inte—GREAT—ion or inte—GRATE—ion?
Which way do you look at the world of modules, components, systems, and eco-systems? Do you want open architectures and open standards, or do you favor tightly controlled interfaces? Which works better and gives you a seamless, extraordinary experience? Do you think integration is GREAT or does it GRATE you in some way? I’ll bet, like me, you think both ways at times. At the start of the Technology and Maintenance Council annual meeting earlier this week, I saw various ways that companies can get different systems to work together for the user benefit. Some concentrate on controlling the interfaces to multiple “partners” in an ecosystem (Apple/Google/Microsoft), while others work to take more design control over the entire system (GM/Toyota/Ford). An axle manufacturer can work with other companies that make wheel end components to make sure that they match the axle; engine manufacturers can optimize operation with their own transmission, or can partner closely to deeply integrate their systems for fuel economy. Makers of trailers and trailer parts are integrating aerodynamic parts into their offerings. Truck OE’s are integrating telematics devices and improving their service offerings. In each case, the companies are interested in maintaining you as a customer and want to put up barriers that make it hard for you to switch suppliers or ecosystems. Everyone does it. Trucking fleets that haul freight are no different. How many fleets started by hauling dry vans, then expanded to flat beds and refrigerated trailers? How many have taken on having an intermodal operation? How many have decided they will also do logistics? How else can you explain UPS buying Mail Boxes Etc. 14 years ago and turning it into The UPS Store, or FedEx buying Kinkos 11 years ago and calling it FedEx Office? This is just another example of integration of products and services to make yourself more important to the customer and to grow. Integration is the natural order as companies try to grow and access more customers or sell more to existing customers. Don’t let it GRATE you; it really is inte—GREAT—ion.