Joel Kotkin's article on subcontracting ("Unlimited Partners," May) was both timely and germane for us. We recently completed construction and equipment installation of an assembled-products division that will enable us to offer a wide range of contract-manufacturing opportunities to the electronics industry.
Viewing a subcontractor as a member of the original equipment manufacturer's team is critical to the success of the OEM/vendor relationship. Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls wouldn't be the rookie "phenom" that he is if his teammates didn't open up the lanes so he could demonstrate his extraordinary talent. Similarly, the OEM and the vendor should do more than simply negotiate the best price for the product to be delivered. They should analyze the skills that each of them brings and key in on them. For example, an OEM shouldn't instinctively recoil when a vendor suggests that a change be considered in a product's specifications, configurations, or processes. The suggestion need not imply that the vendor is trying to find an easier or cheaper way to build the product; it could mean that the vendor is interested in the welfare of the OEM and is willing to lend its strength to the OEM's effort.
In the final analysis, there must be, after all, a bond of confidence and integrity between the two parties to a subcontracting arrangement: confidence in the ability of each to bring its best to the mutual challenge, and the integrity that makes each believe in the other's desire to pursue mutual advantage and trust.