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When the good priest does not want to learn until he dies: the present and future of outsourcing

If there are clear consequences of the current global economic crisis, it is certainly worth mentioning that decision-makers at the top are increasingly involving external experts in more and more areas in order to carry out objective evaluations. Whereas in the past, this was accepted for, say, a serious strategic issue, it is now an option for auditing even the most seemingly trivial operational processes and internal knowledge.

It is not the decision-making level of the business process but the magnitude of the impact of the area on the final results that has become the guiding principle for the involvement of external consultants. Of course, the new trend generates quite different feelings among internal experts. Some reject the audit completely and will do anything to prevent the company from moving in this direction. Others welcome the consultant because they see his presence as a means of working more successfully.

It is not worth opposing!

In peacetime, the processes are nicely set up, and the workers are settled in where they fit in the system. Work becomes routine, and each person uses this for the good or not so good of the company, depending on their character. I’ve sat on both sides of the table in my career, having been a purchasing area manager in an international company and later working as a consultant, where I was responsible for working with purchasing directors. I often hear the generalisation that “procurement directors are like this or that”, as if we forget that they are made up of people and are therefore different characters with different motivations and goals. For this reason, their attitude to external control, or control in general, has a completely different orientation and origin. Some decision-makers nowadays hire external experts precisely to map out the internal situation, and although they believe in the consultant’s knowledge, it is more important for them to see the “little kings” within the organisation. Who is protecting the honour of their own reputation, and who cares about the performance of the company. Because in business, if ever there was a time when the saying “a good priest learns by doing” was true, then in an ideal work environment, no one would have a problem with the presence of an outsider. In the end, the manager in charge of the decision will decide whether it was worth it and whether you were able to give them the information they needed. This is especially true when it comes to controlling clearly quantifiable areas, because if someone can show where and how much the company is currently losing in a process, everyone can only be grateful. Except, of course, for those internal specialists whose inadequate level of knowledge is causing the loss.

Real quality control

For me, one of the most interesting topics in consulting is the trend in component and tool manufacturing. As a procurement manager, I have always been fully aware that we are talking about huge cost margins and company reliability when looking at this sector. Every manufacturing and production company is trying to get the best engineers in these areas, but if everyone wants the best, obviously, there will be companies that will not get the best. And in this segment, design errors are not just a “rounding problem” for the company’s budget. If a unit or component to be manufactured is theoretically well designed, but the manufacturing process is not perfectly thought out, then the design was not practical, and a long give-and-take between the customer and the manufacturer is set in motion, thereby wasting money and time for the customer. Of course, these discussions do not reach the level of the top decision-makers, but usually remain under the control of another engineer or manager who brings the design engineer into the organisation. There are very few managers who will constantly bombard their own “work” with negative perceptions, so these design and manufacturing errors usually end up under the carpet. In many cases, more than one option can be the perfect solution in terms of material selection and mould choice, and if one is not familiar with the specific manufacturing process – and an engineer designing a device is certainly not fully familiar with the process of manufacturing the device – then serious material costs and time can be lost. But where would it all end if we were to check our own engineers? Or is that what we call quality control? Quality control that is not designed and managed by the manager of the person being controlled, but is controlled from the top by the manager themself. And it is a proven fact that if a worker knows that his work is under constant control, they will pay more attention to quality. And of course, we believe that every employee, without control, will do this for the good of the company, but it is worth reminding them from time to time when hundreds of thousands, millions, often billions of euros are on the table. And what if an external expert finds that there is nothing to change in your company? There are worse tragedies!