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Creating a decision tree for internal customer so they can decide what work to send me and what work to outsource.

Sounds like management by crisis.

I only see things working two ways. Like Gus said, someone higher up manages everything and you work on what you’re told.

The other way is you run it like it’s your own shop, but you will need absolute authority over all aspects of the shop. You order your own tooling, own matl, etc

You will need to be paid salary and have a desk with a phone and a computer with internet access.
All jobs come to you and you decide what to keep in-house and what to sub out.

You will not spend 10 hrs per day in the shop, so these engineers will not be able to expect you to drop everything and work on their project.

This will probably not sit well with management but over time they will adjust their expectations and things will flow smoother and people will get their projects when they expect them.

The other option for management is to shut you down and sub everything out, in which case they are putting themselves in situation 2 anyway.
I have been told to run it like my own shop. I do order my own tools. But I am not given a budget. I was told if it cost over $200 then ask manager before ordering it.
I do have a desk phone computer. However I am paid hourly and am expected to do all the work in the shop all the time to. Basically the sentiment is just do it all. But at the same time. I have no authority. Every customer thinks I work for them. Every customer is concerned about thier own needs and no one else's.
 
Set up a whiteboard with magnetic tags. Jobs in order of urgency. Someone asks to move their job to the front of the queue they need to get the approval of everyone above them. No agreement they can't move above that person.
I have been telling my manager that for years. And they just refuse to do it.
I have been trying to get better about not taking on stress from this job, but a couple of years ago we had a very similar meeting. It was one of the most unprofessional worst experiences I have had at this company. Turned into a lot of yelling and my boss yelling at his boss and this same requestor telling my boss that he is not doing his job and me in the middle trying to answer their questions. This upcoming meeting really has me stressed.

Not to get too high level but I think the real root cause. Besides my manager not wanting to do any more work. and everyone just defending themselves and blaming others to try and keep their job. Is the fact that we are trying to do more with less. Everyone is under intense pressure to meet deadlines and increase output. With no means to do so. No guidance, no efficiency analysis, no investment in equipment. It used to be do what we can with what we have. Now it seems like do more with what we have and it is simply not possible. Feels like being set up to fail. And that I did tell my boss.
 
Here is a quick first draft of what I am thinking to present my boss for decision making instructions on weather or not to ask me to fabricate a part. I simply listed my capabilities or lack there of. I am sure I can come up with a few more but it is hard to know everything that could come up. Also this does not address the issue we have at hand because the requestor already knows all of these things. Further evidence that my boss does not know what he is doing and is just trying to grasp at anything to say in this meeting.
first draft outsource decision flow chart.png
 
So I should tell my manager to do his job and leave me out of it? Anytime I hint at this. I am told it is my job to manage my own shop just like it were my own buisness. Except. If this were my own buisness. #1 I could make more money #2 I would invest in more equipment to full fill the work loaf and #3 I wouldn't deal with management blaming me for complaining customers.
I have run my own business for more than 30 years. Trust me, this is nothing like your own business.
One of the many reasons I own my own business is that I refuse to deal with bad managers.
There is no one who can walk into my shop and tell be to stop doing what I am doing and work on something else.
All of these problems are your bosses problems and of your bosses making.
Due to his mismanaging/non managing it is causing you trouble.
I am sure the person thinks they can get someone to build 4 test stands of parts that have never been made before quicker than you can, but that is a bit unlikely
 
I have run my own business for more than 30 years. Trust me, this is nothing like your own business.
One of the many reasons I own my own business is that I refuse to deal with bad managers.
There is no one who can walk into my shop and tell be to stop doing what I am doing and work on something else.
All of these problems are your bosses problems and of your bosses making.
Due to his mismanaging/non managing it is causing you trouble.
I am sure the person thinks they can get someone to build 4 test stands of parts that have never been made before quicker than you can, but that is a bit unlikely
Good insight, yes I agree this is a management problem. And I am not management. It feels like my boss is always just trying to cover his ass. Even when he is about to retire. It is like he cant help it because that is always what he has done. Just making sure he is not to blame seems to be the biggest part of his job rather than doing anything else. His mentality seems to be the less he is involved in or does, the less he can be blamed for. And them I am here to take the blame. While at the same time my boss is pretending to have my back and make sure his boss knows I am not to blame.

