By admin, January 5, 2015
Three custom “space buggy” rail cars refined and built in short order
In 2001 In 2011 a small company bid a project for the Space Systems division of a huge aerospace contractor. The company proprietor was then in a severe accident, and I assumed most responsibility for the company’s daily work. I was soon contacted by the aerospace customer about the bid. Upon review, I realized it was significantly underbid, as many details were not finalized. Attempting to fulfill the bid seemed a disaster!
I explained my position. They needed the items quickly, but I assured them I would help finalize details, re-bid quickly, and the company would commit to deliver on schedule. I felt confident that appropriate delegation, sub-contracting, and job management could bring the project in on time.
I worked out many details with their personnel, rebid the project, and assured them I would do everything within my ability to see they were satisfied. I insisted, however, that we needed favorable financial arrangements to commit to the performance they required! A representative flew in, toured the shop, and met me in person. They decided to accept my bid and place their trust in my ability to fulfill the job.
Right after bid acceptance I had CAD files to sub-contractors I knew I could trust to excel. In return for their commitments, I assured them of COD payments. That got their attention!
I knew I had to greatly streamline manufacturing. We purchased and modified off-the-shelf components wherever possible. I ordered steel sheet and plate laser-cut exactly to size and shape. Hole locations were laser-scribed to minimize layout. Structural shapes were cut and coped using a six-axis laser to minimize fit-up. Other shops rolled us angle and sheet sections.
We assembled weldments from plate and forwarded them to contractors to finish on their CNC machines and chromate and powder-coat.
As parts flowed in, I organized daily work for best efficiency. Fabricators and machinists stepped up to my challenges, rapidly assembling components.
We had some glitches getting components aligned without distortion, but we managed to successfully meet specs to mate with other parts. I suggested possible improvements to avoid these problems in the future.
Once assembled, the three buggies had to be completely sandblasted (on a mountain top in winter!) and epoxy painted.
In parallel with daily management, I designed electrical panels and drive system mechanicals, located and purchased stocked components, and built panels and installed them. I tackled myriad small issues, working seamlessly and efficiently with the customer’s professionals to assure they knew every obstacle and issue and we all agreed on how to address them. I forwarded digital photos several times a week so they knew exact status and could spot any conflicts with other systems going into the units.
Finally, all of the assembly and detailing work was complete, and we tested each unit in the shop.
I also worked with a logistics firm to arrange shipping three oversize loads across the US. I arranged for a railroad materials supplier to obtain correct specialty components and deliver them−precisely on time−to a contract site 2500 miles from us. And I ensured the installation contractor (who had never worked with rail) had all details to install a specialized railroad system.
The buggies were delivered a couple weeks past the original date, but the customer was entirely satisfied due to numerous design changes. Their project manager said he had never received such service from a contractor and that my efforts far exceeded expectations.
The purpose of the “Space Buggies” is proprietary, but you can see a public aerial view of them on Google Maps and develop your own theory of their use!