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    Default A matter of conscience

    Good morning, everyone. This is my first-not first post in the forum. That's because I used to post regularly years ago, mainly on topics revolving around CMM's under a forgotten user name. But now I've advanced in my career and find myself as a department manager in a manufacturing company. I've been something of a nomad, having worked in many prestigious companies in the aerospace, defense, automotive, and medical component manufacturing fields doing everything from programming mills and lathes to various engineering positions.

    In my career, like anyone else, I've seen the most shady business practices and people. But other than having to sign reports, the responsibility down stream has fallen on a higher up. But now that I'm in an executive level position, I find myself in a dilemma that I was wondering if any one else has found themselves in.

    Essentially, this company had no quality department for years. Literally, they made components and simply shipped them out the door to various customers (some household names). I discovered that there were escapes. Escapes which not only were an ongoing problem but of a nature which that will (at the very least) cause the assembly to fail after use. I'm not sure if it's catastrophic to the operator, as something like this has never been tested as far as I'm aware. But I know and can prove that these components are out in the field. I found the problem internally, shut down the whole facility and ordered a 100% inspection of the component in question. I found hundreds upon hundreds of the part with the defect in the facility and some which were made late last year. So I know that it was systemic. When I reported it to the owners and the plant manager they decided to ignore the problem as if it didn't happen. I have a whole bunch of issues with this approach.

    Have any of you been in a similar situation? How did you approach it?

    I've taken various steps to protect myself and am looking for a new job.

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    You've just posted a confession to a public forum. If you want to protect yourself, you need to quit today.

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    If this item fails can people get hurt? That is where I would become a rat if it can injure someone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emissary View Post
    When I reported it to the owners and the plant manager they decided to ignore the problem as if it didn't happen. I have a whole bunch of issues with this approach.
    Can't say I've been there, but did you bring up that there is significant legal liability and potential criminal liability in not reporting it? My guess is that these people don't care. Get your resume polished, find a new job, regardless of what you choose to do.

    Ethically, you probably need to inform your employer's customers, even if top management won't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Dickman View Post
    You've just posted a confession to a public forum. If you want to protect yourself, you need to quit today.
    I'm not worried about it. Anything else?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dualkit View Post
    If this item fails can people get hurt? That is where I would become a rat if it can injure someone.
    That's the thing. I don't believe so. But it's at least possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pariel View Post
    Can't say I've been there, but did you bring up that there is significant legal liability and potential criminal liability in not reporting it? My guess is that these people don't care. Get your resume polished, find a new job, regardless of what you choose to do.

    Ethically, you probably need to inform your employer's customers, even if top management won't.
    Liability has been discussed. But this industry isn't regulated. It seems to me that they're banking on no one getting hurt and upon failure, customers will just buy new components.

    I've already updated my resume and am grappling with contacting all of the companies customers.

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    I am so curious what it is, but I figure you can't even give a hint. On the other hand almost anything can injure someone in one way or another under extreme circumstances if it fails.

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    You say this has been going on for years- how many actual failures have you documented?

    Seems like if it was serious, it would have been an issue long ago- a high rate of warranty replacements should have triggered a closer look at the part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jancollc View Post
    You say this has been going on for years- how many actual failures have you documented?

    Seems like if it was serious, it would have been an issue long ago- a high rate of warranty replacements should have triggered a closer look at the part.
    It depends on what it is. It might not come with a warranty also if it is something cheap and breaks right away a lot of people just trash the item and not try to return it.

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    Hi Emissary:
    You are in a hard place not of your own making, and you have my sympathy for your situation.

    Here's how I see it:
    You have uncovered an issue which has implications for the financial well-being and lawsuit exposure of the company you work for, and they will not take kindly to having this made public or even being made to respond to it.
    They will try to hurt you if you expose them to that pain although they richly deserve the pain if what you allege is correct.

    That horse is out of the barn; you have made the decision to take internal steps to halt the hemorrhage, so you can no longer claim ignorance, and that ties your hands.
    Your reputation in the field will take a hit...you are now, in mobster speak, "a Rat".

    If you hope for a new job in this field you'd better move briskly before you find yourself shut out...even if you can slide sideways, prepare for a shitstorm.
    Unfair as it is, you have to expect it.

    What to do about the crappy product that's out there; well, how confident are you that a public hazard exists?
    How will you satisfy yourself your feeling is true, and how will you defend your decision as to whether or not to whistleblow.
    If you believe the pain a customer experiences is "merely" financial, the extent of your moral obligation can be stretched a bit more than if someone is going to be hurt or die if you don't speak out but only if you're minded to see it that way.

    Your personal conscience has to determine that choice...no one else can do it for you, but I will say I'd be mightily pissed off that I'm being forced to make this choice, so my loyalty to my employer would be zero at this point.

    You are stuck with a shit sandwich for sure...and you didn't make it, so you can't own it.
    Your job at this point is to keep shit from sticking to you, but also to keep shit from sticking to the innocent.

    Plan your exit strategy accordingly, keeping a careful eye out for the taint of complicity if you do a wrong thing or anything that can be spun by a lawyer as wrong.
    Document everything (I'm sure you need no reminder of that, but I say it anyway), and prepare your defence right now.
    Get a lawyer! Make sure it's a GOOD one.

    Then make your whistleblowing decision and walk from the scene.
    Hopefully you can salvage your reputation from the mess, and slide nicely into a new gig.
    Fingers are crossed for you!

