During this past summer after B-rad and Garden Gnome were kicked out due to a vicious round of employee layoffs, I began to notice something strange happening with our outer instrument covers. Many of them wouldn't fit properly on instrument chassis anymore. The outer protective instrument cover is made of aluminum sheet metal and riveted along a seam on the bottom side. Once they're fabricated the covers are shot with a light grey paint. Until recently all of our sheet metal work was being produced by American companies many of which were located within a few hours drive of our factories. That meant shipments were usually prompt. If we discovered any defects or problems we could have rework performed by these metal shops sometimes with a same-day turnaround time. Things were going well enough with sheet metal parts until the offshoring bug caught on with our corporate management team.
Management killed off business with established local metal shop companies and shifted the work to Penang, Malaysia claiming it was significantly cheaper to send that work halfway around the world. I am not sure they factored in operational costs like air freight, customs, truck delivery, etc. They were looking at bottom line dollars which turned out to be exactly $18 per instrument cover less than having them built in the U.S. After adding in shipment costs though I'm certain that cheaper price from Malaysia probably wasn't as great a savings.
So. The Malay take over producing these parts. Meanwhile a former company performing this work for us located just an hour and a half drive North of here in Willits, Ca. loses our business and starts to lay their people off. Weeks later I begin to receive new stock from the Malaysian metal shop and guess what? Most of those outer covers don't fit on our instruments. They just don't fit. To install one, you rotate a unit on it's cart until the front panel is facing toward the floor and you load the cover on from the instrument's rear panel. Normally an outer cover should slide easily over the whole box and fit snugly against the front panel frame. With these new covers you're lucky if you can make it halfway on a unit before it seizes along the instrument chassis. Some of them have been stuck so badly I've had to cut them off with heavy tin snips.
Initially I wasn't sure the outer covers were the problem. Possibly there was something wrong with a batch of instrument chassis. To rule that out I had to involve some of our mechanical engineers and waste their time getting to the root cause.
All of our Quality Assurance people have been laid off so there are no more incoming inspections performed on parts as they arrive from vendors. That means we don't find out that there is a problem until new stock is on the line being used to make end of month shipments. Then it's too late. I've had to scrap out nearly 50% of incoming instrument covers not only because the mechanical dimensions are out of spec and hence don't fit properly on units, there's a bunch of other stupid shit causing problems with them. Since I am the only person inspecting this stuff when it shows up I am the first and only employee opening each case of covers. So far I have discovered brand new outer covers inside cases that have been completely dented to hell, deep scratches in the paint, incomplete paint jobs, and covers that were formed backwards so the rivets are on the inside instead of outside where they belong. Occasionally as a bonus when opening cases of covers I get crushed jungle lizards and strange looking tropical insects.
American-built covers were nearly always within spec and generally, cosmetically perfect.
Reworking these parts instead of scrapping them is not an option. The time it would take to repackage them and ship them all the way back to Malaysia is too great. Also there is no guarantee they would be able to turn them around and re-ship them back here in a reasonable amount of time. The Malay already have a very long lead time for sending us brand new instrument covers. Scrapping them takes each part out of active inventory and triggers another order for outer covers automatically. This is more expedient so that's what we do. Keep in mind that with every instrument cover I ditch, the per unit cost goes up. Dealing with this crap wastes a considerable amount of my time every damn day which impacts my ability to meet customer order deadlines. Believe me, this isn't the only stupid fucking problem I've got on my hands right now thanks to all this offshoring and subcontract bullshit.