Zero-cost, non-commercial, registration-free resources for learning about outsourcing

Outsourcing for fun and profit

Welcome to a dive into the Web morass in search of non-commercial, registration-free zero-cost, resources to uncover practical information about paying contractors to do the work you're better off not doing yourself.

Coopers & Lybrand, the research firm, reports that 81 percent of American companies outsource at least one function. Five years ago, the company's research indicated that 50 percent did so. The companies that did outsource enjoyed cost savings of about eight percent compared to those doing the work in-house. The research claimed that outsourcing correlates with revenue enhancements of as much as 22 percent over companies that keep the work in-house.

Closer to home

Rockwell Automation helped conduct a survey of more than 200 maintenance managers to discover the degree to which manufacturers outsource maintenance functions. The report, Forty Percent of Current Manufacturing Maintenance Activities are Reactive, can be found at http://www.shareholder.com/rok/news/20021023-93259.cfm. Highlights include the fact that outsourcing is not yet a common phenomenon.

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Chicken or egg

The research for this column unearthed an awful lot of material about outsourcing work such as information technology services, software development and integrated circuit manufacturing. In spite of the research indicating outsourcing is good for maintenance, there's far less on the Web about outsourcing the maintenance and engineering function. So, I ask, are you folks not outsourcing because nobody offers to do the work, or are there no service providers because they would starve looking for work? But I digress.

Examples of work being outsourced include human resources, sales, marketing, finance, accounting, procurement, administration and information technology. When you think of it, though, there's probably quite a bit more at your plant that could be farmed out.

The Outsourcing Institute

Jericho, N.Y. is the headquarters for this organization, which bills itself as a neutral source of information on outsourcing. It claims a membership of 25,000. The home page offers resources for three groups. The most relevant is the buyers. That means you, the people out there in readerland.

To get to the goods, start by mousing over to http://www.outsourcing.com/, the organization's home page. After clicking on "Buyers" to get into the site, look for "Articles & Info" at the top of the page. Clicking there gives you access to four categories of document. Another click takes you to links to the articles, some of which are accessible to visitors, while the bulk of them are for members only.

Outsourcing Research Center

Although its focus is information technology, CXO Media Inc., Framingham, Mass. posts some material about the intricacies of outsourcing your way to prosperity. Scroll around at http://www.cio.com/research/outsourcing/ and mentally substitute the name of the function you wish to outsource for the term "IT" while you read. It enhances the relevance of the material.

When you outsource a function, you're going to want to know how well it's working. If the expected service isn't there, you need to get out. Click on "Executive Summaries: Outsourcing" to access an article on the topic. Another handy article, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," tells what to do when that outsourcing deal is starting to go bad or is already rotting on the vine.

Monitor the chemicals

Some of you are involved in the chemical industry. You might even be outsourcing blending, packaging, storing and product distribution. Potential Liability for Outsourcing Manufacturing by Scott D. Deatherage and Matthew J. Knifton at Thompson & Knight, a law firm in Dallas, Texas, highlights some of the liability trouble you can get into if your contractor starts playing fast and loose with environmental regulations. This 17-slide PowerPoint presentation gives just enough information to make one a bit edgy. Form your own opinion at http://www.tklaw.com/website.nsf/WEBnewx/D3BE2E8D8D50FC3986256CA6005DB481.

Who ya gonna call?

It's impossible to outsource anything if you don't know who is doing the work you want to have done. That's why I'm sure you turn to Plant Services because you realize we can point you right. To prove that point, aim your desk rodent to http://www.contractmanufacturing-ez.com/contractmanufacturing/0022211_0063414_1.html and see the listing of nearly 80 providers of a variety of outsourced services.

Tips and tricks

Gildner & Associates Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz., is a consulting firm and provider of business services. The company's Web site has a series of articles on your relationship with a provider of outsourced services. Click on over to http://www.gildner.net/articles.html to access good tips. Read the pieces for the general ideas and concepts only. Don't get bogged down by the fact that the examples cited refer only to the types of services Gildner provides.

Ideas from the other side of the plant

RBC Inc., Lenexa, Kan., posts How To Choose An Outsource Development Partner at http://www.rbccorp.com/white_papers/outsource_development_partner.pdf. This is a small-font, densely-packed document that may require using the zoom function in Adobe reader.

The Contract Manufacturing and Packaging Assn., Jackson, Tenn., is a not-for-profit trade association for contract manufacturing and packaging companies. And wouldn't you just know it, they have a Web site, too. That's where the organization posts two noteworthy documents, How to Select an Outsourcing Partner and What to Look for in Deciding, both of which offer a slightly different spin on what it takes to make outsourcing successful. Check them out at http://www.contractpackaging.org/index.html and see for yourself.

A soliloquy

An article reminescent of a certain obscure Shakespearian line, To Outsource or Not to Outsource? by Deborah Conn, resides on the server operated by Medical DeviceLink, the platform Web site for the medical device industry. Ms. Conn addresses some issues other similar sites missed. An example is the intellectual property rights that accompany any creative development on the part of the outsourced service provider that's doing your work. You'll find the article at http://www.devicelink.com/mddi/archive/98/01/016.html.

With that, I leave you to go forth and outsource.

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