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Helping young Engineers, only to have them send work to China

Well he said apparently the local companies couldn't be bothered to quote, or took too long. He sent a stp file to a chinese company late afternoon, had a quote in his inbox the next morning. 3 weeks delivery ARO to his shop. Very good price. And the quality was excellent as well. Without drawings expressing tolerances etc they managed to make parts right on the money.

What people are not aware of is, there's a huge variety of everything in China. There's a bunch of idiots pounding on shit with rocks, and there's guys with the latest grooviest stuff and kids who are pretty sharp. Of course the guys who pound on pressed dogshit with rocks don't say so, all websites claim the same thing :D

Maybe not as much now, since there's a lot less shops, but that was true in the US too. There were good heat treaters and bad heat traters, jerk shops and good ones. But it's a lot easier to figure out which you are dealing with when they are an hour's drive away, and speak english.
 
Or, if we are “lucky” enough to get the job, it’s always a $500 trinket that gets rev changed four times before it starts and requires six more phone calls.

I am turning into a cranky old man who doesn’t want to quote anything without a CAD model and a decent print…

lol, I'm old and wasn't especially cranky, that's changed.

I have found that the customers who want to chat me up for an hour of free advice are exponentially more likely to send a job anywhere else to save a few bucks.

Yes, that seems to be a problem that I've noticed as well. I'm naturally sociable, and like problem solving, but can be detrimental. as found recently

Same company that has Engineers 1 and 2 has a very nice female Filipino Engineer, who's floundering a bit as a project manager. I'll continue to support her as much as I can. She sends me a lot of work and as long as I make delivery dates she looks good in front of the boss, in other words doing her job managing vendors.
 
Maybe not as much now, since there's a lot less shops, but that was true in the US too. There were good heat treaters and bad heat traters, jerk shops and good ones. But it's a lot easier to figure out which you are dealing with when they are an hour's drive away, and speak english.

I wonder if either Engineer #1 and 2 walked into a US shop they would even know the difference between a mill or lathe, or if they saw parts on tables, or how it was organized whether they could adequately guess at the quality they might expect, or whether the shop could do the work

I strongly discourage customer visits. At the best of times my shop looks like the inside of the Chernobyl reactor building. If a customer came in I would never get the work. But stuff I deliver is always what the customer expects to see. So as long as I continue to deliver I can keep discouraging customer visits. I'm more worried about the local FD then I am customers dropping by.
 
What people are not aware of is, there's a huge variety of everything in China. There's a bunch of idiots pounding on shit with rocks, and there's guys with the latest grooviest stuff and kids who are pretty sharp. Of course the guys who pound on pressed dogshit with rocks don't say so, all websites claim the same thing :D

Maybe not as much now, since there's a lot less shops, but that was true in the US too. There were good heat treaters and bad heat traters, jerk shops and good ones. But it's a lot easier to figure out which you are dealing with when they are an hour's drive away, and speak english.
>>>>>But it's a lot easier to figure out which you are dealing with when they are an hour's drive away, and speak english.<<<<<
Had to chuckle at that one.
 
I have found that the customers who want to chat me up for an hour of free advice are exponentially more likely to send a job anywhere else to save a few bucks.

Or, if we are “lucky” enough to get the job, it’s always a $500 trinket that gets rev changed four times before it starts and requires six more phone calls.

I am turning into a cranky old man who doesn’t want to quote anything without a CAD model and a decent print…
Lots of good points here (boosted's post, as well as all of the others)! I'm not sure if any of my thoughts will help others here, but I guess it's worth a shot:

It sounds like I suffer the same affliction as WA-CNC (generally liking people and wanting to be helpful)! I can truly say that I can't recall a time that I felt the would-be customer was *trying* to be difficult or waste our time, but certain types of these folks can't seem to do any better than that. As a result of all this, I've slowly come up with a number of hacks (I can't bring myself to call them "solutions", as the problem is insoluble-LOL):

1.) Early in the process I try to learn the customer's expectations of lead time and cost. It's not unusual to find out that what it takes to do a proper job, and *their* expectations of this are wildly different. If we can't accommodate their (unrealistic) expectations, there is no point in continuing the process. I'll try to provide a suitable referral if I know of one.

