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Motion System Design

OUTSOURCING: Setting the record straight

In the September issue of MSD, a letter authored by one of our employees was printed in response to an editorial on outsourcing. In his response, he made several unsubstantiated and damaging charges that do a disservice to our employees and our customers. We are grateful for the opportunity to clarify our position.

FMC Technologies — Jetway invented and has supplied passenger boarding bridges for more than 46 years. More than 6,000 active installations worldwide serve millions of the traveling public every day. Anyone who takes a flight to almost any major airport has better than an 80% chance of coming into contact with at least one of our products. We take our responsibilities to these customers very seriously.

As almost every manufacturer with a global product, we must satisfy the demands of our world market. Whether that means establishing a presence in different regions, participating in joint ventures, or outsourcing manufacturing and assembly, an expectation of quality and consistency exists with all customers. Our initiatives for outsourcing must consistently meet these critical expectations or we simply do not do them.

The primary reason we outsource is not driven by directives or executive fiats, but rather by efficiency and necessity in response to constant price pressures in global markets. Our selection of outsourcing opportunities are always based on clear requirements that we will never sacrifice quality for cost. There must also be absolute and demonstrable evidence that the efficiencies from outsourcing are greater than building it in the U.S. With respect to quality, many steps are undertaken before production. Prior to prototype creation, designs are verified through finite element analysis and manual calculation by our senior engineering personnel in the U.S. Once a prototype is approved for first article production, a number of quality procedures are also initiated prior to the authorization. These depend upon the component but include fully documented destructive testing (mechanical and physical property testing) and real-time radiography. All products must meet stringent prevailing specifications for the global region where they will enter service (in the U.S., those include AISC, AWS, and SAE).

In addition to pre-shipment requirements, critical components are subjected to life-cycle testing at our Utah facility. We install components in working test models that duplicate the most severe service conditions and initiate tests to failure to assure that the predicted outcomes equal or exceed those evidenced in the real world. This, along with constant quality and process inspection, precludes the use of inferior materials.

Like other companies active in global markets, our products must sometimes be modified to meet local or regional requirements. Metric steels, varying tensile and yield strengths, and simple availability of materials must be considered. The logistics expense and import/export issues make the supply of these materials from the U.S. prohibitive. This sometimes means that the products produced for the Chinese or the Thai markets will not always look like our U.S. products; however, the final design integrity and process criteria are the same.

It was also noted in said letter that a project Jetway produced in Thailand was “sitting non-functional…a monument to the non-engineering executive gurus' quest for a fast buck.” The truth is the project was scheduled for Phuket airport in Thailand, an area struck down in the tsunami last December. The project was delayed while assets and money were directed toward humanitarian efforts. The delay has nothing to do with the quality of Jetway's products.

To accept that quality products and labor are only obtainable in the U.S. is an antiquated geo-centric fallacy. It is also equally false that outsourcing is a complete answer to global competitiveness. American companies with global aspirations who accept these premises at face value do so at their own peril. To be successful, a great deal of work and diligence must be employed to assure a quality product no matter the location. Technology transfers, quality requirements, and process control must be effectively done and monitored to assure customer and end-user requirements and expectations are met whether they are domestic or international.

Jetway continues to strive to bring to the market products that meet or exceed our customer's expectations in quality, reliability, and delivery at a competitive price. The public is our ultimate customer irrespective of who purchases our product so our commitment to safety is one from which we will never deviate.
Dale Sumpter
General Manager — Jetway
FMC Technologies Inc.
Ogden, Utah

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