How to deal with broken workflow and uninformed salespeople?
How to deal with broken workflow and uninformed salespeople?
We currently have three engineers being fed by seven salespeople, so there is a huge backlog of projects. Our projects are submitted by the salespeople to us and include a request, specs, and a deadline. We are rated in our performance based on meeting this deadline, but there is no method of tracking our productivity or capacity.
For instance, if ten requests come in in one hour that all say they're due tomorrow, and we don't get them done tomorrow, then we're late. Now out in the shop they schedule every single person's manpower down to the fifteen minute bathroom breaks. The manager in the shop knows exactly how much one person can produce per day in terms of parts, setups, etc, and won't let us schedule any more fabrications than can be completed by our manpower.
In engineering we are expected to be able to complete infinite projects on arbitrary deadlines constantly.
To add to this, our salespeople are consistently providing us with incorrect information. I've had the same project come back four times because the salesman has gone from "we need to rack the part in this hole on this angle for drainage and they want two different concepts and prototypes" and after we design, draw, estimate, and make their protos, it's "actually it's this other hole" and we design, draw, estimate, and build the proto. Now it' come back for the fourth design/drawing/estimate/proto because the salesman or customer keeps getting it wrong. Not to mention every single one of these has had the sales comment "Oh these guys are hot to trot on this one..." "This is going to be a big order..." "How soon can we get this out?" Maybe it would be faster if the salesmen could do more than e-mail forwards.
Another problem is that we work in the same office, so the (relatively new) salespeople have no problem walking up to any of the engineers who are trying to work and pestering them with questions that should be going to the sales manager (25 year veteran). We each lose an hour a day minimum on these little walk-up questions that range from "If I want to sell a fabrication that we don't yet have a drawing and estimate for, do I need to request a drawing and estimate?" to "This customer asked me for a fabrication we've never made, out of a material we've never used. Can we do that for them? He's on the phone right now and needs an answer. Want me to transfer him over to you?"
No, we don't want to talk to the customers.
In addition, and most upsetting, is that sales expects engineering to be their personal staff instead of all working for the same company. We get one salesman in particular (20 year veteran) who submits his requests with sketches and dimensions attached.
When we hold to his sketches he always says "Why so expensive? They'll never pay that much." (Well you could trim up your margin?) "What if you... machine the parts faster?" Yeah great idea I wonder why I didn't think of that I'll tell them to kick the spindle up to 20,000 RPMs for you, and only for you.
When we trim some fat he says "Did you get the sketch I attached? Why aren't we holding to the sketch? (Listens to reasons.) Yeah... I think I want to stick with what I sketched for you..."
He'll draw something on a sketch, then see it actually on a drawing we made and want to change dimensions because it doesn't look right. I'm thinking, guy, there are free personal use CAD packages out there, or break out a sheet of graph paper.
When we hold to his sketch and it works he takes credit for the design to the sales manager.
When we hold to his sketch and it doesn't work he says "How could you do this to me? I need you to prove this out?" Actually, no. I don't need to prove your half-baked all-intuition no-engineering ideas work. All I need is to have documentation of where the specific parameters that don't work came from. And those parameters came from sales.
When he includes a design for reference from the same customer and we take dimensions from it because those dimensions obviously already work with the customer's overall equipment line dimensions, we get "Oh, I only said reference drawing XX for the general style of how we're designing this, not for any dimensions. No, I only said REFERENCE XX meaning take a quick glance at it but don't actually reference any features or dimensions."
This guy uses these tactics to squeeze as many re-designs, re-draws, and cost cutting re-estimates out of us as possible.
Since I program machines on the production side and do design/drafting/estimating on the engineering side, I get hit from both ends. And if there are any typos or errors or little slips in the dozens of different excel forms, cad files, cnc files, work order software files, BOMs, etc, and it's our job to check every shop order that passes through our hands to make sure that each of the numbers on every sheet of paper matches all of the numbers of the other sheets of paper. The shop manager is pushing as much fabrication and machine work as possible into engineering, so that we program it and in his words "he could get a trained monkey to load the material and push the green button." Nevermind consulting our fabricators for their expertise, just push it onto engineering. Buy a sixth different software package for another machine and have Kwerk learn it. He's good with computers.
In all, I'm using my BS in Mechanical Engineering to do very little engineering. Most of the work is filling out forms for our ISO certification, programming various machines, drafting in CAD, being the only person in the office who can work in 3D, being dragged into talking with customers who don't know what can physically be built and won't take our advice, and little government projects for the owner.
Any advice? I mean I know I won't ask my boss to restructure the entire company, and he feels the exact same way I do on most of these issues. How do we do our engineering when the whole structure of the company is fighting us?
Thanks for your time!