Buy this thing, man.. (via getty)

Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about business, but I am pretty sure you don't go about it like this. I leave you, the reader to judge.


This story illustrates, in fluorescent Day-Glo, why you do not sell products before they are finished.


The executives and sales representative of the company I work for, put us all in the easily avoidable position of having to produce and ship and support a product that they cannot mass-produce, easily ship or support. It all started when the sales people found out that the project was approaching the final stage of development. Well after learning of this, they just couldn't contain themselves and so they went out into the world and started pedaling the product to distributors and customers. BTW, when I say "the world,” that’s no exaggeration.


So, the salesman are out promising people that they will have product in hand, within a very specific time frame. In the mean-time, there is no work plan drawn up for mass production. No stations set up on the factory floor for production. No test fixtures (many, very complex fixtures are required). No standardized method of shipping.


Every time one goes out the door, a federal case is made about it. Finally and most importantly, the team of engineers working on this thing have very vocally opposed the notion of passing these out to anyone but beta testers. Several aspects of the product design have yet to be tested to the team's satisfaction and several units have failed in beta testing!


Well, the people on top don't care about things like engineer's opinions, test results, production problems or the laws of physics. So, now it falls onto the engineering team to coax this laboriously constructed mechanism of electronics and arcane fluid flows into life. One by one. Those test fixtures sure would be nice. Using your engineers in place of factory workers would not be too big an issue if these same engineers were not also expected to perform their traditional duties without interruption. But, in fact, they are.


Recently, I asked how the inevitable backlash from customers will be handled. After they find out that the product the just spent about $1200 on was largely untested and known to have problems.

The answer: “we will apologize later."


I would have thought that working with the customer and being truthful about the current status of the product is preferable to a, "yeah, we lied, sorry".  Sigh... these people would put there hand into a running log chipper to grab a 100 dollar bill.

Have any of your engineering projects ever failed due to factors beyond your control? Share your story here!



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