July 2007, Vol. 19, No.7

Letters to the Editor

Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds

Dear Editor,

This is in regard to your [editor’s note] in the May 2007 issue of Operations Forum. You gave some good advice, but you should also indicate some of the pitfalls of doing it yourself.

I grew up in the Depression and learned that many things I wanted I had to make myself. I also learned to save anything and put it into a cigar box in case of future need. Many times I have put to use items I have saved.

As for doing it yourself, a contractor may assign a new employee who has had no more experience than your own staff. While it may take your staff a little time to learn the technique, after that there is considerable savings. Likewise, parts can often be purchased or made locally at less cost and delivery time than ordering from a contractor.

You may have saved yourself some money, but you must also consider the total picture. Outside contractors have many additional costs such as offices, advertising, and maintaining staff even when business is slow. Doing it yourself certainly avoids your paying the contractor’s cost for advertising — that cost might not appear directly but, of course, the contractor passes it on to customers.

But advertising is what supports publications such as WE&T. Look at all the advertisers in any edition. The same goes for exhibitors at local and national meetings. Multiply this by every professional society that relies on advertising to support programs and journals. Whenever we beg for some financial support for a worthy program, we go to the suppliers and the professional engineers. And then we complain about the high cost for their services.

So do it yourself whenever it can be done competently, and save money when funding is limited. It is good to accomplish non-urgent jobs when existing employees have no urgent assignment (if that ever occurs). But remember that if we put every supplier and designer out of business, we also bite the hand that feeds us.

Donald B. Aulenbach
Environmental engineering consultant
Clifton Park, N.Y.