Did I mention my bosses previous career many years ago was used car salesman. He is good at talking and making everything sound great while not actually saying anything at all.
Did I mention I hate used car sales man.

Thanks for the advice.
 
I think in light of what you have posted, my response to current events would be:
talk informally with the engineer who is pissed off now. Without totally trashing your boss make it clear you are someone who can be dealt with, you are not the problem.
In the future, when priorities get changed, make sure you touch base with the parties involved pronto.
 
I have run my own business for more than 30 years. Trust me, this is nothing like your own business.
One of the many reasons I own my own business is that I refuse to deal with bad managers.
There is no one who can walk into my shop and tell be to stop doing what I am doing and work on something else.
All of these problems are your bosses problems and of your bosses making.
Due to his mismanaging/non managing it is causing you trouble.
I am sure the person thinks they can get someone to build 4 test stands of parts that have never been made before quicker than you can, but that is a bit unlikely

No, it's quite likely, but most probably at 10X the cost.

Good, cheap, fast - you only ever get to pick 2.

WRT managers, I used to have one that sang the mantra of doing more with less. The funny thing was, it was always us who had to do the more. I'd never play, gave him a spreadsheet of personnel, jobs, estimated times to completion, available hours and invite him to kill something off. When his reply was that they were all high priority, I told him that if they were all of equal priority, nothing actually had any priority and therefore we'd kill off the job that was the biggest PITA to US to do.

He didn't like that. So I once again invited him to set the priorities because after all that's what he was getting paid to do. After he waffled some more my guys and I decided what to kill off and told the people why and who to talk to about it.

But - I was effectively unsackable, a few years off of retirement and only staying there because I got to go to sea playing on big ships with expensive stuff for 3 months/year.

In the end after one episode too many I said fuck it and quit.

I advise the OP to consider that last paragraph of mine carefully.

PDW
 
OK, So here is an email that I just sent my boss. I know I am pushing my boundaries just a bit. I do not want to risk loosing my job. But I feel it says what it needs to. And besides he is retiring in a month anyway. Hopefully I do not give up my anomimity by sharing this but the email is as follows. To my direct supervisor.

"
Good morning,


You asked me to come up with some ideas to give instructions to requestor as to weather a mechanical request should be outsourced or not. It is difficult for me to imagine every scenario that could arise. The first thing that comes to mind is just the absolute “no bids” I come across due to lack of in house capabilities. This is just a rough idea of things we cannot do in our shop. This is not a perfect list as I am sure I could have missed something or an unforeseen scenario that may come up.

Parts that I “No bid”, are parts that require;
  • Welding
  • Bending material over .063” thick (depending on situation I may break this rule to about .080” thick).
  • Inside bend radii other than about .063”
  • Bend line over 24” long
  • Bend offsets that are too close together, under about 0.500” between central bend axis
  • Precision machined features in single component that is larger than 40” X 16” X 16” ( this is the work envelope of the mill, exceptions may be made depending on the situation/part).
  • Laser etching
I would of liked to add finishing such as paint and anodizing to the list, but we currently do handle that for projects. In my opinion pushing that task back to the project rather than myself would save me a lot of time and head ache. I.E., make it clear that if they want the part finished with coating. Then they can handle getting that done when I finish the raw fabricated part. Although this can get messy as some parts require permanent hardware be installed after finishings; that no one else here can do the task of installing.

These are just some obvious things that come to mind that have required me to turn down jobs. And would be good to know for any requestor. Although this would require the requestor to look at the part specifications. And even if they did, a lot of people who request work from me are not able to properly read mechanical drawings.

Also I will say that we already sort of know these things and this does not solve the issue at hand. In my opinion the issues with the current work I have and not being able to meet deadlines are not due to lack of capabilities. They are due to capacity, scheduling, and unknown deadlines.

