Friday Mar 18, 2016

Five Competitive Killers in the Manufacturing “Engineer to Order” Process

Call it a streetcar not desired. In September 2015, Seattle, Washington’s Department of Transportation issued penalties of nearly $800,000 against Czech company Inekon for failing to meet deadlines in delivering new, customized street cars to the city after a series of software glitches, propulsion problems, water damage in six out of seven inverters, and unfinished items like way-finding graphics and the customer information system. As of year’s end, the first street car was scheduled to arrive two years late -- not a glittering endorsement for the company.

#1 Making the customer wait – not to mention the penalties that come with those delays -- is just one of several competitive killers that manufacturers face in the Engineer-to-Order business.

ETO projects, those highly customized, small volume designs that require unique materials and sometimes last months or years, are perhaps the most vulnerable to competitive killers due to their very nature. Designs change, delivery of specialized materials could be delayed, technology updates, things could go wrong. Manufacturers that venture into ETO projects must be ready to slay these competitive killers.

#2 Rework and failures

Changes in design are inevitable in ETO projects, but lapses in transparency and communication between customers, partners and the manufacturer are not. The need for unnecessary rework hits the bottom line.

Boeing knows this all too well. In July 2015, the aerospace manufacturer took yet another charge against its USAF aerial refueling tanker program, the KC-46A. This time the price tag was $536 million after taxes, bringing the total charges to date to more than $800 million, according to one report. The KC-46 tanker is being designed, developed and tested under a fixed-price Engineering, Manufacturing and Development contract.  

The additional charges, according to Boeing’s president and CEO, reflect higher estimated engineering and manufacturing costs to complete development, certification and initial production of the tanker aircraft, while holding to the program schedule for initial production deliveries in 2017. While Boeing had improved its processes after producing similar tankers for Italian and Japanese air forces, the fueling system is new to the USAF and different from the previous tankers.

#3 Overproduction

Even when an ETO project appears to be running smoothly, there are other aspect of ETO projects that can go south. Companies that manage more than one ETO project at a time can face overproduction due to a lack of oversight and coordination across projects. For instance, project managers arbitrarily set a pre-define margin of safety, but smaller ETO projects can tolerate a smaller margin of safety. Another pitfall to avoid -- if production starts too early, designs can change and require further production – adding to the waste.

#4 Too much inventory

Multiple ETO projects can also lead to unnecessary inventory. Procurement specialists sometimes buy larger quantities than they need to meet minimum order quantities, or they want to take advantage of quantity discounts, but in reality the true carrying or holding costs can often be greater than what was originally saved.

#5 Not automating the entire ETO project management process

Manufacturers need visibility across their entire project portfolio to determine optimal bid prices, better estimate delivery dates, reduce lead times, and be better able to accommodate change orders without compromising margins or delivery schedules. Updates should also be communicated regularly with the client and suppliers to keep inventory and production on track.

Oracle Primavera’s enterprise solution addresses the challenges of the ETO process. It can help ETO businesses make changes quickly, collaborate with stakeholders easily, understand where they are in the process, manage resources so they’re ready when needed, and ultimately deliver the product on time and on budget.

In highly specialized manufacturing, customer satisfaction is key. Oracle Primavera allows manufacturers to build tighter relationships through open transparency and repeatable success. Check out our White Paper, “Building a Profitable Engineer-to-Order Business,” to learn more.

For more information on Primavera’s Engineer-to-Order Solution visit www.oracle.com/goto/eto

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