You’re not alone. We recently had lunch with a client who has a new and popular proprietary design and is ramping up production to meet increased demand.

The client is looking for us to help identify key machining and welding/fabrication support. But, as with all things, we start at the beginning with our silly questions.

The questions posed:

QUALITY, PART 1: Do you have a QMS? What is your intent? Is it published and already in place? If it isn’t, you need a stop gap solution immediately.

PRODUCT: What processes are in place for design development and control? If suppliers are building to incomplete drawings, what have you left open to chance? What is the associated risk? If you don’t have good drawings, you’ll be relying on your supply chain to know how to build your parts … so who owns that IP?

SUPPLY CHAIN: What processes are in place for operational execution and control? Are you protected commercially? Have you balanced your desire for low cost against also wanting shops of proven, reliable performance? These are (typically) mutually exclusive.

QUALITY, PART 2: Are your vendors delivering what you asked for? How do you know? And does it match what you promised? Do your promises even match what your customer requested in the first place? Do the parts even work?

SHOW ME THE MONEY: What is your cash conversion cycle? What is your A/R? Even if you’re doing accrual accounting, count your money in real time or be prepared for production delays and surprises. Do the terms with your client support the terms your suppliers require?

DON’T TRUST … ENSURE: Is project management a core competency or an afterthought? Good project management depends on many good organizational processes, including a good QMS and realistic promises made at the very start. Your PMs should be operating within a framework that lets them balance their constraints (duration, scope, cost, etc) in real time in support of the bigger business picture.

I could be wrong, but the client might have looked a little queasy (pretty sure it wasn’t the food) by the time we finished asking these questions. But the sooner these questions get answered, the sooner production (and profitability) will get formulaic and scalable. And the thought of ramping up won’t have you reaching for the Tums.