New challenges for suppliers


Sean Marrie is commercial manager at Swagelok Company, Solon, Ohio USA 

Sean Marrie is commercial manager at Swagelok Company, Solon, Ohio USA

Over the past 24 months, construction timelines for new wafer production facilities have contracted so much that construction firms are now required to move from bid package to on-site prep in as little as three weeks.

Naturally, this change is affecting industry suppliers. Construction firms are expecting their suppliers to back them in all aspects of preparing competitive bids under compressed timetables. And, further, they are expecting their suppliers to deliver on a promise for expedited product fulfillment, testing, training, documentation, and/or fabrication.

From the supplier's standpoint, this is the time to ask not just how do we deliver, but how can we do better? How can we leverage our strengths differently? How can we anticipate our customers' needs or help to preempt any issues that could arise, given the abbreviated timelines?

For example, a construction firm may be required to transform a mix of many subassemblies into an integrated system. In turn, it may be required to connect this integrated system to other systems, which are being assembled by different construction companies. Each system ??? and each component ??? will need to precisely match specifications to ensure proper alignment and installation in the end facility.

These are occasions when a supplier's resourcefulness can make the difference. The supplier can provide product information relating to compatibility issues and dimensions, as well as three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) drawings that can be plugged into standard design programs. It can also provide test reports and performance data. Throughout the construction cycle, the supplier's role and responsibility is to provide swift access to reliable information.

Further, how can the supplier extend this resourcefulness into the construction and execution phase? Can a knowledgeable expert be nearby and available if any further training is required or installation issues arise?

The relationship between supplier and construction firm is based first and foremost on the quality and reliability of the product. This baseline requirement ensures dimensional accuracy and consistency, with adherence to Copy Exact Change Control (CECC) guidelines.

But in this era of rapid mobilization, the relationship is also based on the rapid exchange of reliable information. And the stakes are high. Any miscalculation in the design or bid can result in costly rework that jeopardizes the project.

Here are four additional supplier benefits that have proven especially important to construction firms in the current environment:

A global supply chain. With tool fabrication and line production taking place around the world, a supplier should be able to provide products and support whenever and wherever they're needed.

Training and safety. A comprehensive training program covers product selection, installation, proper equipment use, maintenance, and certification protocols with on-site quality assurance companies. Such a program ensures quality standards and contributes to a company's efforts to reduce recordable injuries and hold down its Experience Modification Rating (EMR).

Tight, consistent control. To facilitate easy set-up, installation, and welding, construction firms rely on suppliers who deliver products with tight, consistent dimensional and materials control.

Flexible product configurations. Construction firms may require discrete components or kits. Or, they may require engineered-to-order products, inventory management, or subassemblies, such as weldments or purge sticks, as well as plug-and-play component data for Turn Over Packages (TOPs).

These are all potential cost-saving options for the construction firm.

Solid State Technology | Volume 56 | Issue 1 | January 2013