Rob Report Subscribe via RSS More Lessons Learned from the Power of Partnerships

As my previous Rob Report confirmed, true partnerships create bridges instead of barriers. Here’s another example:

One of our longest partnering relationships began when a global aerospace leader was seeking a new precision parts manufacturer because their former supplier couldn’t consistently deliver a part with Sinker EDM operations requiring an extremely tight tolerance. They awarded the job to RS Precision, and everything went smoothly for about a year. Then one day we started receiving rejection notifications indicating that a feature was 50 to 100 millionths of an inch over the high limit. Talk about a tight tolerance!

What went wrong? We had been using a raw material subcontractor who finished that feature. Naturally, we checked the parts when they were received. But what we were not aware of was that our incoming inspection procedure was incapable of detecting such a slight deviation. So, we instructed our customer to send back all the parts they had in inventory. We then developed a new inspection procedure that could reliably screen for this condition.

Once the situation was resolved, our customer informed us that they wanted to schedule a face to face meeting to review what had happened. I didn’t think this was necessary, as we knew what the root cause of the problem was and had initiated corrective action. It was a moot point, however, since their ISO procedures mandated they pay us a visit.

That day came, and naturally my team and I were somewhat anxious about what was going to transpire. Among their group were a purchasing manager and a Six Sigma Blackbelt manufacturing engineer. At the beginning of the meeting, the purchasing manager stressed that they considered us a valued supplier and a partner. Then he said that they need us to manufacture their parts consistently and reliably—and they were there to help make sure that we had the tools and the knowledge to make that happen. Not once did they blame or chastise us. Instead, the purpose of the meeting was for us to work and learn together in order to accomplish mutually beneficial outcomes.

Months later, I was invited to their facility to attend a supplier seminar where they shared the wisdom that price was just the tip of the cost iceberg, and that other, hidden costs, such as incoming inspection, defective material resolution boards (MRB) and buffer stock inventory costs made up the bulk of it. It was an innovative and enlightened message about how together the customer and the supplier could achieve the lowest total cost through lean manufacturing, Six Sigma and other best practices.

And it’s wisdom that continues to pay dividends. Why? Because of RS Precision’s commitment to eradicating the costs associated with defective parts, all of my customers benefit by getting good parts on time, without having to spend additional dollars on buffer stock or incoming inspections. What’s more, my clients don’t experience problems in assembly and testing or with warranty problems related to our parts that occur out in the field. Most importantly, neither of us spends valuable time trying to figure out what went wrong.

And for that I have a powerful partnership to thank. Of course, mutual trust is the cornerstone of all true partnerships. But once that trust is established, partnerships that thrive are those that celebrate mutual strengths while sharing insights and practices. And, ultimately, the bottom line is that true partnerships result in a win-win relationship that just can’t be beat!

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