Capacity:

If our mechanical shop is to be able to respond to projects that have an immediate need. Then we need to have more capacity than we have work load. Since we are not able to increase capacity. Then we will not be able to meet the demand when work load increases. I understand that taking the risk of having unused capacity when work load decreases, is something we do not want to take on. However when we have an unpredictable and greatly fluctuating work load. That unutilized capacity and down time is part of the cost of having the capability to meet the increased demand. I am sure you are already well aware of this. The reason I spell it out is because I believe the issue is simply increased work load and perceived non acceptance by management to have more capacity than workload. So while I agree that the response to solve this issue by simply not sending me anymore work by any one specific requestor. Is a knee jerk reaction and extreme. It would serve to decrease the workload and free up my availability to other customers. However there seems to be an issue with the idea of me running out or running low on work.

Scheduling:

Priority juggling and scheduling have always been an issue in this role. It seems that we get away with juggling priorities around when work load is low enough that it does not impact any of the projects too much. I am happy to change priorities at any given time. However I cannot be the one to make those decisions. As I have no information to base those decisions. More often than not those decisions are put on me, because it becomes another time consuming task to inform you to make the call on every job that comes in that wants priority. And the mentality of just squeeze in the small jobs when I can only works when it does not affect other projects deadlines. i.e. A quick 2 hour job may only delay the other project by 2 hours. But compound that by 20 of those 2 hours jobs and the original project will be delayed by a week or more.

Unknown deadlines:

I have seen a common mentality of we just need it ASAP. I have learned that usually means they don’t know when they need it, but if they have it sooner that is better than too late. In my situation I am dealing with many different projects that are only concerned with their own project. Essentially, if everything is a priority than nothing is a priority.


Hopefully this addresses the current issue and gives some clarity for our upcoming meeting. I know you said the goal of that meeting was to give the requestor instructions to follow so they know what to outsource and what to send to me. However I can for see that being a very difficult discussion and turning into something else entirely.

Let me know if you would like to discuss further or if you need my help fleshing out something more specific to present at that upcoming meeting.
"
 
@Rough-cutter, the answer is staring you in the face, but first some comments
Shop should be shut down and work sent to multiple outside vendors.
Absolutely not, the list shouldn't be relevant to the role he should play

: cross train some of the curious, motivated, more-mechanical engineers to do your job.
This brought a smile to my face, but no. No manager is going to go for that. Even a cheap internal rate for engineering is $130/hr and it's possibly double that. With them effing around with their parts the costs would go through the roof. Unless they really don't have anything else to do. Which is a different management problem. Incidentally, while bachelor's engineers have the reputation as the "hand-on" type and graduate degrees "intellectual", I find the latter are more likely to have spent significant time in the university shop making parts for their own thesis work.

But back to the decision tree. You've been focusing on capability exclusively - that should go without saying and is straightforward. The advice above focusing on what you like is off-base, it doesn't matter if you don't like lathe work if that's what's needed you do it. You need to focus on what you bring to the table that is unique to your shop, and it has 4 main points:
  1. Ability to do the hot jobs - you're dedicated to the internal customers. That said, you can't set that priority, it has to be done by management who have visibility into the costs. If they're losing $10K/day in engineering due to people waiting for parts, they'll probably want to push that to the head. Alternatively it can be entirely first come first serve due to the ineptness of your management, but that doesn't suit the company the best, it is losing some of the advantages you bring to the table.
  2. Ability to work with little/no documentation - some of your internal customers do not appear to be mechanical engineers or designers, and probably cannot make proper drawings. You can work from napkin sketches even if you hate it, and also if they bring you parts and say make this thingy mount here next to this thingy. This can be tremendously valuable to a company.
  3. Ability to rework outside parts - all engineers or designers f'up at some point. Or potentially the outside shop will. In the latter case it's great to make them fix their error but sometimes that isn't the most cost advantageous if it takes longer. In the former case it's not an option. You can get things back on track quickly, which can be a huge cost savings. Time is money.
  4. Ability to hide/reduce costs of engineering design - not an uncommon scenario. Somehow the designer didn't realize that fancy stainless part with 3D sculpted surfaces, incredible tolerances, and 90% material removal would cost $40,000 in quantity 2. When they had a $10K parts budget. Because they worked at an even bigger company before where it would be only $1000 in mass production with investment casting. But now the design had progressed so far it costs even more to change. Anyway, you can pull that part out of their outside vendor budget and do it internally. This cost can vary or be hidden depending on how you account for your time, but is typically much less regardless. They probably try to have you charge time to projects which makes this harder, but it's actually to the project manager's advantage if your an overhead cost. With this small a shop, I'm in favor of the latter, but it requires management with good insight to understand the benefits. Often they're trying to justify the expense in other ways, but it should be done entirely by reduction in cost to other projects.
The decision tree should be based on those 4 factors. You reduce the cost of operations and speed time to project completion by addressing them. Sorry I'm a little late, I see you sent your manager an email already. But I would talk to him about these factors. I said at the beginning the answer was staring you in the face - it violated the above. You took on a production job that wasn't hot which by the size was at the limit of your capacity. It should never have been accepted. There is often pressure to do something rather than nothing, oh I'll just do it in the downtime. That's too bad. It is better to be doing NOTHING than something in this scenario. You need to be available to serve the hotter jobs. Just like in the military, you don't commit everything to one fight, you need to have a reserve. Your work should ebb and flow and that's alright, it's the nature of the job. It should only take a few hot jobs to completely cost justify your existence, when you factor in the saved engineering or other time by not having all of those people twiddling their thumbs waiting for outside vendors. You don't have that cost visibility, but other managers do, and they should be accounting for it.
 
