Up close and personal with outsourcing woes

When part of your business is involved in salvaging development projects that are off track, you get an up-close view of what sometimes happens with outsourcing projects gone wrong. I recently talked about this subject with Darrel Baker and Richard Lundin, president and sales director respectively of Stilwell Baker, a contract electronic engineering and manufacturing firm.

The two tell me they hear about failed overseas development efforts all the time. They are also occasionally called in to rescue such projects. In one case, the firm was called in after a large office products company engaged a broker to outsource a project to China. "They got the initial prototypes back and nothing worked correctly," says Baker. "It was a classic case of what they thought they'd said and what the other side heard wasn't even close."

It took a small engineering team six months to fix the mess, Baker says. "I have seen this kind of thing several times. Some of these foreign firms don't seem to care whether you come back to them or not."

Other times, Stilwell Baker has gotten involved in projects where products in-route from China needed engineering changes. Some firms just don't consider transit time from Asia when doing their product planning, Baker says.

And those who think availability of technical talent weighs on outsourcing decisions should consider one final comment from the two: "We've never turned down a job due to a lack of technical help," Baker says. "There is a talent pool out there. I wouldn't say there is a shortage of engineers."

Stilwell Baker also did an informal study about outsourcing trends which you can find here.

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