Customer Simulation

Due to the recent tech boom and rapid rise of dot com companies orders for all kinds of our electronic test and measurement instruments have gone through the roof. This past year we’ve hired in thousands of new production workers, including many technicians and engineers to meet this demand. Simultaneously, our overseas operations have also grown exponentially. While this has been great news for our stock shareholders and for our employees it hasn’t turned out to be very positive for our customers. Orders dramatically increased, and so did the time it took for a customer to receive their shipments. It has become entirely out of control. Instead of getting their goods in a matter of a few weeks it now takes an average of a few months minimum. Also as orders have flooded in, the overall quality and reliability of our test gear has significantly decreased. A number of factors have contributed to this situation.

1) When you hire massive amounts of new people it takes a considerable amount of effort from the existing staff to properly instruct and train rookie employees, not to mention it consumes most of the veterans’ available time. Generally we haven’t been given enough time to train new hires properly which means mistakes in workmanship spike up.

2) New employees with no previous experience in electronics (or in any production work for that matter) were placed into critical job positions on instrument lines. This was a direct mandate from upper level managers based upon their concept that “Anybody can do these jobs.” Clearly that isn’t the case and never has been here.

3) Our strategy in the marketplace has hinged upon having so called new products available for purchase before our competitors are able to launch a comparable instrument. To make that a reality management has put a tremendous amount of pressure on our R&D teams to design and release new product platforms with totally unrealistic project completion goals.

In order to please their bosses the R&D guys have cut just about every corner imaginable to shave months off product development schedules. This has allowed critical design flaws to appear in our latest and greatest instruments after customers have operated them for just a few weeks in some cases. Customer dissatisfaction with this company is currently at an all-time high. Our warranty service centers are buried in repair work. Let’s not forget that warranty service costs money. That’s money thrown away because we have to eat the cost on fixing those failures.

Quality inspectors here used to be employees who were expert instrument assemblers on each product line. After years of working your way up from job to job on a specific product you would finally move to MI/EI or what is more commonly known as “Button Up.” Button Up is the last stop on an instrument line before finished boxes are sent to Shipping. Operators in Button Up were some of our most experienced people. They could identify any irregularity or defect easily and send the unit back for rework or repair. Since most of those jobs over the past year or so have been populated with green, inexperienced employees all kinds of retarded shit has made it out the door.

Any fucking moron with a modicum of common sense in their skull would know you don’t take someone off the street that has never worked with precision electronics before and turn them loose screening finished instruments for defects. They don’t know what to look for. Even with a robust training effort there is no real familiarity or experience with the products. So, blatantly stupid workmanship defects continue to make it into customer’s hands. Customers have opened up malfunctioning instruments to discover hardware rolling around loose inside shorting out circuitry, damaged cables and wiring, broken components, missing parts, and even food scraps.

As I mentioned before, Japanese customers are the toughest to please compared to the rest of our worldwide customer base. Those guys nitpick and complain about everything no matter how petty, insignificant, or abstract their grievances seem to us. For example if there is a single speck of dust trapped in an instrument’s front panel display glass a Japanese customer will reject their order and try to send it back. If the calibration date doesn’t match the date we actually printed the certificate paperwork, they bitch about it. Doesn’t matter if their instrument has a serious electrical failure or a minor cosmetic defect like a nick in the outer cover paint. It’s all unacceptable workmanship in their view.

I have to admit though, many of their complaints are valid.

The latest goofball plan someone has come up with here is to create a new department and staff it with employees that will pretend to be Japanese customers. Each box that ships off a product line will go to a new inspection area called Customer Simulation, or Customer Sim. Once the people in Customer Sim have an instrument they will go over everything in fine detail looking for discrepancies in paperwork, missing items, cosmetic damage, electrical failures, and other random problems. If they find anything suspect that box must go back to the product line for rework. If everything is okay it will move on to Shipping. Ironically, if expert assemblers had been left in place at Button Up to inspect products and screen for defects Customer Sim would likely not be necessary.

Seems to me this is another example of bad managers forcing themselves to waste more money because they consistently make foolish business decisions.


~ by factorypeasant on April 21, 2006.

13 Responses to “Customer Simulation”

  1. That’s brilliant; to address the problem of shoddy work which is the result of too many orders and not enough trained staff, they create another department, thus adding more work and removing workers. Genius!

    This sentence: “There are a number of contributing factors that have resulted in this situation.” Would be stronger if you removed “There are” and “resulted.” Like this: “A number of factors have contributed to this situation.”

    “There are” is just weak English and should be avoided at all times.

    “One, when you hire massive amounts of new people it takes a considerable amount of effort from the existing staff to properly instruct and train rookie employees, not to mention consuming most of the veterans’ available time.” Parallel structure will also strengthen your writing. Essentially that means matching verb tenses. So if you start out using “it takes” you should match the following “it consumes” rather than using he gerund form. Conversely, you could use the gerund form of the verb in both places: “Hiring massive amounts of people takes…”

    Also, I would use numbers instead of words to define the factors because I think it makes them easier to read. Maybe break them off into their own paragraphs, too. Like so:

    1) Assclowns

    2) Pinheads

    3) Retards

    As always, this is free advice and worth what you paid for it.

