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Old 10-30-2006, 07:20 PM
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subzali subzali is offline
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Default business ethics question

So for all your engineers out there; here's an assignment due Friday 11/3 that my teacher asked for me to ask people I knew about and see what some different reactions are. The answers don't necessarily have to be serious; they have to be well thought-out. Have fun

"You have been hired straight out of school by Super Props, a small company that manufactures and sells propeller assemblies to the aircraft industry. Youíre put in charge of the testing program, because the former manager has retired. Your job is to maintain records of all the propeller assemblies that the company sells, to do validation testing on the shipments that come in from the subcontractors who now do much of the fabrication, and oversee the warehousing and shipping departments. You learn that a switch to outsourcing of your manufacturing is a recent development and that it was instituted because the company was not cost competitive with other companies when the company made its own parts. As a result much of the manufacturing responsibility has been moved over the border to Mexico.
You also find out that the company had to take on a large amount of debt in order to make the shift to subcontractors and that the company is struggling to stay in business (something that you didnít know when you interviewed with them)
From your Machine Design class you know all about fatigue strength and from MEL II you know how to conduct testing, so you are up and running as the new testing department in a short time.
The second shipment from Adios, Mexico had just arrived and you are excited to get on with the testing, both because you are excited about your new position and its responsibility but also because your boss, the VP of Engineering for the company has told you that these tests need to be done quickly. The company has orders for almost all of the 1000 propeller assemblies that are in the shipment and he wants to make a good showing with the new customer, a large aircraft manufacturer, for whom over half the assemblies are destined.
After a couple of days of familiarizing yourself with the equipment and learning your way around the shop, you start your testing. Thatís when the problem begins. During rotating beam fatigue testing on the propeller shafts, you keep having propeller shafts that fail at stress levels below the stated endurance limit. Not a lot, only about 5 percent of the ones that you test, and the ones that do fail are only 10 percent below the endurance limit specified in your product specification (this is the number that customers will use for their failure analysis). You continue your tests, being even more careful to make sure you are conducting the tests as specified in the standards, and making sure you have good calibration of the equipment. You even get some help from some of your former CSM friends to make sure the calibrations are good and the results are correct.
The results donít change and after two weeks of this you build up courage to go see your boss, even though the whole testing process is not yet done, because you know that it is important to keep your boss informed and it is especially important that he/she knows about bad news right away. So you go to your boss and tell him/her. At first, he/she is shocked and then he/she gets angry and challenges your results. But since you have done your homework you are able to defend your procedure and he/she eventually comes to accept your findings. Thatís when he/she tells you that missing this order with the aircraft manufacturer will put the company out of business, the twelve folks in the machine shop will lose their jobs and their retirement, and that you will be laid off. Your boss says that he/she knows from his contact at the aircraft manufacturer that these propeller assemblies are being used in an application that is really not that demanding and that the customer uses a large factor of safety in all their failure calculations. Your boss knows this because he/she helped with the design when he/she worked at the aircraft manufacturer before coming to Super Props to take the VP position
After more review of the results, the boss asks you to sit down and then tells you that he/she wants you to redo your results. He/she wants you to separate the bad shaft results into a separate test report, so that the report on the new shafts (with only the good results) meets the product specification. He/she tells you that you are to do this and deliver the report on Friday (in two days), so he/she can get the shipment ready to go out. Without saying so explicitly, he/she makes it clear that if you donít do this, you will be fired and that he/she will get someone else in the company to ship the shafts.
What do you do?"
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  #2  
Old 10-30-2006, 08:45 PM
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Blackmail!
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Old 10-30-2006, 08:57 PM
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Take a hike in the job and report them to the proper authorities.

Not only is the company liable but you would be liable as well for any failures. PLUS you would have to live with it knowing that you sacrificed your integrity.

Falsifying test results is also a felony
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Old 10-30-2006, 09:45 PM
leiniesred leiniesred is offline
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Default screw the VP

The VP is only the VP. He sees his a$$ and job on the line. The reputation of super props is a secondary concern for the VP. Tell the President and the owner about the unfortunate news. Explain that you are willing to personally call the customers to explain to them the results of the testing and that there will be an unfortunate delay in the delivery of the product at the level of quality the customer specified, and SuperProps demands before SuperProps sells something to anyone.

Ask the management team to explore options that will appease the customers and buy SuperProps time to go kick some manufacturer's butt in Mexico.
Reduced pricing for the customers that experience a business impacting delay is a good example. Let's face it; the propeller is probably something that goes on the plane pretty close to step LAST. The airplane manufacturer has probably experienced delays in materials before. They might already have time padded in the production cycle for supplier shortages. Perhaps another problem has appeared that makes them not need the props on the original schedule anyway.

If you choose to be honest with the results and the VP wants to fire you for it, remind the VP that you don't want to work for an organization that hires unscrupulous people anyway. Choosing to fire a person because of their integrity (A trait the probably looked for in the interview process) makes for an organization that no one wants to work for.

If you chose to lie, the truth will get out and the reputation of SuperProps will plummet followed closely by the fall of the company. All you bought yourself for the price of your integrity was another month to find a new job. Too high a price for me.