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@Rough-cutter, the answer is staring you in the face, but first some comments

Absolutely not, the list shouldn't be relevant to the role he should play


This brought a smile to my face, but no. No manager is going to go for that. Even a cheap internal rate for engineering is $130/hr and it's possibly double that. With them effing around with their parts the costs would go through the roof. Unless they really don't have anything else to do. Which is a different management problem. Incidentally, while bachelor's engineers have the reputation as the "hand-on" type and graduate degrees "intellectual", I find the latter are more likely to have spent significant time in the university shop making parts for their own thesis work.

But back to the decision tree. You've been focusing on capability exclusively - that should go without saying and is straightforward. The advice above focusing on what you like is off-base, it doesn't matter if you don't like lathe work if that's what's needed you do it. You need to focus on what you bring to the table that is unique to your shop, and it has 4 main points:
  1. Ability to do the hot jobs - you're dedicated to the internal customers. That said, you can't set that priority, it has to be done by management who have visibility into the costs. If they're losing $10K/day in engineering due to people waiting for parts, they'll probably want to push that to the head. Alternatively it can be entirely first come first serve due to the ineptness of your management, but that doesn't suit the company the best, it is losing some of the advantages you bring to the table.
  2. Ability to work with little/no documentation - some of your internal customers do not appear to be mechanical engineers or designers, and probably cannot make proper drawings. You can work from napkin sketches even if you hate it, and also if they bring you parts and say make this thingy mount here next to this thingy. This can be tremendously valuable to a company.
  3. Ability to rework outside parts - all engineers or designers f'up at some point. Or potentially the outside shop will. In the latter case it's great to make them fix their error but sometimes that isn't the most cost advantageous if it takes longer. In the former case it's not an option. You can get things back on track quickly, which can be a huge cost savings. Time is money.
  4. Ability to hide/reduce costs of engineering design - not an uncommon scenario. Somehow the designer didn't realize that fancy stainless part with 3D sculpted surfaces, incredible tolerances, and 90% material removal would cost $40,000 in quantity 2. When they had a $10K parts budget. Because they worked at an even bigger company before where it would be only $1000 in mass production with investment casting. But now the design had progressed so far it costs even more to change. Anyway, you can pull that part out of their outside vendor budget and do it internally. This cost can vary or be hidden depending on how you account for your time, but is typically much less regardless. They probably try to have you charge time to projects which makes this harder, but it's actually to the project manager's advantage if your an overhead cost. With this small a shop, I'm in favor of the latter, but it requires management with good insight to understand the benefits. Often they're trying to justify the expense in other ways, but it should be done entirely by reduction in cost to other projects.
The decision tree should be based on those 4 factors. You reduce the cost of operations and speed time to project completion by addressing them. Sorry I'm a little late, I see you sent your manager an email already. But I would talk to him about these factors. I said at the beginning the answer was staring you in the face - it violated the above. You took on a production job that wasn't hot which by the size was at the limit of your capacity. It should never have been accepted. There is often pressure to do something rather than nothing, oh I'll just do it in the downtime. That's too bad. It is better to be doing NOTHING than something in this scenario. You need to be available to serve the hotter jobs. Just like in the military, you don't commit everything to one fight, you need to have a reserve. Your work should ebb and flow and that's alright, it's the nature of the job. It should only take a few hot jobs to completely cost justify your existence, when you factor in the saved engineering or other time by not having all of those people twiddling their thumbs waiting for outside vendors. You don't have that cost visibility, but other managers do, and they should be accounting for it.
Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response. Great advice and view point. I did not send the email yet. I thought this is one of those maybe wait and see how you feel when reading it later. It is still in my draft waiting to be sent. I think I will just add a paragraph explaining the strengths of the shop as you listed above. You are spot on. That is exactly what I do and seems to be exactly what upper management has no clue of.