  2. all of those were good suggestions Wad. thanks. i noticed after you mentioned it that i had used “there are” in a few other recent posts so i’ve gone back and edited those out as well. i’m sure i’ll catch some more later on and change them.

    the parallel structure tip was helpful.

    as you noted, management’s logic surrounding the Customer Sim idea was pretty fouled up. it remained to be seen who they would populate that department with. if they continued to just throw anybody into inspection jobs like that potentially you’d still have inexperienced employees failing to catch serious problems.

    we’ll come back to this part of the story shortly.

  3. And the funniest part is that whole “pretend to be Japanese” thing. It’s easy to see how that could go very badly. Chop, Chop!

  4. yep any1 that would hire dangerous d…… doesnt deserve to stay in bidness

  5. Management bots seem to be from another planet where the people working under them are some theoretical conglomeration of simple input output systems and everything runs without friction. It is a bizarre universe which planet management resides in, one where a pint of poop is ice cream and workers are motivated by silhouettes of running shoos. One where anyone can do any job, but manager is spelled with a capital M. Buzwords like downsize and outsource are friendly tools to be used by independent contributors around the water cooler or conference desk. We should be kind to these visitors from abroad and let them know just how far out their world view is, posts like yours Mr.FactoryPeasant go a long way to helping them find a way of getting their heads out of their collective asses. You should get some kind of medal, or perhaps a gold plated Reject stamp to whack into their grills when next they start to eloquate some bullshite idea.

    The Devil-T

  6. didd deval-t reelie rite thiss?

  7. Who else but me.

    The Devil-T

    I’m not so cool yet anyone else would wana be me.

  8. Announcement of contest for all readers of this column:

    In five sentences or fewer, explain why you want to be Devil-T. Entries should be of some sort of sarcastic nature. For example, you might want to write:

    I want to be Devil-T because if I were Devil-T, I…

    Fill in the dots with some aspect of Devil-T’s life (e.g. hygeine, career opportunities, love life, etc.) that you pretend you wish you also had. In reality, you thank the God of your choice that you in fact DO NOT share this aspect of Devil T’s life.

    Or you could reverse the situation and say you wish you were Devil-T because he has…

    Finish the sentence with something that would be good to have, but Devil-T in fact DOES NOT have.

    Possible examples are…

    I wish I were Devil-T because then I cood spel wel.

    I wish I were Devil-T because then I would never have to buy deodorant and therefore would, if I actually had a decent job, be able to spend more money on drugs.

    Contest winners win a one way ticket to Portland and free tuition to any school that accepts them as students.

  9. aww yea you guys have been ANIMALS in here lately. rip shit up. i dig it.

  10. damn
    its gettin hot in here!


  11. The Devil-

    reasons you may want to, but can not be ME!

    I am pursuing my desire of becoming an architect. I have access at will to a job where i can cruse the SF bay on a boat and make 50+k per year with full benefits. This job is now just a safety net if things don’t work out well for me in Oregon. Just as my acceptance (as a second year student) to a design school in southern CA is a safety net if I am unable to gain acceptance to the University of Oregon Architecture program. I own my home, it’s for sale now and i plan to buy another outright in Portland with the profits. I’ve traveled to Europe, Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Alaska. As well as Texas, New York, New Mexico, Oregon and Nevada. I have loyal friends who I’ve known for more than 15 years. I’ve worked hard and have some nice toys. Though I’m currently doing a year of sobriety I’ve partied like a rock star and had a good time of it. Most folks don’t get to me to much.

    Reasons you should be thankful you are not me.

    My back hurts from a severe injury when i was 18, one of the reasons i would like to become an architect is not to rely so much on physical labor for my cash. Also periodically the world seems meaningless and empty, but that’s just something to deal with. I’ve determined the the alleviation of suffering whether someone else or your own is something worthwhile, and this helps me through those times. I’ve chosen architecture as a means to achieve that end by becoming involved with the design and creation of affordable, sustainable, beautiful housing. Another reason you may not want to be me is I try to do what i think is best even if it’s not the best or easiest thing for me. Also I’m not into thinking i’m the coolest. I find that focusing on ones strengths is easier but less rewarding than attending to ones faults. I bump my head more than short people, and I have one backstabbing friend.

    Now you have some information on who i am, go and be your self.

    Wert up and pppZout!

    The Devil-T

  12. ONE backstabbing friend?!? Devil-T, you are being far too optimistic. You’ve alienated a lot more than one person over the years.

  13. That was indeed a stinging rejoinder. How will Devil-T ever hold up his head again? On the plus side, he can now design lower lintels in all of his building projects.

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