SUBJECT: Communicating with suppliers 8-3

The precise meaning of words continues to be the major obstacle when technically trained people try to communicate with non-technical people, and the sales representatives of outside vendors.

Sometimes the results are funny:

I have worked with overseas translators for more than twenty five years and have had "hydraulic ram" translated as "wet sheep" and one time when I told my students that "failure of this course would require attendance at a make up school", it was translated as a school where you would be taught how to put on face powder, lipstick, eye shadow. etc.

The problem is not limited to international dialogue, it occurs frequently between people using a so called common language. The result can be frayed nerves, extra cost, unexpected down time and costly failure. Here are a couple of examples of what I am talking about. Do you do this?

Word misinterpretation

The word "documentation" has multiple meanings and is often confused with "material identification". There is a major difference!

People that deal with elements such as carbon or ceramic often keep their process and tolerances a secret. They should not be reluctant to supply the "physicals", but seldom will discuss their manufacturing techniques. It is these techniques that give them their competitive edge.

The product must meet a specification

The only way to solve the problem with specifications is to give the supplier a copy of the specification you want him to meet whenever you buy what ever it is you're going to purchase. Don't ask him to meet the specification, give a copy of the specifications to him.

You have special knowledge about the fluids you are going to seal that is not generally known outside of the industry. This lack of knowledge on the part of the supplier can result in a premature failure with all of its associated problems and costs.

Do you work in the marine industry? That industry is a lot different than the process industry.

There is something unique about your plant or operation.

My many years in this business has taught me that you only get the right answers when you ask the right questions. Recognize that most of us don't know the right questions, so be sure you volunteer your inside information to save both yourself and the vendor the obvious problems that arise from his lack of knowledge about your product or process.

® DuPont Dow elastomer

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