Some companies are beginning to integrate the manufacturing function with product planning and R&D during the earliest stages of new product development. Manufacturing has been influencing choices with strategic implications such as new technologies, product strategy, and product concepts; forging direct links with product planning to supplement those previously developed with R&D; and fully participating in decision making rather than merely supplying information. More important, manufacturing is often the catalyst for these developments. It determines which specific front-end activities to target such as feature-cost tradeoffs, competitive analyses and interviews of customers. With assistance from the other functions, it develops a plan for establishing credibility by defining mutual expectations, acquiring a market-oriented knowledge base, creating new liaison roles, and initiating special joint ad hoc projects. While these efforts are currently piecemeal in nature, they are leading to a new three-way partnership in the opening stages of product development.