The cost reduction associated with offshore manufacturing can initially be very persuasive. However, most companies that opt for offshore manufacturing learn the hard way that reality is not so simple. The numbers on the board seldom translate directly to profits and routine technical problems can quickly spiral out of control.
Whenever we talk to the executives, managers and engineers who have been involved in offshore manufacturing , there are three main concerns which top their lists: quality, communication and personnel. It’s important to understand these problems and how their impact can be mitigated.
In part I of the series “Technical Trust: What is it and why is it important?” we discussed technical trust and how you build it with a local team. In this article we’ll discuss the much more challenging task of building technical trust with a remote team.
The Elephant in the Room: Cost of Travel
After factoring in labor costs, a domestic trip can reach $2,000 and an international trip can exceed more than $8,000! As such, many companies are reluctant to allow rank-and-file scientists, engineers and technicians to travel between sites. Instead companies typically undertake a combination of two approaches:
Sam Feller at engineeringblogs.org recently discussed manufacturing in the USA vs abroad. He cited trust as a critical issue and focused on trusting your supplier (Sam’s full article). His article got me thinking about the importance of trust in engineering—more specifically trust in your colleague’s technical capabilities.
Technical trust is extremely important–but often overlooked–component of high-tech manufacturing. Technical trust is believing that someone else has the technical capability to complete a project successfully.
As a startup Active Spectrum doesn’t have the large budget and extensive resources of its larger competitors. Instead Active Spectrum strives to be smarter and more nimble by embracing new technologies like Collaborate i/o that can leverage their strengths while reducing costs.
When one of Active Spectrum’s top mechanical engineers, David Huang, decided to relocate from California to the East Coast they were faced with a challenge: How do they leverage David’s technical expertise to drive first article inspection, knowledge transfer, and engineering design changes from thousands of miles away? The challenge was particularly acute because they were finalizing the design of a new Micro-ESR product for release to manufacturing. They chose to utilize Collaborate i/o to achieve their goals and keep their project on time and under budget.
One of the most powerful concepts in Six Sigma / Lean Manufacturing / Toyota System is also one of it’s simplest: Go To Gemba. Whether you are a Six Sigma blackbelt or believe it is just the flavor of the month that consultants are peddling to naive management, I’m sure you can appreciate the practicality of going to gemba.
For the uninitiated gemba is a Japanese term that is translated as “real place” or “actual place.” Going to gemba is simply visiting the actual place where work is being done or a problem is occurring.