Want to Stop Outsourcing? Become a CFO

So many people today complain that their jobs are moving offshore and that corporate America (and Canada) does not understand how important we are. Well guess what? They don’t.

In most cases, we as engineers are “overhead”. That means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to directly trace our contributions to profits. Salespeople can look at what they sold and figure out how much of the company revenue they brought in. Marketing can look at how much new business accrued as a result of their last campaign. And what did we do? We used Design For Assembly techniques (like we’re supposed to) and made the product easy to assemble and automate. “So what,” says the CFO.

Don’t get me wrong, they recognize that Engineering is NECESSARY, but they fail to see how it contributes to the bottom line in a concrete, measurable, describable value. Therefore, when it comes to outsourcing, where are they going to cut budgets first?

We like to blame everyone but ourselves, claiming that “outside forces” or “global trends” or just plain bad luck are to blame. Well it’s time to stand up and do something about it. Want to keep management from giving your job away? Make them realize how important your job is. And you can ONLY do that by thinking in terms of the almighty dollar.

Design to save the company money. And figure out how much you are saving and use that to control your decisions. Consider every aspect of your design from manufacturing to assembly to procurement to packaging to shipping to the end user to the trash collector that has to pick it up and the recycling plant. Figure out how you can pass savings all the way down the line. You need to prove to your management (you may need your VP of Engineering to pass the message up) that you are contributing to the bottom line profitability, that you recognize that corporate profitability is the most important thing and that you are dedicated to it.

Two more things need to be added here. First, focus more on making money than saving money. As the old adage goes, nobody ever saved themselves into being a millionaire. Look at how you can bring more money into the company. Find new markets for your products (ex. “If I just make it autoclave-friendly, then we can get the medical people to use it too!”) find new reasons for clients to buy more, design add-on products, modularize, do whatever. We’re supposed to be the creative ones, right? Do you think that some engineering sweatshop in is going to be doing anything creative above and beyond what they’re contracted to do? I think not!

Second, forget about your boss. Your job is not to keep them happy. The huddled masses focus too much on keeping their immediate supervisor happy and not enough on keeping the company profitable. Your job as an engineer is to sell products. Yes, that’s right, you are a salesperson! So break out that yellow, green and baby blue plaid jacket that you bought for Halloween and slip it on. Start thinking like a salesperson, figuring out how you can sell more, and design that way.

Management is only going to outsource functions that they do not think are completely necessary here. We need to prove ourselves every day. We need to stand up and prove to the top tier that we contribute.

Be a CFO. Think like an executive. They wouldn’t dare give their own jobs away.

Paul Gimbel
Business Process Sherpa
Razorleaf Corporation
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Review Article
  • Innovation -- not scrimping. November 11, 2005
    Reviewed by 'TaylorA'
    I think "Tom L" missed an important point about halfway through the article. (Perhaps it should have been emphasized more...)

    Engineers (and I are one) really need to be thinking more about making NEW money for the company than SLASHING old money. Making a big splash in your company about "savings" you created often has interesting negative effects...

    Although you can get some initial credit for savings, it effectively raises the bar (or lowers it, depending on your perspective) and makes achieving results harder next time. All too often, it creates oppressive work conditions and introduces unrealistic constraints to future designs, as well.

    ...and of course, you only get credit for those savings the FIRST time. Any subsequent projects (even if they continue to benefit from your cost cutting) will be measured against the new benchmark anyway.

    On top of that, "savings" are generally small potatoes when compared to "new markets".

    No... Innovation is the key. The creativity in finding new applications and new markets for your products is one thing that will get you out of the "commodity" column in your CFO's eyes. Every engineer who values his employment should be thinking about these things.

    Is this harder than pinching pennies? You bet.

    Is it worth it? You tell me. :-)

      4 of 4 found this review helpful.
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  • Want to Stop Outsourcing? Become a CFO November 11, 2005
    Reviewed by 'Tom L'
    Although I feel Paul's passion for this topic as I'm sure we all do. I have a little problem swallowing the "salesman" approach. Although it IS the job of every good engineer to design with budgets and profits in mind, I personally do not think it should be the engineers goal.
    The problem I feel is making the engineer worry about penny pinching every little aspect of the project will ultimately result in a low-grade and possibly downright poor quality product. Thats not to say can we substtitute a $1.50 bolt with a $0.25 Bolt, of course and that it is part of an engineers job descrition - Engineer products for qaulity, innovation (key -word here) and within budgets. Engineers NEED to be allowed to explore innovative concepts and approaches without the concern for money (relatively) and in todays climate, more an more companies demand innovation as part of its every day processes, which in the past was allowed as concurrent off-line projects.
    My take, make the engineer count the pennies (which is the CFO's job) and you ultimately reduce the quality and innovativeness of the companies product line which in turn possibly lead to the down-fall of the company.
    Having the opportunity to be an engineer and a salesman. I can definitely tell you that these are two very distinct professions (that require extreme training for both) on opposites sides of the magnet. If money crunching becomes the norm for future engineers then a new profession has be born..the "Salesineer" where colleges will have to add Salesmanship to the Engineering curriculum.

      3 of 3 found this review helpful.
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