Heard on the street...

(A collection of anonymous commentaries on outsourcing from plant engineers) ...One good reason for outsourcing is that it's easy to blame a contractor when something goes wrong.


(A collection of anonymous commentaries on outsourcing from plant engineers)

...One good reason for outsourcing is that it's easy to blame a contractor when something goes wrong. Of course, this may not work more than once with the same contractor. You have to be careful.

...When we outsourced part of our maintenance operation, the contractor promised to hire our people and leave them in the plant. They did for awhile. But after 2 yr, all our really good people had been reassigned and we were stuck with whoever they decided to send us.

...We noticed after awhile that one of our competitors seemed to know about stuff going on in our plant almost as soon as we did. We're pretty sure there was a leak through one of our contractors, although we could never prove it. Since then, we've beefed up security and have a pretty strict confidentiality agreement that every one of our contractors has to sign.

...We have a lot of production equipment we developed and maintained ourselves for a long time. Then we decided to outsource the machining of replacement parts. After that, we had nothing but trouble because our inhouse people had made modifications and improvements over the years that were never documented. I doubt that we'll ever save enough on the contract to make up for the lost production.

...I would never outsource security. That's like giving away the keys.

...Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it. One contractor we used provided exactly what we specified. Trouble was, we didn't know how to specify exactly what we wanted. We finally got it all worked out, but it took a long time before we completely understood each other.

...We contract for quite a few services that we just don't want to have to deal with ourselves. For example, we have a standing contract for all our scaffolding. I don't have to train anybody; I don't have to stock parts; I don't have to worry about it being put up right. All I have to do is make a phone call, and the job gets done quickly and safely.

...I get frustrated with people that think maintenance isn't a core competency. Our business is making [a product], and to do that, we also have to maintain and improve our equipment. Our plant is running beyond its design capacity without any problems. Now that's what I call return on investment, and it wouldn't happen without our own dedicated maintenance force. If that isn't a core competency, I don't know what is.

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Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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