latest Deloitte manufacturing study identified, there are five key elements that companies should target if they want to ensure their competitiveness in today’s rapidly evolving manufacturing environment.1

In our previous article, we examined the second element—embracing advanced technologies. In this article, we will examine the third of Deloitte’s five key elements: “leveraging the strengths of ecosystem partnerships beyond traditional boundaries”.

Blurring the Industry Lines

Not that long ago, a manufacturer’s collaborative ecosystem was dutifully held within clean industry lines. There was no need to stray from those boundaries in order to remain a competitive company. Now with digital technology—including the Internet of Things and Big Data—fully in the forefront for all industries, those traditional lines have been blurred. Manufacturers are now best positioned to thrive in the global competitive marketplace by expanding their ecosystems to include knowledge and technology collaborations that reach well across industry lines. Collaborations that, not that long ago, they would never have considered.

Accenture describes today’s ecosystem as “[a] company’s competitiveness network: an increasingly global, foresight-driven, multi-industry nexus of partners (suppliers, institutions, customers) and stakeholders through which business problems are solved and outcomes are shaped.”2

Laying the Foundation for a Successful Ecosystem

As traditional value chains become carefully structured value webs—networks that reach out in many different directions—companies are finding themselves in unique territories. To start building a successful ecosystem, they must be comfortable enough to stray from the beaten path and explore in unexpected areas. Becoming more open and flexible in their collaborations and innovation will give them the agility and adaptability they need to build future growth and competitiveness.

There are three areas in which companies should focus when first laying the groundwork for their ecosystems:

  • Strategy: The change from focusing on products and services alone, to focusing on customer needs that you may be able to address with the right collaboration.
  • People: Tapping into every level of your workforce to discover the important connections each of them may have that could strengthen your ecosystem.
  • Technology: Implementing collaborative technologies that help your employees connect—with customers, with other businesses, as well as with each other.

Companies that are building successful value webs are addressing customer demands by sharing services and resources with such new resources as their own competitors, or crowdsourcing to bring in new ideas, insights and talent from within their own workforce as well as from consumers themselves. Relationships are being established with government entities, universities, peer-to-peer networks, and with businesses that would not typically be a partner within the old school value chains.

How Other Companies are Building Their Ecosystems

Companies both large and small, already established and newly formed, are finding great success in building their ecosystems around unexpected collaborations. Below is an excerpt written for the United Nations Global Compact that details how three other manufacturers are straying from the traditional straight and narrow to gain a competitive advantage.3

LEVI’S (United States; multinational company)
Levi’s…spent 9 years perfecting techniques radically reducing the water used to make a pair of jeans or denim jacket. In early 2016, it invited 20 of its competitors to its Eureka Innovation Lab to learn from and co-evolve the approach. With the potential for 50 billion liters of water in savings across the industry, Levi’s made the decision to open source its production techniques, acknowledging the importance of industry-wide action.

NIKE (United States; multinational company)
Over the past decade, Nike has addressed problems in the sports and apparel industry at a broader systems level. One recent initiative is a partnership with MIT, where Nike has opened a portal within MIT’s Climate CoLab, a crowdsourcing platform where citizens work with experts and each other to create, analyse, and select detailed proposals for what to do about climate change. This work builds on Nike’s other attempts to drive system change—including its involvement in the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) initiative, its partnership with NASA and USAID on the Launch platform to identify game-changing innovations, and its Making App, which opens up to designers Nike’s data on the climate credentials of individual materials and fabrics.

HEALX (United Kingdom; small/medium enterprise)
By leveraging big data technology and machine-learning to match patients’ biological information with data across multiple pharma companies’ clinical trial databases, Healx is helping patients suffering from rare diseases to find the best, personalised treatment options, while helping pharma companies to save from incurring huge reimbursement costs related to treatment failure.

Tap Into Our Network of Experts To Help You

With our partnerships and network of experts, PolymerOhio Manufacturing Solutions can help you get started on or further establish your company’s collaborative ecosystem. Get in touch with us today and let’s work together to take American manufacturing to the number one position in the world.


2 Robinson, Matthew, and Peter Lacy. “Ecosystem Collaboration—Infographic.” The Digital Ecosystem and Collaboration: New Engines for Growth and Competitiveness in the Digital Age. Accenture, 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. [ ].

3 Volans. “Collaborative Ecosystem: How to Achieve System Impact and Change.” Project Breakthrough. United Nations Global Compact, N.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. [ ]

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Jill Jones

Marketing Communications Manager at PolymerOhio Inc.

Jill is a formally trained graphic and web designer and writer who has been employed as such for more than 18 years. Her experience includes long-term employment with a Columbus-based technology consulting firm that worked closely for years with the State and Federal government, and the Human Resources & Engagement Department of Honda North America. She manages both of PolymerOhio's websites, their social media, blog writing and editing of guest posts, and marketing materials.
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