I recently stopped by a business that I thought may have a need for wire harnesses. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw the “Now Hiring” sign that I see at almost every manufacturing facility I have visited in the last year. You likely have one outside your facility.
I was able to introduce myself to the buyer and was offered a tour of the mid-size manufacturing facility. As we walked the manufacturing floor, we discussed how difficult it can be to find reliable employees in manufacturing. We soon arrived at the area where wire harnesses were being assembled and I was introduced to the lead for that cell. He was a long-time employee of the company and indicated that he had done “every job in this place”. I asked if he preferred to build harnesses and he said, “no but they didn’t have anyone else that could do it properly.”
We moved on to the receiving area and I noticed a 40 ft. trailer docked at one of the bays that was full of wire and components. I asked my guide if that was the inventory for the wire harness assembly and he said “yep”. They were storing the components in the trailer due to space constraints. I asked what was in the trailer and he shrugged and said, “there’s probably a lot of stuff we don’t use”.
My observations prompted a lot of questions. However, being a guest in another’s business, I chose to save my questions and ask them at a later time. I did, however, write down my questions and observations as I sat in the parking lot looking at the “Now Hiring” sign flapping in the wind.
- How much cost did they incur in obsolete inventory that’s sitting in that trailer?
- If labor is an issue why is the long-time employee doing a job he’d prefer not to do?
- Do they know the real cost to manufacture harnesses with hand tools?
- Are they aware of the automated equipment and technology available to manufacture wire harnesses?
You may wonder how this story ends. Well…….it had not ended yet. The buyer I met with left the company and I had a second visit with the new buyer. He seemed interested in looking at the benefits and cost impact of outsourcing. As is often the case I believe that this project was set aside so the purchasing and engineering departments could face the daily challenges that come up. Outsourcing requires strategy and strategy requires a commitment on behalf of the company to focus on improving long term and completing the day-to-day challenges. I will keep in touch and eventually I will get my shot at the business.
I hope that this article serves to stimulate thought about allocation of resources and helps improve your business.
Part 2 of this series will focus on the technologies used in a dedicated wire harness manufacturing facility
Part 3 of this series will focus on what is needed to successfully transition wire harness manufacturing from your facility to a partner facility
By Jon Bush – a business leader with over 20 years of experience growing businesses. He has worked with over one hundred business owners to improve their processes and grow sales. His experience includes purchasing, dealer networks, distribution, B2B sales, Inside and Outside Sales management. He’s worked directly with businesses that thrive and some that fail.