Tolerances: Anyone paying attention?

Here’s a problem we see rarely; never is when we’d prefer to see it. In a previous newsletter we noted an article that suggested NOT answering a request for proposal, and we thought that a very bad idea. However, here’s a case where it might be correct.

One contact requested a quote for machined plates that fit together. The finished item was a machine base, so the parts needed to match up on the edges and various cut-outs needed to match up as well. Some burnout activity was indicated, and our source noted the specified tolerances mandated water jet; plasma could not hold those tolerances. And so we quoted.

We learned that our quote, while close, was not chosen. The existing supplier retained their business, even though the contact had some issues. But in this case price prevailed and everyone moved on.

Later we learned the project was indeed plasma cut and when we pointed out the tolerances could not be met with this method, we were told the status quo was just fine, and engineering was not going to be asked to change their specified tolerances.

We chose not to pursue future competition for this business. Obviously, if we are producing known out of tolerance parts, a future of problems lurks. Apparently, pointing out this tolerance non-compliance and their acceptance was “appreciated”, but did not cause a change in supplier.

So here we have a case where a company specifies tolerances they do not police and a supplier who apparently knows they are violating those tolerances (or if they do not, what does that say about that supplier?). When the company discovers this inconsistency, they choose to perpetuate the situation rather than correct the tolerances required.

So in this case we have chosen not to pursue future RFQ’s, despite the work being in our supplier’s sweet spot.

If this shoe fits, you might consider what you are asking and receiving from your suppliers, and who might be reluctant to bid on future work. This is not a healthy situation for anyone.

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