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Buying Parts In A Storm


Business signs are still unclear as we daily set forth on an uncertain journey. Business can be complex. And if you are the boss, your world becomes even more complex. We are each responsible for what we do or don’t do and we can only really control ourselves and our own actions. You know things are out of hand when you or an employee has to ask, “Who is driving the boat?”
I was recently reminded of an exchange with a customer that shows how complicated we can make simple sales, for ourselves, and others. It starts with a consumer who has a severely damaged block and a set of wiped out bearings and crankshaft.
This talented machinist and shop owner is pressured by his good customer to fix the main saddles and rebuild the engine. Originally, time was not a factor, but soon it will be.
And what should have been a fairly smooth sail, soon starts to hit some foul weather.
With the align-bore machining completed, the block looks good. But it needs oversized O.D. main bearings. One manufacturer’s catalog shows a set of main bearings that will fit and accommodate a .010? undersize crankshaft. However, this creates a new problem as the crankshaft is hurt and can’t make .010”.
At this point an exchange crank “kit” is ordered and it all starts to unravel. A request is made to change the contents of the kit, to accommodate the need for these oversize O.D. bearings. It is agreed and acknowledged that the bearings must be special ordered and a projected date is established that they will arrive and ship to the machine shop.
Then, the warehouse distributor contacts the machine shop with a confirmation and a delivery date. This is a Thursday or Friday and they move on to the next phone call and sales.
The following week, as everything is in progress and the parts are “in the mail,” the dissatisfaction is announced. The question being, “Why weren’t the (special order) bearings shipped directly to me (the machine shop)?” Apparently this could have saved a day in the delivery of the products and allowed a certain amount of assembly and checking of the parts and the work. So, who gets the call and the complaint? Yours truly, of course.
I must admit, I didn’t have a clue why this was so important. My first mistake. After all, it was too late to change things. As far as I could tell, coming in on this very late in the cruise, everyone had done their part to facilitate a special request. I could not answer the question. And, I could not, at that moment, reach the person who had taken the original order. And again, I could do nothing about it at this stage of the game.
Something was said that sounded like a good excuse right from the dissatisfied machinist, who possibly wanted to check the bearings against the crank. It sounded good to me, but now this was a problem. The book was very clear as to the specifications of the bearings, so why the need to check? I just wanted to sail on, but this was not good enough, and now everything I said was wrong. I was accused of poor service, saying things I should not have, and on and on. Yikes! All hands on deck.
Well, like so many other tales of the high seas, this one did not end here. It seems the exchange crankshaft had not been ground at the time the order was placed. Over the weekend it was ground, but, for whatever reason, the mains did not make the projected .010? undersize. Bearings were already on their way to the grinder, but this was not going to work. The crank shop steps up at this time and faxes in another bearing order, specifying bearings that are correct for the O.D. and the new I.D. Additionally, they asked for them to be next day aired to the machine shop, at their expense. Sounds like terrific service to me. Hooray crew.
Wrong! The bearing manufacturer does not make them in this size, assumes an error and proceeds to ship out a set of the exact same sizes, oversize O.D. and .010? I.D., to the engine builder.
Ka-boom! It really hits the prop. Yours truly gets another call. I am also reminded that I never addressed the original question of why they were not shipped direct to the shop the first time. (I am hoping my hair grows back soon.)
Eventually a new crank core is found, ground to the correct specifications and delivered to the shop. The motor is completed, delivered and all is well.
Oh, and in case you too are asking that question, it had nothing to do with checking the bearings.
As an economy, quantities of bearings are ordered regularly and shipped into the crank shop. The oversized O.D. set was just included in that order as a way to save money, by not creating an additional freight charge to anyone. Pretty simple. After all, this is a large company that sells crank “kits,” not individual parts.
The lesson, Gilligan? Whenever you stray from the norm or pressure someone else, expect the unforeseen circumstances that might occur. Pressuring others, because of promises you have made without consulting them first, will only create problems that can snowball down the road leaving you and the others accountable for the outcome.
If you have a certain need or are setting an expectation, voice your orders to the crew loud and clear, and at the beginning of the trip. In today’s business climate, at today’s profit margins, too many of these mishaps could spell disaster for not only your trip, but also business for someone else.
Small winds can soon become a giant squall. And if you’re not a prudent captain, you may find yourself sailing into a storm.

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