Customer: "I have an application, where I think we need to use one of your products."
Supplier: "So what are the specifications of the application you're working on?"
Customer: "I need one of your products to perform a function under these parameters (specifications given) within the following time frame."
Supplier: (After a cursory analysis of the problem statement) "A modification to one of our existing products will meet your requirements."
Customer: "Great! Can you ship the product to me tomorrow?"
Supplier: Silence from the supplier, who knows that the next answer will either gain or lose a customer.
Has our world changed so radically with the development of technology that every expectation can be satisfied within 24 hours? Instant streaming news, up-to-the-minute financial information, more data then we can humanly process right at our finger tips would all suggest immediate answers are possible. Media has programmed us to think that within a thirty-minute time frame all problems, situations, negotiations, and personnel problems can be resolved.
So why can't engineering activities, product changes, and manufacturing be accomplished overnight? The answer is: Because they take time to get it right.
We have moved from manufacturing craftsmen plying their expertise to satisfy any design request, to commodity cookie-cutter assembly lines controlled by the ever-present big brother business system. If it can be "requested" with a few keystrokes in an email, people think it can be produced with only a few more keystrokes of a computer. Emails are tantamount to directives, which must be carried out immediately.
Businesses realign processes, streamline assembly techniques, and develop systems to go from digital "drawing boards" to direct machining centers. We've counted the number of steps by employees, cellurized manufactured conditions, and equipped our manufacturing floors with state-of-the-art computer capabilities, all in an effort to reduce manufacturing time to meet customer expectations that they have the product now.
Fortunately, most businesses are able to adapt by incorporating new technologies. Some allow customers to "track" their orders from order entry through the assembly process to final delivery notification. Others include engineering interface capabilities that allow joint design development by customer and supplier collaborating through video and web meeting capabilities.
Our business culture has been the fortunate recipient of some of the best engineering minds developing new processes and new systems that integrate the most up-to-date hardware and software in the ever-expanding digital fields.
But how are we to meet the ever-shrinking delivery times and still balance the balance sheet? Direct costs, inventory levels, cost of sales, and profits are still the matrix on which we are internally measured. But customer satisfaction, on-time deliveries, and product reliability is what keeps our customer base and our business running.
The engineered-product-manufacturing world has collided with the commodity-supplied world and has now been painted with the same delivery-expectations brush. Customer
M.E., Industrial Sales/Marketing Manager, Enidine Inc.
expectations have driven manufacturing capabilities to the current level of supply, which was not believed to be possible in the past but is considered commonplace today.
The old engineering adage still rings true today: You can have it right, or you can have it now. Choose one.
†Reach MacKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.