As for your point #4. "Ability to hide/reduce costs of engineering design". Unfortunately they want me to charge as much time to projects as possible. Charging time to overhead is seen by management as possibly increasing their overhead and they do not see any benefit in that. My life would be so much easier if I did not charge any time to direct projects. When I was in full production shop. 100% of our time was overhead. But any management that understood the benefits of that is gone.
 
@Rough-cutter, the answer is staring you in the face, but first some comments

Absolutely not, the list shouldn't be relevant to the role he should play


This brought a smile to my face, but no. No manager is going to go for that. Even a cheap internal rate for engineering is $130/hr and it's possibly double that. With them effing around with their parts the costs would go through the roof. Unless they really don't have anything else to do. Which is a different management problem. Incidentally, while bachelor's engineers have the reputation as the "hand-on" type and graduate degrees "intellectual", I find the latter are more likely to have spent significant time in the university shop making parts for their own thesis work.

But back to the decision tree. You've been focusing on capability exclusively - that should go without saying and is straightforward. The advice above focusing on what you like is off-base, it doesn't matter if you don't like lathe work if that's what's needed you do it. You need to focus on what you bring to the table that is unique to your shop, and it has 4 main points:
  1. Ability to do the hot jobs - you're dedicated to the internal customers. That said, you can't set that priority, it has to be done by management who have visibility into the costs. If they're losing $10K/day in engineering due to people waiting for parts, they'll probably want to push that to the head. Alternatively it can be entirely first come first serve due to the ineptness of your management, but that doesn't suit the company the best, it is losing some of the advantages you bring to the table.
  2. Ability to work with little/no documentation - some of your internal customers do not appear to be mechanical engineers or designers, and probably cannot make proper drawings. You can work from napkin sketches even if you hate it, and also if they bring you parts and say make this thingy mount here next to this thingy. This can be tremendously valuable to a company.
  3. Ability to rework outside parts - all engineers or designers f'up at some point. Or potentially the outside shop will. In the latter case it's great to make them fix their error but sometimes that isn't the most cost advantageous if it takes longer. In the former case it's not an option. You can get things back on track quickly, which can be a huge cost savings. Time is money.
  4. Ability to hide/reduce costs of engineering design - not an uncommon scenario. Somehow the designer didn't realize that fancy stainless part with 3D sculpted surfaces, incredible tolerances, and 90% material removal would cost $40,000 in quantity 2. When they had a $10K parts budget. Because they worked at an even bigger company before where it would be only $1000 in mass production with investment casting. But now the design had progressed so far it costs even more to change. Anyway, you can pull that part out of their outside vendor budget and do it internally. This cost can vary or be hidden depending on how you account for your time, but is typically much less regardless. They probably try to have you charge time to projects which makes this harder, but it's actually to the project manager's advantage if your an overhead cost. With this small a shop, I'm in favor of the latter, but it requires management with good insight to understand the benefits. Often they're trying to justify the expense in other ways, but it should be done entirely by reduction in cost to other projects.
The decision tree should be based on those 4 factors. You reduce the cost of operations and speed time to project completion by addressing them. Sorry I'm a little late, I see you sent your manager an email already. But I would talk to him about these factors. I said at the beginning the answer was staring you in the face - it violated the above. You took on a production job that wasn't hot which by the size was at the limit of your capacity. It should never have been accepted. There is often pressure to do something rather than nothing, oh I'll just do it in the downtime. That's too bad. It is better to be doing NOTHING than something in this scenario. You need to be available to serve the hotter jobs. Just like in the military, you don't commit everything to one fight, you need to have a reserve. Your work should ebb and flow and that's alright, it's the nature of the job. It should only take a few hot jobs to completely cost justify your existence, when you factor in the saved engineering or other time by not having all of those people twiddling their thumbs waiting for outside vendors. You don't have that cost visibility, but other managers do, and they should be accounting for it.
