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Cost, value, knowledge and experience

Why knowledge trumps cost for low volume precision engineering in space and science

Lets’ face it: cost will always be a key factor in determining a choice of precision engineering supplier – and rightly so.

But, and this is where many companies often go wrong, cost is by no means the most important component in any purchasing decision, especially in the space and science sectors. Indeed, there’s a lot of truth in the expression ‘you get what you pay for’, which rather appropriately was first coined by the science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut Jr in his book Cat’s Cradle.

Cost can also be defined as purchase price. When comparing two otherwise identical products then a decision based solely on purchase price makes complete sense. When it comes to specialised goods or services, however, a wide range of other factors may need to be considered.

For example, when selecting a precision engineering supplier for the manufacture of parts and components for advanced space or scientific applications it’s normal for the customer to ask a number of sub-contractors to quote against drawings of the proposed part. Inevitably this produces a range of prices. These often include quotes that have been significantly reduced, either because the supplier wants to win new business with the intention of increasing their margins on subsequent jobs, or because the supplier is desperate for work and is prepared to cut their margins to the bone simply to fill machine time.

Cost can come at a price in precision engineering

The lowest price, however, often comes at an unforeseen cost. In particular, it rarely reflects the importance of the specialised engineering knowledge and experience that are crucial for the successful manufacture of parts to the correct specification, without defects and delivered without unexpected delays.

At Frazer-Nash, we’ve a century of experience, gained through our work as a manufacturer first of sports cars and aircraft systems, then defence equipment and, more recently, specialised parts and assemblies for customers in the space, scientific and advanced technology sectors. We’ve also a highly skilled team of engineers, machinists and quality inspectors.

In practice, this means that we’re able to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to every project. For example, we provide advice on the best way to design parts for manufacture, considering factors such as the correct level of tolerances, choice of production processes and material selection to ensure each part meets the exact demands of the application.

Failure to consider these factors can have unforeseen consequences. In the worst case, it could cause an incorrectly specified or manufactured part to fail in service; perhaps more likely are delays in production or unplanned rework, both of which will lead to missed production schedules. In each case, unexpected costs to the customer will occur.

It can be difficult to put a price on 100 years of knowledge and experience, yet they can be vital for the successful completion of precision engineering projects in demanding sectors of industry. Although they may be reflected in the part price, they’ll ultimately add considerable value to each customer, while eliminating unforeseen costs and preventing the risk of reputational damage, either to the team responsible for sourcing the parts or the business if it fails to meet its customer commitments.

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