Suppliers “as critical” as customers to major rail manufacturers

Posted on 7 Nov 2014 by Callum Bentley

Members of the UK’s leading rail manufacturers and operators outlined opportunities for the industry’s supply chain SMEs at an event in Derby this week, and pledged their commitment to improved collaboration and communication.

In his welcome speech at the Rail Supply Chain Event, jointly hosted by Enscite and the East Midlands Chamber, Colin S Walton, DDRF chairman, said that SMEs play a vital role in the region’s burgeoning rail sector.

“Derby has the largest cluster of rail companies in the world,” he said, “and now is an exciting time for the rail industry, with enormous opportunity from major projects including HS2, electrification and Rolling Stock new build.

“The rail industry is seeking better collaboration with agile, responsive SMEs.”

The event at The Silk Mill Derby attracted more than 100 delegates representing SMEs from across the East Midlands, who were given the rare opportunity to speak directly with many of the rail industry’s major players by taking part in an interactive panel discussion.

On the panel were senior representatives from Bombardier Transport, Network Rail, East Midlands Trains, Future Railway, Unipart Rail, DDRF, and BIS.

Chairing the panel debate, Colin Flack, CEO of the Rail Alliance, said: “The UK’s rail sector is diverse and fragmented, and the key to sustained success is getting its major players to communicate with the supply chain. The rail industry is driven by four vital elements,” he added, “reducing cost,

reducing carbon, increasing capacity, and increasing customer experience. The sector needs to break down barriers on both sides of the supply chain, and encourage SMEs and OEMs to better communicate.”

There was a general recognition that the size of OEMs can be a problem for SMEs looking to access the right channels for their product or service on the supply chain, but panel members outlined a number of initiatives and system enhancements specifically for SMEs, such as online portals, supply chain platforms, and national events.

Enscite has recently led the launch of the East Midlands’ first Collaborative Purchasing Group (CPG) which has Toyota, Bombardier Transport and East Midlands Trains (EMT) among its founding members. CPG is focussed on Indirect Purchasing Services to improve supply chain agility and increase local sourcing.