Here is what I added to the email I am sending my boss. I put it after the "Unknown dead lines" portions. Written as follows. Still letting it cook before I get the guts to send it. Hopefully you don't mind me stealing your writing. It is spot on.
"
Additionally I think there is some confusion, with some management about the real value of our mechanical lab.
  1. Ability to do the hot jobs - I am dedicated to the internal customers. That said, I can’t set that priority, it has to be done by management who have visibility into the costs. If they're losing $10K/day in engineering due to people waiting for parts, they'll probably want to push that to the head. Alternatively it can’t be entirely first come first serve due to it losing some of the advantages we bring to the table.
  1. Ability to work with little/no documentation - some of my internal customers are not mechanical engineers or designers, and cannot make proper drawings. I can work from napkin sketches, and also if they bring me parts and say make this thingy mount here next to this thingy. This can be tremendously valuable.
  1. Ability to rework outside parts - all engineers or designers mess up at some point. Or potentially the outside shop will. In the latter case it's great to make them fix their error but sometimes that isn't the most cost advantageous if it takes longer. In the former case it's not an option. I can get things back on track quickly, which can be a huge cost savings. Time is money.
  1. Ability to hide/reduce costs of engineering design – I know we want to reduce overhead time but. Working on projects on overhead time actually shifts cost away from the project budget. This can be crucial when unforeseen things occur causing the project to run out of money but they still need to get something done. I can specifically remember times when projects had a last minute item they did not account for and their project suffered because they did not want to go farther over budget and we could not work on it without charging to their project. When I was in production shop. Engineering utilized us all the time for this because our entire department was considered overhead and we never charged time to any specific project or job.
Overall we are not a production machine shop. This shop was never equipped to fill that objective. I feel we have been utilized more and more to fill the gap that has been left from our production shops closure and the increased difficulty to get outside vendors. If management does not understand the objective and value of the mechanical lab. And feels the need to increase its output. Then its original objective cannot be fulfilled and will need to be equipped and managed differently.
"
 
This brought a smile to my face, but no. No manager is going to go for that. Even a cheap internal rate for engineering is $130/hr and it's possibly double that.
I came from an environment where this was proven by two different groups. The process was cheaper and faster when it was built by the (qualified) engineers. It eliminated all the time wasted making detailed drawings that served no purpose but to instruct the shop(s) what we wanted for a quantity of one assembly, or one test. It eliminated the time wasted with the engineers "coordinating" and going to meetings. It also made better designs because the engineer knew that they had to create every stupid hole location or odd feature.

Incidentally, while bachelor's engineers have the reputation as the "hand-on" type and graduate degrees "intellectual", I find the latter are more likely to have spent significant time in the university shop making parts for their own thesis work.
I don't know what bizzaro world you worked in but, this was not the case for any of the engineers I worked with. University machine shops are not a wondrous place to learn all about machining. They're a start. I wanted the guy who build all the parts on the Formula SAE car or did some kind of senior project.

I know two second generation engineers, in their early 30s, who literally grew up with lathes and mills in the garage. Found numerous others who had similar backgrounds (maybe didn't have it at home but, used them extensively). They're probably in the company already if someone bothers to open the door and invite them in. The company also gets a more integrated work force and better skills for both the shop and the engineers.
 
