Author’s note: I wrote this column last summer, but thought it was particularly fitting given my column on the DoD a couple of days ago.)
The young sales person had been waiting patiently for the buyer to come out for almost an hour. He was a bit nervous and also excited because he was finally here. It had taken him literally months to get here. He had worked very hard with prospecting and research and cold calling and leaving messages but he had persevered and in the end it had paid off he finally got an appointment with Mr. Big the buyers for one of the largest defense contractors in the country. And now he was ready. He had his presentation memorized, he knew that his pitch was perfect and there was no way he was going to fail, no sir, not after having come this far.
And now finally Mr. Big came out and motioned him to follow him into one of those little rooms off of the lobby.
Mr. Big: Okay kid you’re finally here, I’ve got to hand it to you you’re one persistent little SOB so tell me what you’ve got.
Eager sales person (ESP): Well sir let me tell you about me company.
Mr. Big: Hold on now son, before you do that let me ask you some questions to make sure we can even do business with you at all. After all we are the largest defense contractor in the country. We are the defenders of not only this country but also the free world so we can’t have just anyone build our printed wiring boards. Okay let me ask you kid. Are you ITAR Registered?
ESP: Yes sir we are.
Mr. Big: And of course you have ISO?
ESP: Yes of course sir.
Mr. Big: And you have your 55110?
ESP: Yes we do
Mr. Big: And you need your AS9100 you have that don’t you?
ESP: Yes sir we do.
Mr. Big: And 31032 do you have that? He asked eyeing the kid suspiciously.
ESP: Yes we that.
Mr. Big: And NADCAP you have your NADCAP don’t you?
ESP: Yes sir we do.
Mr. Big: And your company has instituted Lean Manufacturing?
ESP: Yes sir.
Mr. Big: and JIT?
ESP: Yes we have all of that. The young sales person was looking excited things were looking good for him now.
Mr. Big: How about a Laser Drill and an LDI do you have that equipment as well? Can you do HDI Microvia work?
ESP: (Looking a bit confused) well, yes we have invested almost four million dollars in the past year to make sure we could do HDI Microvia but I didn’t think your company bought HDI Microvia boards?
Mr. Big: No we don’t but we require all of our vendors to be top of the line in case we decide to go in that direction
ESP: Oh do you think you’re be doing that soon?
Mr. Big: I doubt it. But anyway let me ask you do you have our company’s new qualification so that you could qualify as one of our suppliers?
ESP: (Crestfallen) No sir, we have not done any business for you yet so we didn’t start on that qualification yet.
Mr. Big ( with a bright glow of satisfaction in his eyes) Aha, well son you’re going to have to go back to your company and make sure that you qualify to our new spec before we can even talk again. I shouldn’t have even met with you today.
ESP: (Trying be upbeat and not show his disappointment. So let me ask you sir once we have that qualification will we be able to do business with you?
Mr. Big: Whoa hold on there son I can’t commit to anything right now there are steps we have to go through you know. This is a process. After you meet all the spec requirements you have to fill out our survey form and then we you have to build five sample sets of boards, free of course, and then we do a site visit and the you have to submit some sample quotes and if you do all these things in a satisfactory manner we’ll consider putting you on the AVL and sending you some live RFQ’s. Finally if you can turn those quotes around in a timely fashion and if your price is the very lowest of all of our qualified bidders, then you might get an order. But there are promises son. As I told you we are the largest and I might add most important defense contractor in the country. Our products are used to defend the free world we have to be very careful who our vendors are right?
ESP: I see sir, I’ll go back to my company and well do the best we possibly can to be your supplier. Thank you for your time.
Mr. Big: Okay, but don’t come back until you are fully prepared and qualified to be one of our vendors after all…
ESP: I know sir (he says wearily) you are the largest and most important defense contractor in the country and you are saving the free world.
Mr. Big (as his cell phone rings) that’s right son you got it. See you later. I have to take this.
The young sales person leaves dragging his briefcase behind him as Mr. Big answers his cell phone.
Mr. Big: This is Big here what can I do for you?
Mr. Big’s company’s lead PCB designer (PCBD): Can you get me twenty of those 82113 cards as fast as possible Mr. Big?
Mr. Big: Probably but those are really hard to build when do you need them?
PCBD: We need twenty of them in five days.
Mr. Big: are you crazy it takes at least five weeks to get those boards. I can’t help you with that.
PCBD: Well we need them or we’re going to be late on the first system, what am I supposed to do.
Mr. Big: Well dummy why don’t you do what we always do when this happens? Go to one of those ‘no touch’ sites that advertise in the back of the magazines!
PCBD: I would but I thought all our vendors had to be fully qualified now, especially to our own new spec? Hell we’re not even sure where those boards are actually built.
Mr. Big: Oh forget about that if you need the boards get them from one of those web sites that’ll be good enough. Good enough for government work.
And they both laugh.
End of story
Great story right? The problem is it’s not just a story this happens every single day on our industry, every single day. Now for this one time only…this is not only common sense.