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Basque SMEs collaborate to get larger and more global customers

BY Fernando L. Mompó on 12 / 05 / 2017
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It would have been inexcusable not to mention Smart Factory Alliance in this blog, as this initiative comprises many of the logics for collaboration we have already wrote about.

Smart Factory Alliance is a partnership of several SMEs created in order to gain the kind of visibility that just bigger companies can achieve. The collaborative initiative has internationalization and global customers as one of its main goals. The partnership takes place in the growing market of the so called Industry 4.0, one of those emergent contexts of new technologies and disruption in which we think collaboration supposes a core element for its development. (We even dedicated our most recent Co-Session to it). 

Five companies in the IT sector from the Basque Country (Spain) have set up the Smart Factory alliance aiming to boost their internationalization and being able to obtain contracts with large companies. The alliance will allow partners to offer integral Industry 4.0 solutions to manufacturing companies.

Four types of collaboration

Each of the five company is specialist in several areas, so the alliance adds on the competence and solutions of each of them, promoting a more integrated, specialized and competitive offer. According to Tomás Iriondo, CEO of Gaia, an industry cluster promoting the initiative, “by working together, these companies can now address more distant, larger and more complex clients thanks to a collective solutions map and a portfolio that becomes one of the widest for Industry 4.0 demands”.

To strengthen the partnership, Smart Factory Alliance has established four types of collaboration. Shared knowledge is considered the most important one. And the most critical, as this sharing will only be possible if first a climate of trust among partners is created. Another two kinds of collaboration will involve common communication strategies to reinforce visibility, and detection of customers and projects. Finally, setting up the Alliance comprised also the technical integration of products and software developed separately by each of the companies partnering.

Not an isolated case

The Basque Country has an historic background of successful cooperative industrial companies. Maybe this is the reason why this kind of collaborative initiatives seem to specially thrive in the region.

For instance, three years ago ten Basque companies in the designer furniture and equipment sector joined forces to grow in the retail market. This is a subsector in the world of specialized furniture and equipment for all types of shops in which customers include from a single store to chains, franchises and brands, and large commercial areas or the design of showroom. It’s a huge market but competing for global customers requires a wide range of services.

Creating a common brand, Basque Retail, they can now meet this challenge because each of the firms has a specialized portfolio (furniture, security lights, wood cladding, design lamps …). The alliance makes possible for them to offer complete projects, that is to say, to ‘dress’ from top to bottom a single commercial site or hundreds of stores from the same chain or franchise.

Each one of the companies partnering at Basque Retail keep its own activity coexisting with the one generated by the common brand. The alliance is been possible despite being very different businesses. Some of them are small companies and never worked internationally, some others have been exporting for years. Turnover, sales and products are quite different, but their goal is the same one: to be able to offer a comprehensive solution to both a customer with a single store and one that has a thousand.

Collaboration leading to more collaboration

Internationalization has been also a main driver. Just recently, Basque Retail and its solutions were presented in Düsseldorf during the main global trade show for this sector. For most of partners in Basque Retail, with their sales limited to Spanish market until recently, been able to have a stand in Düsseldorf would have been unthinkable just few years ago.

Currently, close collaboration between companies is working so positively and leading to so many new ideas that they are even considering to create a new collaborative sub-brand focused on “sensorial marketing”, an increasing demand from brick and mortar commercial sites competing with online e-commerce.

Automotive Intelligence Center (AIC) and Windbox are another couple of similar alliances of Basque companies worth to pay attention to.  AIC was created in 2009 with the financial support of local government and the implication of the Automotive Cluster of Basque Country, and it includes car components manufacturers as partners. More recently, a similar partnership called Windbox has been created to include eight companies making components for the offshore wind farm market.

Smart Factory Alliance

Basque Retail

AIC-Automotive Intelligence Center

Eight Basque companies forge an alliance to lead the offshore wind farm market

 

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