2.) While we don't need CAD data or a drawing per se, a lack of either (or worse, both) provides another clue into the abilities (or motives) of the other party.

3.) While point #2 doesn't immediately disqualify the "customer", it provides the opportunity to inform them that we will need to do some initial work in order to quote their job. This work takes time, and therefore costs money, which we then discuss immediately. If they can't clearly articulate what they want, I can't just mind-read....(actually, I probably *can*, but they're gonna pay up whether it's really what they wanted-or not).

4.) If this doesn't put them off, and if the job seems somewhat ill-defined or open ended, I suggest that we proceed on a time-and-materials basis, with a not-to-exceed cap. We'll then discuss what this means in terms of cost and suggest that they consider the possibility that they might exceed their desired budget before the project reaches completion. How do they feel about that? I mention that the T & M arrangement can make sense because in order to provide a firm quote for a poorly-defined project, I will heavily "pad" the quote to ensure a profit. T & M ensures that they only pay for what they get. We'll generally ask for a partial payment in advance with this sort of arrangement and will not proceed until this occurs. (First-time customers are COD only-no exceptions!)

5.) While we don't have a stated minimum charge, I generally don't want to invoice anything less than a full day's work (unless it's just a partial shipment of a larger order). If somebody wants just one of something (and it *looks like* an inexpensive part) I'll mention this, and ask if they'd like a few more parts for the same total cost.

6.) Look askance/try to avoid brokers or middle-men. While we do still have a few customers for whom we aren't dealing directly with the end user, our experience has been that by the time your parts change hands more than absolutely necessary (with everybody tacking on their %) you may no longer be competitive.... which brings me to the next point:

7.) While engaging with potential new customers is kinda like dating (ya gotta try before you buy-for both parties!), if your conversion ratio (is that the term for it??) is much below 50% you might be wasting your time. Sure, everybody gets the benefit of the doubt right out of the gate, but once a pattern emerges you probably ought to move along. Not everybody is a customer.

The older I get the more I've come to believe that many things are actually simpler than I previously thought. If you find yourself asking if this is really going to work/can I really do it for that/does she really like me/can I really trust this guy/etc., etc.-you've already got the answer, and it's "NO." Your intuition counts for a lot....

Boy, I bet Marcus would have some good thoughts about this sort of thing-it sounds like he's got a number of "unconventional" customers!

Cheers, Brian
 
Lots of good points here (boosted's post, as well as all of the others)! I'm not sure if any of my thoughts will help others here, but I guess it's worth a shot:

It sounds like I suffer the same affliction as WA-CNC (generally liking people and wanting to be helpful)! I can truly say that I can't recall a time that I felt the would-be customer was *trying* to be difficult or waste our time, but certain types of these folks can't seem to do any better than that. As a result of all this, I've slowly come up with a number of hacks (I can't bring myself to call them "solutions", as the problem is insoluble-LOL):

1.) Early in the process I try to learn the customer's expectations of lead time and cost. It's not unusual to find out that what it takes to do a proper job, and *their* expectations of this are wildly different. If we can't accommodate their (unrealistic) expectations, there is no point in continuing the process. I'll try to provide a suitable referral if I know of one.

2.) While we don't need CAD data or a drawing per se, a lack of either (or worse, both) provides another clue into the abilities (or motives) of the other party.

3.) While point #2 doesn't immediately disqualify the "customer", it provides the opportunity to inform them that we will need to do some initial work in order to quote their job. This work takes time, and therefore costs money, which we then discuss immediately. If they can't clearly articulate what they want, I can't just mind-read....(actually, I probably *can*, but they're gonna pay up whether it's really what they wanted-or not).