I came from an environment where this was proven by two different groups. The process was cheaper and faster when it was built by the (qualified) engineers. It eliminated all the time wasted making detailed drawings that served no purpose but to instruct the shop(s) what we wanted for a quantity of one assembly, or one test. It eliminated the time wasted with the engineers "coordinating" and going to meetings. It also made better designs because the engineer knew that they had to create every stupid hole location or odd feature.


I don't know what bizzaro world you worked in but, this was not the case for any of the engineers I worked with. University machine shops are not a wondrous place to learn all about machining. They're a start. I wanted the guy who build all the parts on the Formula SAE car or did some kind of senior project.

I know two second generation engineers, in their early 30s, who literally grew up with lathes and mills in the garage. Found numerous others who had similar backgrounds (maybe didn't have it at home but, used them extensively). They're probably in the company already if someone bothers to open the door and invite them in. The company also gets a more integrated work force and better skills for both the shop and the engineers.
I 100% agree that having the engineers do some of their own fabrication has cost savings benefit. We do in fact have a small room with work bench, drill press, brake, band saw, some hand tools, some scrap materials. as well as full hardware cabinet. That does get used by some of our more hands on engineers. For the exact reason you mentioned. It makes more sense for them to hack at it first to figure something out. Before they need to get me involved. However we have not gone the step of training them or having them do anything with our mill. Actually the thought of me training the engineers would probably be offensive to some of them. Most of them are humble and good but there is an overall sense that they are more valuable, educated, and skilled. We could argue weather or not that is true. Some of them are good and others don't know how to use a screw driver. But their overhead cost and paychecks do reflect superiority over myself. So I get it. Long story short. The way we have it structured is that engineers need support. We are their whipping boys that do the hands on work. But I still agree with your point. sometimes it would be better to do it them selves then tell me what to do.
 
Well the boss replied and said, "You make alot of good points, I'll swing by when I can to iron out some details". I think that is a good thing.

Thanks so much to dc_v01 . I think that was the key. I was not able to articulate and explain to management those things properly. Now even if they disagree. At least we can all acknowledge the issue. And if they disagree that there is an issue. We'll then I can say there is nothing to talk about. If they want to set me up to fail. It is out of my control.
 
IMO, as long as you have no authority to set the priorities and no significant budget for tooling and equipment, you're stuck. If the people above don't have any understanding of what it takes to do a job, you're stuck. OTOH, if you/they are talking, there's some hope, but they have to trust you enough to actually run the shop, which means trusting you to make decisions that may not please everybody.
 
IMO, as long as you have no authority to set the priorities and no significant budget for tooling and equipment, you're stuck. If the people above don't have any understanding of what it takes to do a job, you're stuck. OTOH, if you/they are talking, there's some hope, but they have to trust you enough to actually run the shop, which means trusting you to make decisions that may not please everybody.
Yes, I definitely feel stuck. But I will say that my direct supervisor does have trust in me. He knows that my position requires trust. But he is retiring soon. His boss has no idea why we even have a machine shop. Except that he is told we use it. And the overall issue is budget. It feels like they just don't have the budget to pull off having the type of engineering support machine shop as described above. The fact that we have to charge time to projects. Any time not charged to some project is seen as increasing our over head cost and that is precieved as a bad thing. To put it more simply. We used to have the budget to afford it. Now we are just trying to minimize and hide the cost in hopes that they won't notice the cost too much. But if that means overloading my shop with so much work that It cannot fulfill its original objectives. While not investing in it to be able to handle that increased work load. Then it is being set up to fail. It is not the first time I have seen this happen. It is a way for management to not take responsibility for bad decisions. It is easier to just say. It is not working and cost too much. So I have learned not worth my stress. It just bugs me when we can't talk honestly about these things. Everyone is just pretending in order to save thier own jobs. Maybe I need to be the brave one. If the outcome is that they close down the shop. Then that was going to happen. No matter what I did or said anyway.
 
FWIW, I work as a contractor/consultant. I follow a fundamental rule in that anything I recommend isn't influenced by how it affects me personally. If they can save money by showing me the door, I'll be the first to justify it! Truth in business is as hard to come by as anyplace else.
 
At our place, engineers typically don't make this decision. All parts route through the manufacturing department, who does the make by decisions based on how busy the shop is, whether the work fits in there domain etc etc....

