Thursday, October 4, 2012

EMC- Specification Switchout

- Mike Prongue 

Imagine if you will, you are the sales manager at an exclusive automobile dealership specializing in importing Italian sports cars. Brand names are not important for this exercise, but think “red, shiny, fast, 750 horsepower and expensive.”

Your client, Daniel J. Smith, Esq., corporate lawyer for a Fortune 500 company has walked into your 11th Avenue exotic sports car showroom in Manhattan.

“Good morning Don,” Mr. Smith said, extending his hand for a firm shake, his diamond cufflinks showing from under the cuff of his Gieves & Hawkes custom-tailored $4,000 suit. Mr. Smith is 52 years-old and an exacting professional who does not always please easily

“Let me look at my new car,” he said with excitement.

“Well Mr. Smith, we are almost done with the final detailing and it should be ready within the hour, “ you say smiling, “I know you’ve waited three months for this car, and it was hand-assembled to your specification requests.”

“But…” you say, as the showroom clears out and a deathly silence descends.

“They changed the color from red to green, and the 6-speed transmission was replaced with an automatic.”

“No extra charge!” you add, failing in your desperate attempt at levity. You can see the legal papers already being filed at the courthouse.

Of course this type of last minute switch-out would create an issue of apocalyptic proportion and would never be tolerated by the car dealership or any customer.

In the Electronic Message Center (EMC) industry, this happens every day, much more so with imported projects. Manufacturers need not be named as it occurs across a broad spectrum of suppliers.

What does a Sign Company or EMC distributor do when this occurs? What leverage do they have? It seems like very little, actually.

The Sign Company or EMC distributor placed an order in good faith usually after receiving a deposit from the customer. They ordered the project from some supplier, sometimes off-shore, precisely communicating the exact specifications the customer requested, money is wired to begin the project and the final payment is wired before the project ships, usually about 6-weeks later.

The customer is waiting. The EMC comes in and it is the wrong pixel size, has rear opening cabinets instead of front removable modules, or the amber grayscale request has been changed out with a red screen.

Two and a half months have passed since the order was placed and the project is late, having been placed on an extended hold in US Customs at the Long Beach, CA port. Now it must be installed in only 7 days to support the grand opening of an auto parts store. The clock is ticking!

You can’t send it back to China (for example), as it would take at least 4 weeks to get there. What do you do? Make excuses or give the customer a discount? Not good enough to ensure a customer for a week much less a customer for life. There is no good strategy at this point.

You can call and complain and perhaps get a discount on the next order, but then somehow that order is also wrong and now you have two compromised customers and the dysfunction continues.

Project specifications for your order are not wishes- they are a precise requirement. When an order is placed however, it never seems to occur to the Sign Company or EMC distributor that such an egregious error could happen. The Sign Company may never know if the system was manufactured in “error” or if it was actually a pre-built project which had been canceled by some other customer ("close enough" to match the dealer's order). This is called a “switch out”. One never knows, does one?

It is important to know your supplier, have legal recourse, have timely production updates, and a signed sales order showing you exactly what to expect. Ordering an EMC is not game of roulette if you have done your homework by calling references and checking them out. As they say “You get what you inspect, rather than what you expect.”

So, it’s critical to choose wisely and do not become the victim of the “last minute switch out”. It does happen every day in the EMC industry.

Isolated production mistakes with U.S. manufacturers can be rapidly resolved because contract law is honored here and solutions can be shipped rapidly. Rectifying the much more common international situation, perhaps a last-minute “switch out”, is an entirely different problem and for which a good solution remains elusive.

**Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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