4.) If this doesn't put them off, and if the job seems somewhat ill-defined or open ended, I suggest that we proceed on a time-and-materials basis, with a not-to-exceed cap. We'll then discuss what this means in terms of cost and suggest that they consider the possibility that they might exceed their desired budget before the project reaches completion. How do they feel about that? I mention that the T & M arrangement can make sense because in order to provide a firm quote for a poorly-defined project, I will heavily "pad" the quote to ensure a profit. T & M ensures that they only pay for what they get. We'll generally ask for a partial payment in advance with this sort of arrangement and will not proceed until this occurs. (First-time customers are COD only-no exceptions!)

5.) While we don't have a stated minimum charge, I generally don't want to invoice anything less than a full day's work (unless it's just a partial shipment of a larger order). If somebody wants just one of something (and it *looks like* an inexpensive part) I'll mention this, and ask if they'd like a few more parts for the same total cost.

6.) Look askance/try to avoid brokers or middle-men. While we do still have a few customers for whom we aren't dealing directly with the end user, our experience has been that by the time your parts change hands more than absolutely necessary (with everybody tacking on their %) you may no longer be competitive.... which brings me to the next point:

7.) While engaging with potential new customers is kinda like dating (ya gotta try before you buy-for both parties!), if your conversion ratio (is that the term for it??) is much below 50% you might be wasting your time. Sure, everybody gets the benefit of the doubt right out of the gate, but once a pattern emerges you probably ought to move along. Not everybody is a customer.

The older I get the more I've come to believe that many things are actually simpler than I previously thought. If you find yourself asking if this is really going to work/can I really do it for that/does she really like me/can I really trust this guy/etc., etc.-you've already got the answer, and it's "NO." Your intuition counts for a lot....

Boy, I bet Marcus would have some good thoughts about this sort of thing-it sounds like he's got a number of "unconventional" customers!

Cheers, Brian
To your list I add.
No start ups.
No student/university projects especially car projects.
Nothing where the customer says copy this but does not know what material to use.
Really basic badly dimensionsed drawings of complicated parts are a definite no go.
 
I designed an assembly for a specific task for my customer 5 years ago, after being excited about it they say not interested. They are now designing a machine for the same task, and using some parts from my design. They have been asking about my ideas on how to improve certain parts in the assembly, yeah, I haven't been feeling too helpful. At least I will be making the parts I designed.
 
And charging ................no one under 35 knows what gratitude or fairness or even plain dealing is .........silly outdated notions that will get in the way of the bonus that is expected for the engineer pulling the most underhand stroke with the dumb boomer shop owner .
 
And charging ................no one under 35 knows what gratitude or fairness or even plain dealing is .........silly outdated notions that will get in the way of the bonus that is expected for the engineer pulling the most underhand stroke with the dumb boomer shop owner .
John,
From your posting history I’m not sure anyone over 35 knows what plain dealing is. They’re all entertaining, but seem to almost universally involve labor or legal violations, or at a minimum catching people by surprise to meet the letter, but not spirit, of an agreement.
 
I have never been broke (damn close for sure),never owed much money,never failed to pay what I owed....survived the 1974/75 and the 1980s recessions without having to sell real estate assets ,and along the way,helped plenty of idiots for the sake of their families ..........I was always appalled by sensible women who would get dragged down by morons ,and the kids ,no fault of theirs their father is a really bad decision maker...........saddest the young boys,thinking their father is some kind of hero battling the system,when actually he is just a deadbeat.
 
John,
From your posting history I’m not sure anyone over 35 knows what plain dealing is. They’re all entertaining, but seem to almost universally involve labor or legal violations, or at a minimum catching people by surprise to meet the letter, but not spirit, of an agreement.

Hey, IIRC that for part of the time at least he was a scrap dealer. Nice people, scrappies, if you're a relative or good friend. My girlfriend's brother was one, I got a lot of stuff at mate's rates or cheaper (esp if his kid sister got on his case thinking he was asking too much).

But if you're just a mug punter - all bets are off. I heard a lot of stories...

Personally, I abide by the spirit of an agreement right up to the moment the counterparty doesn't, and then all bets are off. By preference I'll just walk away, else if that's not possible contractually, you'll get the minimum letter of the agreement and nothing more.

