Sometimes you just have to wonder about the thought processes in large companies. Actually I don’t, as I used to work for a Fortune-50 medical device company before getting fed up and leaving. There’s just so much political muda you can take before you wake up screaming.
A different Fortune-50 company is a major customer of my small contract manufacturing firm. Although they can be rather anal with some of their requirements and methods, we now have an excellent relationship that is mutually beneficial, and I can say we’ve learned a lot from them.
So a while back when we were all enjoying a casual meeting, we laughed a little when they brought up a request for a disaster recovery plan in case "California falls into the ocean." But they were serious. Really. We had recently experienced a rather significant 6.5-level earthquake without sustaining any business interruption or damage, but the customer was literally concerned about a much larger cataclysm where most of California would simply disappear.
Data backup to our southern California office was not an option… it had to be to our facility in the upper Midwest. We already have a smaller facility there… maintained just because some other major customers also want redundancy. This particular customer was also interested in helping us create fully-redundant processes, including incremental very expensive capital equipment and trained personnel.
A disaster of the magnitude they’re describing would result in national and even global problems that would make our recovery efforts inconsequential. And we tried to point out that the global sole-source raw material vendor for their product was also located in California, as were some of their other subassembly contractors, and that most of their own facilities were located in "tornado alley" in the lower Midwest.
There could be some benefit to us, and a realistic disaster recovery plan is always a good idea, but this is a good example of customer-generated waste. The flipside of this story is that it has made us pay more attention to the requirements we place on our own suppliers… and we’ve found some rather wasteful ones as well. Every now and then it really pays to read the fine print on your own forms, T’s and C’s, and specifications. You might be surprised by what you find.
In the meantime I think I might take some scuba lessons… just in case our customer knows something we don’t.