Side note: This has happened to me. A VP chose to delay payments to our vendors in order to make our cash position at the end of the year look good to upper management. The VP then told me to tell any vendors who called that a "computer glitch" prevented us from paying them. I told the VP that if he wanted me to lie to the vendors, He would have to find an employee who was a liar instead of me. The organization didn't hire me because I am a good liar. They hired me because I am an honest, straight-up network tech. I simply forwarded all the vendor calls directly to the VP so he could lie to them himself. My integrity was unblemished. I didn't get fired, and eventually that VP was asked to leave the company. You can't run from the truth forever.

Last edited by leiniesred; 10-31-2006 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 10-30-2006, 09:51 PM
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There's always more options, here is one that could get everyone out of hot water and could actually build credibility ( and potential sales ) for the company. In no way is the bosses' current approach acceptable.
You have to make a case to convince the boss that the right approach would be to contact the major customer and reveal the problem. If the prop is indeed over-designed like the boss states, the performance requirements may be able to be revised. This may allow a portion or all of the discrepant props to be sellable. If the boss still insists on fudging the numbers, you have to take it up the ladder, what do you have to lose.
Assuming that you have a convincing argument and still have a job, while you are bringing the customers up to speed on the problem, initiate a failure analysis to get to the root of the problem. Implement the necessary changes and get down the road. Offer full replacement of the substandard props once the problems are diagnosed and corrective actions are implemented.
A couple of important lessons here; The company should not have stopped production of the props at their State-side location without fully validating the props being produced south-of-the-border. Bad decision. Second, Don't mortgage your entire future on the unknown. The company put everything they had into the new facility without a backup plan or financial reserve. The only way out for them was 100% success, it never goes that way. Bad decision.
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Old 10-31-2006, 02:10 AM
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Mines huh? You go! Ever run into Bruce Goetz? I'm ashamed to admit I don't remember what his exact title is at CSM but he is in admissions (does recruiting etc). He is my father-in-law.

Anyway, to your question. This will sound a lot like the others...I have an aviation background so your "problem" got my attention.

First and foremost I'd do what I could to change my VPs mind about how to handle the situation. Neither "solution" he proposes, lying and falsifying testing documentation nor bankruptcy, is acceptable. But in the long run if the company goes out of business for making poor business choices sobeit. That is much more palatable compared to what could happen with the alternative.

If the VP won't see the 'light', then personally I would take the issue higher, regardless of the consequences. Ethically you are compelled to do so. I would even go so far as to personally contact the client with hard data if the solution put forth by your company doesn't pass muster.

If what the VP stated re: the propeller being overdesigned is true then perhaps the client will change their design requirements allowing new tests to be run...But IMO the VP is blowing smoke and knows it so he/she is not only laying a quilt trip on you but also firing warning shots across you bow! In my experience these types of VPs have relatively short careers with any one company.

In the end not only is the company's credibility on the line but so is yours. No way could I accept putting a product out on the market that I know WILL fail and possibly cost 100s of lives.

And, being a CSM graduate, employers should be falling all over themselves to hire you
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Last edited by corsair23; 10-31-2006 at 11:49 AM.
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Old 10-31-2006, 09:39 AM
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I'd set up another meeting with the VP and go over the same things, but record the whole conversation. Then I'd tell him that I wouldn't sign off on the props. If he said I was fired, I'd then let him know about the recording that was one stamp away from the local paper. I'd then ask him for a really good letter of recommendation and 6 months severance.
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Last edited by wsdavies; 04-28-2011 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 10-31-2006, 09:46 AM
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What he didn't tell you is these propellers go on planes with 4 props... If I remember back to stats class I think you should be fine.

Not only would i not adjust my work I'd leave and report the issues if bad enough. Somone is going to step and and do your job and fake the #'s which could impact more people than potentially those that loose jobs if reported. Tell the VP you have him recorded telling you to adjust the numbers too, heheh
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Old 10-31-2006, 10:10 AM
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1. You need to get the customer to agree to the "off spec." If they do, then plug that new spec limit into your formula to determine your new lot % defective. If it's a NDT you may need to 100% inspect all 1000, then isolate into bins (<5%, 5-10%, >10%, etc.)

2. You need to educate your sub contractor how to inspect for the same thing, then require they provide you with a final inspection report with each new shipment. Receiving inspection is about verifying vendors conformed to your requirements, it isn't about sorting out the good parts.

3. You'd never wait 2 weeks to report something like this... especially when new. 2 hours maybe.

bottom line, it's not up to the VP, the sub-contractor, or you.. the Customer drives the decision based on the data you provide.
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Old 10-31-2006, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Romer
Take a hike in the job and report them to the proper authorities.

Not only is the company liable but you would be liable as well for any failures. PLUS you would have to live with it knowing that you sacrificed your integrity.

Falsifying test results is also a felony
Ken beat me to it. Attempting to come up with a win/win with such a boss in such an organization (assuming the boss is not being a lone wolf ethically, not at all certain) is doomed. A boss willing to do this at such a time, will do it again - and often. A company that bets it ALL on a nonqualified outsource move is desperate and will fail before long anyway.

Bail. You were looking for a job when you found this one, right?

If you don't leave... Like we need more engineers (and more mutual fund managers, and more launch vehicle quality control executives...) who are willing to fudge results when their butt is on the line?
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