Is there a sure-fire way that the business aircraft manufacturers can save time and money? Is there a way they can stick to schedules and deliver the as-specced product that was promised to their customers? I think there is.
There's a trend in business aviation where the manufacturers think their CAMs can do the job of consultants, like me.
CAM stands for Customer Account Managers and they are the designated liaisons between the manufacturer and the customer. They're talented people, overseeing several projects at once and because of that, they don't have the time to go and see piece-by-piece when everything has been completed in the back shops, like I do. By proposing CAMs take the place of a 3rd party consultant, the manufacturers are convinced they'll have a smoother delivery path, one that lets them stick better to their schedules without the inconvenience of being told of mismatches, misfits and mistakes.
The fact is, however, that by the time the CAM actually sees the problems, the monuments have already been installed and maybe the aircraft is 75% of its way to completion. The big question for them now becomes: do we take everything apart and re-do it now, or do we hope the customer won't see it and we can stick to our schedule?
Unfortunately, most manufacturers are driven by schedules.
When I find something, I point it out to the manufacturer as soon as I see it. The dent in the finish. The drips on the paint. The divan that doesn't match the specs. The wood that's fifty shades of brown lighter than it should be. The wrong carpet. When these problems are found early enough in a build, they can be fixed without a great deal of impact to the schedule. When they're found when the aircraft is all together and near completion or to be delivered next week, the re-works that are needed mean a schedule slip. And that re-work may end up impacting other delivery schedules too.
Pay Now or Pay Later
There's an expression of "Pay Now or Pay Later" and for custom-made business jets, that's certainly true. The manufacturers don't want to deliver sub-standard products to their customers because the customers will become quickly annoyed with the quality, or downtime, or both. But when they do, or the aircraft is accepted at delivery with a list of open delivery items (ODIs) that go on as long as your arm, it ends up costing. Downtime due to replacements because of those mismatches, misfits and mistakes I mentioned earlier often leads to discounts, penalties -- or those dreaded and expensive interim lifts. This isn't chunk change I'm talking about, either. These are amounts that can end up costing the manufacturer hundreds of thousands of dollars -- not to mention future sales.
When I walk into a manufacturer's facility these days, I hear comments like "Oh, no! Not Guy Landry!" because I have a reputation for having an attention to detail that gets my customers the high quality product they deserve. I also understand the manufacturer's position, that they need to get the product out the door, but I know they want to deliver a high quality product that everyone - their customer, their staff, their executive team, their Board of Directors and shareholders - can be proud of.
My advice to manufacturers is they should analyze the first year post-delivery to see the difference that good consultants make to the final product. I'm sure they'll find that having someone like me watching the product being built means a better product, happier customers and real savings. And with that data, they should start recommending to their customers that they find a technical consultant to follow their project from start to finish.
And that will let them keep their schedules and provide a quality product and save time - and money.