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    Quote Originally Posted by jancollc View Post
    You say this has been going on for years- how many actual failures have you documented?

    Seems like if it was serious, it would have been an issue long ago- a high rate of warranty replacements should have triggered a closer look at the part.
    I've been searching and found instances of failures online which could be attributed to this problem. But no one asks the right questions or really examines the cause of failure.

    When I discovered the failure, just based upon the sheer number of pieces and the time span of parts we had internally, I just assumed that customers who had bought the products recently would have defective products. It was confirmed when we had a batch of returned products from a customer which were manufactured late last year. I checked them for the issue and sure enough I found the same defect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dualkit View Post
    It depends on what it is. It might not come with a warranty also if it is something cheap and breaks right away a lot of people just trash the item and not try to return it.
    It's not cheap unless bought in bulk. It may not even break right away. But WILL break eventually.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emissary View Post
    I'm not worried about it. Anything else?
    This response confuses me. If you've observed and documented a systemic failure of a component within the company that's reached the outside world, you're now part of the chain of responsibility if a lawyer or the Feds come calling.

    IANAL, but I think you need one ASAP. And I think you need to separate yourself from the Co, unless this is an absurdly minor issue, like you make Tide Pods, and some of the sealed packets break open on their own. Even there, an enterprising consumer lawyer could probably bring a case, and you could be targeted.

    I'm almost of the opinion that this is a troll post, if you've been here before at least you'd know that descriptive thread titles are required.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emissary View Post
    ...When I reported it to the owners and the plant manager they decided to ignore the problem as if it didn't happen. I have a whole bunch of issues with this approach.

    Have any of you been in a similar situation? How did you approach it?

    I've taken various steps to protect myself and am looking for a new job.
    When you say you reported the problem, was it a formal report in writing? If not, I would write it up and submit it with an addendum regarding the owner's decision to take no action. Good luck with your search for a better situation.

    Best Regards,
    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emissary View Post
    It's not cheap unless bought in bulk. It may not even break right away. But WILL break eventually.
    That sounds like most modern consumer goods.

    You said that you found hundreds of defects upon inspection. What percentage of previous production would you estimate had (has?) the fault? And if you're ISO or otherwise certified does your quality policy have a percentage laid out for defective parts?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emissary View Post
    ...It was confirmed when we had a batch of returned products from a customer which were manufactured late last year. I checked them for the issue and sure enough I found the same defect.
    Why were they returned? Did the customer send them back because they were defective or failing?

    What actual failure rate have you documented?

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    "You have uncovered an issue which has implications for the financial well-being and lawsuit exposure of the company you work for, and they will not take kindly to having this made public or even being made to respond to it.
    They will try to hurt you if you expose them to that pain although they richly deserve the pain if what you allege is correct.

    That horse is out of the barn; you have made the decision to take internal steps to halt the hemorrhage, so you can no longer claim ignorance, and that ties your hands.
    Your reputation in the field will take a hit...you are now, in mobster speak, "a Rat".

    If you hope for a new job in this field you'd better move briskly before you find yourself shut out...even if you can slide sideways, prepare for a shitstorm.
    Unfair as it is, you have to expect it."

    You hit the nail on the head. I've been trying to solve that very problem.

    "What to do about the crappy product that's out there; well, how confident are you that a public hazard exists?
    How will you satisfy yourself your feeling is true, and how will you defend your decision as to whether or not to whistleblow.
    If you believe the pain a customer experiences is "merely" financial, the extent of your moral obligation can be stretched a bit more than if someone is going to be hurt or die if you don't speak out but only if you're minded to see it that way.

    Your personal conscience has to determine that choice...no one else can do it for you, but I will say I'd be mightily pissed off that I'm being forced to make this choice, so my loyalty to my employer would be zero at this point.

    You are stuck with a shit sandwich for sure...and you didn't make it, so you can't own it.
    Your job at this point is to keep shit from sticking to you, but also to keep shit from sticking to the innocent.

    Plan your exit strategy accordingly, keeping a careful eye out for the taint of complicity if you do a wrong thing or anything that can be spun by a lawyer as wrong.
    Document everything (I'm sure you need no reminder of that, but I say it anyway), and prepare your defence right now.
    Get a lawyer! Make sure it's a GOOD one.

    Then make your whistleblowing decision and walk from the scene.
    Hopefully you can salvage your reputation from the mess, and slide nicely into a new gig."

    Thank you for your post. You've pretty much echoed my thoughts and mindset word for word. I guess I needed confirmation that I was on the right course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rjs44032 View Post
    When you say you reported the problem, was it a formal report in writing? If not, I would write it up and submit it with an addendum regarding the owner's decision to take no action. Good luck with your search for a better situation.

    Best Regards,
    Bob
    Yes, I reported it in writing, electronically.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emissary View Post
    . . . Have any of you been in a similar situation? How did you approach it? . . .
    Only tangentially in that situation, very early in my career. Sounds like you're likely approaching it well - especially if these parts are sold directly to an end user and that end customer is getting screwed in the process.

    The main question, as suggested above, is that no one here has enough information to judge whether the defect is one more part of a modern one horse shay -- most all of whose parts will self-destruct after a year or so -- or something more serious.

    It does sound as if these parts are sold to customers who then incorporate them in some sort of assembly. In that case, one would think they would know the failures and share your concern?


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