I once stripped all the comments, formatting and meaningful variable/function names out of a big bit of software on that basis. It met the letter of the agreement - it compiled & executed as per contract and they had the source code to check this for themselves. Good luck reading or modifying it though.

PDW
 
Hey, IIRC that for part of the time at least he was a scrap dealer. Nice people, scrappies, if you're a relative or good friend. My girlfriend's brother was one, I got a lot of stuff at mate's rates or cheaper (esp if his kid sister got on his case thinking he was asking too much).

But if you're just a mug punter - all bets are off. I heard a lot of stories...

Personally, I abide by the spirit of an agreement right up to the moment the counterparty doesn't, and then all bets are off. By preference I'll just walk away, else if that's not possible contractually, you'll get the minimum letter of the agreement and nothing more.

I once stripped all the comments, formatting and meaningful variable/function names out of a big bit of software on that basis. It met the letter of the agreement - it compiled & executed as per contract and they had the source code to check this for themselves. Good luck reading or modifying it though.

PDW
To be clear, I'm not saying John K isn't a nice guy. Frankly I think I'd really enjoy an afternoon of bringing him whatever his beverage of choice is and just listening to the stories. I'd have to be inside the statute of limitations with a prosecutor within earshot anytime "Well Col used to.." gets uttered though.
 
I have another customer that I quote 1 offs. Small parts typically

The first thing I do is run it thru the Xometry quote generator, because I know this is what the customer is doing. I look at the Xometry China price and decide whether I'm even going to bother quoting. generally I get the job if I can turn around in a few days and beat the Xometry delivery. Or it's a part they don't want to send to Xometry as it may get f'd up, which has been a problem with a lot of the Xometry China parts.

No big deal though, they've always been straight with me, and appreciated a few occasions when I suggested changes.

Now the sheet metal different story. Their local Irvine vendor takes a week to quote, and lead time is 6-8 weeks. My guy quotes in 1 day, I double the quote, promise delivery 2 weeks or less, and so far have beaten the Irvine vendor on price. I wish all work was that easy.

If a part can be made using Xometry or some other online ordering tool, then it is almost certain that I will not win the job. My prices are usually about 1.5x to 3x xometry's domestic rates. When my customers come to me with a job that can be done elsewhere, I usually tell them upfront that they will find lower prices online. I still quote the parts, but don't spend any time on the quote.

Prototyping in direct competition with xometry or china is not a viable business in my opinion. I try to stay far away from that type of work.
 
So two different young engineers and two situations that have my blood pressure up.

These two guys work for a company that I’ve done work for years.

----------------------------------------------

Engineer #1

Quote #1

Sends me an assembly to quote, one part is made from 3 pieces, but can be made from one piece. So I point this out to him, and send him a revised design so he understands. Agrees reluctantly it’s better. Also have to tell him there isn’t enough room to get a 1/4NPT thread in the sidewall, it needs to be 1/8NPT

Same quote has another 2 parts, a shaft and a disk. It’s a historical design that was a poor design from the beginning. The original designer had the design sealed with RTV on a thread, and on the face of a Nut. I changed the design to add an o-ring. None of my parts have ever leaked after the change. This young engineer doesn’t know about this change. He should but doesn’t. So I explain to him it should be changed, and even offer to make the change for him gratis.

Last part of the quote is assembly, which includes shaft seals. His assembly drawing shows seals as a blob, doesn’t show in the drawing the correct orientation. So I point out to him without specific instructions there’s a 50% chance a vendor would get the orientation wrong (not me I’ve been installing them correctly in a similar unit for years) and the vendor has to make a tool to install the seal without tearing up the rubber on the od of the seal.

Told him if gets the parts delivered assembled there’s no way he can verify the seals are aligned correctly or not damaged on installation. Short of doing a leak test.

So I spend a lot of time helping this engineer. I’m told a Chinese vendor quoted $400. So I looked at the numbers, and give a quote of $425, assuming a labor rate at $90/hour

Get an e-mail saying I have been approved for 5 assemblies at $425ea, and should expect a PO shortly.:):D:cloud9::sneaky:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
So Engineer #2

Sends me a part to quote 16” dia disk with 10 pockets, pockets both sides are .300 deep, with lots of sloping surfaces, and every corner has a .040 radius. And on one edge of the pocket there’s a tongue that sticks out that .600” ling and .04 thick. No material speciified

So I call him up and want to talk generally about this part, the purpose of the tongue, does he realise not easy to machine, and likely not durable either.

