Contract Manufacturing

Managers here at Bill and Dave’s company are like doofus politicians. Both politicians and our management staff talk far too much too often without saying anything at all, and they love semantics. Masking the true nature of things is something they consider themselves to be adept at. Many of us know better. We see through their self-absorbed bullshit and just laugh at them. For the past couple of years managers whined to us about how expensive it is to operate in the US. They said the only way to stay competitive was to engage in offshoring and numerous subcontract schemes.

Offshoring to Malaysia and subcontract of our work to outside vendors has caused irreversible amounts of damage to our products. This company’s reputation for manufacturing reliable test instruments has also suffered. Managers never say the word ‘Offshoring’ around here. Nor do they refer to subcontracting as such. Their politically correct term for it is ‘Contract Manufacturing.’ What a disaster that has been so far. Across my department you will find hardly anything we as employees have direct control over anymore. PC boards come from a contract manufacturer. Instrument chassis come from an outside company I vaguely have heard of before. Sheet metal fabrication work was outsourced to shoddy shops in Malaysia. We don’t make our own wiring harnesses or cable assemblies anymore. Power supplies and front panel assemblies are built eleswhere.

So when a subcontract vendor fails to send us materials on time, we’re screwed and have little recourse. If an outside vendor ships us needed parts that are all out of spec or defective we get to sit around and wait until they decide to rectify the issue. Might take weeks for them to appear and perform. Meanwhile the instrument line is shut down. We lose valuable production time day after day. When and if correct replacement parts arrive in-house our staff has to work three times as hard to force instruments through the process in an attempt to regain lost time.

The whole situation is fucked.

Today the assembly team called B-rad and I over to the front of the line to inspect some stupid shit they found when opening a shipment of new instrument chassis. They had a nasty surprise waiting for us. Turns out the contract manufacturer in Malaysia who builds our instrument chassis turned around and subcontracted THAT work out to another company without our permission. We made this discovery only after the assembly team received this latest shipment of chassis that are all damaged brand new right out of the box. Side rails, support struts, and other miscellaneous sub-frame components are bent to hell. I noticed on one of the shipment tags that the company name listed was totally different. Some vendor none of us were familiar with.


B-rad and I were laughing so hard after we realized our subcontractor was trying to pull a fast one on us. Because there is a huge increase in poor workmanship coming from our vendors we have had no choice but to document every messed up item we find. It’s such a joke. Digital photography is the way to go for that stuff. Our department takes a large amount of pictures these days. Kind of funny and very sad at the same time. We decided to send the unknown subcontractor a thumbs-up for their inferior workmanship. B-rad and I posed in front of an instrument chassis that had the entire RF Deck side rail buckled inward. The chassis is unusable in that condition.

JP has been having fits with our primary printed circuit board vendor. That company constantly sends us blatantly defective boards. Techs spend more of their valuable time fixing brand new junk boards than troubleshooting failed instruments. They had to buy another digital camera, one camera wasn’t enough anymore to keep up with the pace of damaged goods. JP is so annoyed that he has been taking pictures documenting the subcontractor’s jacked up boards right in front of his computer screen. On his monitor he has the subcontractor’s website on display, and one can clearly read their claims of “superior quality” while one of their ruined PC boards is visible in the foreground. Heh. Other times JP is content with shooting a defective PC board picture focusing on a ridiculous example of the vendor’s incompetence. His spectrum analyzer or other random piece of gear is usually in the background. I have to compliment JP on his photography skills… he has an excellent eye for it.


Later this week I have to waste more of my time dealing with an onslaught of defective outer instrument covers. A couple hundred of them are in storage over at the old factory site located across the county from here. I have to drive over to Main Stores and waste a day or two in the warehouse opening each case of covers and inspect them by hand with a digital micrometer to see if they are mechanically within spec or not. What fun that is going to be.


~ by factorypeasant on January 19, 2007.

4 Responses to “Contract Manufacturing”

  1. “Contract manufacturing” and “fiasco” seem inseparable. Sooner or later, one way or another… usually sooner and in many ways. And there won’t be a reckoning for the people responsible for such stupid production and manufacturing decisions; there’ll just be a reorganization or three, and a renewed commitment to focus on key processes and systems engineering. Not that those things are bad in and of themselves, but when they’re just bullet points and catch-phrases – well. You know how it goes.

  2. yup. i sure do Radioactive Jam. i got to see firsthand how irresponsible and financially destructive outsourcing and offshoring can be. i’m sure under some circumstances both concepts if handled appropriately can work well. in our company’s case it resulted in many adverse situations that were counterproductive on a gross scale. more on that soon enough…


    One afternoon I was playing around with the concept of Nerd and the godfather. I started laughing a bit as I saw a parallel to this scene:

    In the underlit office (masterfully photographed), American justice has failed. Ostensibly, the Don is a gentle, restrained, 62 year old aging man, sitting behind his study’s desk. His face has a bulldog appearance with padded cheeks, and he speaks with a high-pitched, hoarse, raspy, gutteral mumbling accent. On his lap is a cat whose head he lovingly and gently strokes. Although he moves stiffly, he wields enormous lethal power as he determines the dispensation of real justice – who will be punished and who will be favored. He is upset that the funeral director Bonasera hasn’t asked for a favor earlier, although he now asks for murderous revenge (instead of justice). The Don promises justice – and then asks for a return favor as a friend:

    Corleone: Why did you go to the police? Why didn’t you come to me first?
    Bonasera: What do you want of me? Tell me anything, but do what I beg you to do.
    Corleone: What is that? (Bonasera whispers his request in the Don’s ear.) That I cannot do.
    Bonasera: I will give you anything you ask.
    Corleone: We’ve known each other many years, but this is the first time you ever came to me for counsel or for help. I can’t remember the last time that you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my wife is godmother to your only child. But let’s be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. And uh, you were afraid to be in my debt.
    Bonasera: I didn’t want to get into trouble.
    Corleone: I understand. You found paradise in America, you had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. And you didn’t need a friend like me. But uh, now you come to me and you say – ‘Don Corleone, give me justice.’ But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you, uh, ask me to do murder for money.
    Bonasera: I ask you for justice.
    Corleone: That is not justice. Your daughter is still alive.
    Bonasera: Let them suffer then, as she suffers. How much shall I pay you?
    Corleone (after standing and turning his back): Bonasera, Bonasera. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you’d come to me in friendship, then this scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.
    Bonasera: Be my friend – – Godfather. (The Don shrugs. Bonasera bows toward the Don and kisses the Don’s hand.)
    Corleone: Good. (The Don puts his hand on Bonasera’s shoulder.) Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But uh, until that day – accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.
    Bonasera: Grazie, Godfather.
    Corleone: Prego.

  4. hiya mister gnome. thanks for that. by Nerd i assume you are referring to our former CEO i liked to call ‘super geek.’ yes? looks sorta like him in the photoshopped couch shot…

    how you be? tell b-rad to clean up his front yard next time you talk to him. it looks like CRAP!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: