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MUNICH - BMW worked much closer with suppliers on the new 3 series than on any previous model, said project manager Wolfgang Ziebart.
Forty months before the launch and 18 months before the styling freeze, BMW held design competitions among suppliers for the 20 most important modules.
For each module, three to seven suppliers were given three months to come up with ideas.
'We gave them a rough description of what we wanted, and gave them the freedom to bring their own solutions to fulfill the requirement,' said Ziebart.
Then Ziebart, BMW purchasing director Wilhelm Becker and the relevant BMW department head made the selection.
The total number of suppliers was cut from about 300 on the old 3 series to 150 on the new model. Almost a third were new to the 3 series, but all had worked for BMW.
Internal BMW operations competed with outside suppliers. Seating was handed over to an external supplier for the first time.
Designers from supplier companies sat side-by-side with BMW's development teams. That not only allowed the teams to make faster decisions. It also permitted flexibility not possible under the old organization, said Ziebart.
For example, major changes to the engine bay at a very late stage were communicated directly to suppliers much faster than would have been possible under the old system.