Today I told someone that I could not get the order they were chasing shipped any sooner and he replied that the customer he was helping was probably going to cancel the order. If you want a rule of thumb for when you should be worried about things, it is when the money at stake is more than your annual salary.

The first thing I did was call my boss. Well, his boss. When the wind starts blowing around that a big order is going to fly away he is usually the cowboy they send in to catch it. He told me to look up all the orders in the last three months on which we had shipped the part we now needed and see if any of them would sell the part back.

If the tools we make were airplanes, this particular tool would be the NASA space shuttle. It’s not really in the same class. It’s also showing its age, but where else are you going to get one? And how many people you know have some spare parts in their junk drawer? Two of the last three orders were for one piece and I figured those were a lost cause. The customers fixed their tool and that’s that for the part. But one of the orders was for five pieces. How often do you fix five space shuttles at once? I figured they must have bought some spares.

It turned out that the company that bought those five pieces competes with the company that was threatening to pull out their order. And no, they didn’t have any spare parts left over. But they would like to know when they were going to get the new space shuttle they had on order.

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