I'm thinking that having a central buying group for the whole company that you work in tandem with is going to save money, help build relationships with qualified vendors, and also make sure that you keep busy at all times.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to have every engineer out there picking his favorite vendor to work with but maybe that's just me.

At our company we have about 20 engineers who each get about five projects a year. Whereas the manufacturing department is probably seeing well over a hundred plus projects each year coming from all of us. They are far better suited to know which shops do the best work for each of the types of parts, as well as look at their internal loading to decide if it should stay or go. While I realize cultural shifts like this in a big company maybe a lot more difficult I wonder how close you guys are to your purchasing group and if it pays to have the discussions of you working as a team with them.
 
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I did not send the email yet. I thought this is one of those maybe wait and see how you feel when reading it later. It is still in my draft waiting to be sent.
Always a great idea! Glad it seems to have worked out for you.
Unfortunately they want me to charge as much time to projects as possible. Charging time to overhead is seen by management as possibly increasing their overhead and they do not see any benefit in that. My life would be so much easier if I did not charge any time to direct projects...But any management that understood the benefits of that is gone.
So shortsighted. But not unexpected. As soon as I read your initial post I knew they were going to do that. BTDT. Your cost to overhead would be miniscule to the overall program, but the managers get to split the savings in their bonus checks. So there's that.

One more thing, when you have the meeting later with management, they're probably in a "Problem --> Corrective Action" mindset. It isn't bad to say, "Hey, a mistake was made in taking on this particular job, we're developing/developed guidelines so it doesn't happen again."

I came from an environment where this was proven by two different groups. The process was cheaper and faster when it was built by the (qualified) engineers. It eliminated all the time wasted making detailed drawings that served no purpose but to instruct the shop(s) what we wanted for a quantity of one assembly, or one test. It eliminated the time wasted with the engineers "coordinating" and going to meetings.
Not sure if there's any disagreement or just talking past each other a bit. 100% agree that engineers that can or know how to make their own parts in the shop produce better work. And kudos to you for coming up with KPIs to show it! But that's a temporary, educational thing. It can't be long-term because otherwise, why even have the machinists, the engineers should build all their own parts. And generally it will only work if you can get the engineers to book to overhead. It'll get killed by the PM who looks at the guy who spent a week and $12K in the internal shop making his own parts, two brackets, a mounting plate, and one sexier part, vs. the dude who sent it out all approximately the same for $1500.

I think you like people going to tradeshows, it's hard enough to come up with $10K for a guy to travel to IMTS for a few days. But that's an easier sell since there's no comparable outside option.

I'm also reluctant to advocate an educational role for someone in an internal shop without knowing more because it takes a certain type of individual to take on that role. Plus he's overloaded with work already anyway. Having work to do isn't the problem, and training people on equipment is a job unto itself. He needs to pare down.

It also made better designs because the engineer knew that they had to create every stupid hole location or odd feature.
It lets the engineer know the pain in the production process, and assign a value to it. Actually this is a good reason to not have engineers make the parts, because then there can be a tendency to compromise things too much to make them easier to build. Plenty of projects screwed by short term cost reduction to make things cheaper. The machinist may whine and bitch about making a feature, which may not even be needed on the initial build/assembly. But they only need to touch the part once. The maintenance techs need to deal with the crap forever, so making their life easier can help tremendously.

I don't know what bizzaro world you worked in but, this was not the case for any of the engineers I worked with. University machine shops are not a wondrous place to learn all about machining.
This comment confused me because I thought you were the one preaching the benefits of the uni shop. Formula SAE is a great program, but only a minority of undergrads participate in it or similar. My offhand comment was just the grad student who built the custom lithography machine, carbon fiber winding/patterning system, or unique kinematic end-effector for harvesting fruit from tree/plants/bushes spent a lot more time in that shop making parts that they had more direct design experience with, so benefited more.

And if you can't find the guys who grew up with lathes or mills in the garage - farmers. People who grew up on farms are great!

If they can save money by showing me the door, I'll be the first to justify it!
You might be the first, it's a short line anyway. Industry 4.0 anyone?

But his organization is going to be hurt by him being gone, not helped.
 








 
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