My wife recently found me a great deal on Bloomberg BusinessWeek to get a 3-year subscription for $18. While reading the first issue to arrive, I found a great story about a company in Silicon Valley that has created a flexible, U.S.-based manufacturing system for their product. The company is called SeaMicro. They make low-power servers for Internet companies like Mozilla and eHarmony. I liked what the CEO, Andrew Feldman, had to say about why they have taken the unconventional approach of building their servers onshore.
Feldman says that manufacturing locally will help SeaMicro compete with bigger, deeper-pocketed rivals. The company's engineers constantly experiment with the latest and greatest components in a bid to lower the power consumption and quicken the performance of their systems. They can then take their changes down the road to NBS—less than a mile away—and start testing them in new systems immediately. "You don't have to deal with working across the globe and shipping stuff back and forth," says John Turk, the vice-president of operations at SeaMicro. "You can lose days with systems sitting in Taiwan or China."
Even more satisfying is reading how two company executives were dismayed by BusinessWeek's line of questioning.
When asked if the happy marriage between SeaMicro and NBS will dissolve should SeaMicro hit it big and shift toward mass production, consternation fills the faces of Turk and Maslana. "It's not about us getting big," Turk says quickly. "It's about how do we stay flexible. That is what the big guys don't have."
It was an okay article, but I have a few questions of my own for the executives. How did you get the courage to buck the trend? What are the basic principles of your operating system? Why have you chosen those principles. As an operations manager, these are three questions that I am interested in having answered.