So he says he’s had it quoted in China, $510 landed to his door step. So I ask what material did they quote, he said they recomened Bakelite. I’m driving while talking to him, and nearly drive off the road.

“Do you know what Bakelite is?”
“No”

So proceed to tell him the joys of machining Bakelite and that it’s really unsuitable for what he wants to do.

We talk material, I asked did he consider 6061, no he said it might be too heavy, check in CAD, it's 13.2#. Customer says that's ok not to heavy.

So when I get home I modify his design to make the Tongue part removeable, so if they get damaged, remove 2 fasteners, and put a new one in. Send him a picture which he appreciates, and a quote. Which he says is too high.

So I said I assume your going with the Chinese vendor, doesn’t say anything. Then I said I assume your going to make that tongue removeable as I showed you, so your getting a better part and in Aluminum, and somebody else is getting the work?. Doesn’t say anything

No good deed goes unpunished.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Right after I send a quote to Engineer #2 and his rejection, I get an e-mail from Engineer #1 saying the 5 assemblies have been awarded to another (Chinese) vendor.

I HIT THE F’ING ROOF.:angry:

The e-mail also says he didn’t quite understand what changes needed to be done to the shaft to add the o-ring and would confirm with me the what was actually required. (THIS AFTER SENDING THE WORK ELSEWHERE!!)

So what to do?

I’m thinking, road, engineer, bus.

So write an e-mail to the boss.(cc’ing the engineer and buyer) The whole sorry saga. About the different stages I had to advise him on the design, the changes he should make based on the experience I had making similar parts for the company for years.

And specifically pointed out a couple of areas that if I hadn’t ventured some advice the parts would be substandard, and issues in relation to the seals

E-mail started off red hot, took a few re-writes before it was relatively calm and professional.

So a few hours later talked to the boss, he apologized, said Engineer 1 still had a lot to learn, and sorry for indicating you’ll get the work, and have it awarded somewhere else, wouldn’t happen again etc etc.

I'll find out thru the grapevine if he got a reaming or not. Hopefully he did.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Get this e-mail from Engineer #1

Hi xxxxx,

I realize now I messed up in my actions. Especially shouldn't promise we'd source an order with you, only to go elsewhere. Especially after you did extra work in the geometry and development that leads to a much better final result.

This is something I'm going to need to improve upon with myself and try to prevent from happening in the future.

Best Regards,

Xxxxxx


I e-mailed back

xxxxxx,

Thank you for getting back to me. It's all a learning experience.

Don't hesitate if you need any help in the future

Xxxxx xxxx


I think the chance of either engineer getting any help down the road is zero to none.
Sounds like you should invoice them for your time. Value was given and an exchange should take place.

As for the engineer, wow. What a f’n snob.
“I’ll do better next time, thanks for the free lessons tho sucker”
That email was a professional middle finger to you, and if he gets a reaming he will certainly never consider you again for work. (But may call on you for design advice) I know that type…..
 
That email was a professional middle finger to you, and if he gets a reaming he will certainly never consider you again for work. (But may call on you for design advice) I know that type…..
I'm sure the only reason he sent the email was because he got a reaming, he's the "I'm sorry I got caught" type.
 
I'm sure the only reason he sent the email was because he got a reaming, he's the "I'm sorry I got caught" type.

Next time I see him I'll know whether he was sincere or not. He's very OCD, and if I would venture a guess on the edge of the 'spectrum' So it's hard to get a read on him.

You guys really like to assume malice where there might just be incompetence.

It was incompetence, there was no malice involved. He just f'd up, and didn't realise what he was f'ing up. That's why I ran it the flagpole with his boss.

He did tell the purchasing guy he never makes mistakes. So he's very unaware.
 








 
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