Viewpoint: Short-Term Cost Savings May Lead To Long-Term Expenses

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In aviation, you should buy “the best,” not simply what’s “good enough.”

From the largest OEM, to the small fabrication shop, aerospace manufacturers operate in a market that faces three competing constraints: quality, price, and regulations. Business aviation is safe and reliable because thousands of companies worldwide work to successfully balance these demands.  

Pressure on aviation manufacturing to reduce component prices has created a market that seeks parts that are “good enough,” which is a disturbing trend for an industry that boasts safety and quality as its primary concerns.

While we understand the desire to reduce costs, the reality is that these parts that barely meet quality requirements do not actually end up costing less. Indeed, “cheaper” parts cost more in the long run to those who buy them. 

Here is why we believe this to be true. 

Every aerospace manufacturer must satisfy the following criteria when making parts: durability; needs to work in all kinds of unanticipated situations; look good; be the same regardless of when it is produced; be well engineered; be durable, and be proven through testing to meet the specifications. This is an extensive laundry list of challenges. Everyone in the entire supply chain is trying to maximize efficiency and resources, therefore small changes in effort can dramatically change the final price. 

Because small changes can lead to significant reductions in price, there is a heavy focus on short-term price reductions all along the supply chain. While this may seem like the smartest financial decision, our nearly 60 years of experience in this industry tells us otherwise. The best way to minimize cost is to maximize efficiency and longevity. Simply put, the most cost-effective solutions involve doing it right the first time. Any decision that adds time along the supply chain or over the life of the aircraft increases that part’s true cost.

Manufacturing decisions impact price dramatically. Customers love low prices on the invoice because they are trying to maximize their own value in the supply chain. While it may not show up in the initial invoice to the buyer, everyone down the supply chain, and possibly the end customers, will pay the cost of the short cuts taken by manufacturers to “save cost.” 

Consider the challenge to customers when they receive parts that are inconsistent with their intended purpose. When a manufacturer decides they’re going to make the “best,” there’s only one way to do that. Consistency in workmanship is assured. When you decide you’re going to make something that is “just good enough,” all types of variations can creep into the process.  Customers working with such suppliers must remain vigilant, and they wind up spending time dealing with unreliable suppliers and doubling their own quality control efforts. Even if a supplier replaces rejected parts “for free,” the customer ultimately pays more than if they had just bought a better-made product at the beginning. The real cost is hidden.

Another area where manufacturers try to reduce price involves substituting materials. Materials cost money and those costs are increasing every year. To compensate, some manufacturers will use inferior materials that decrease longevity and durability.

Customers may love the invoice, but any MRO department will tell you that “cheap parts” are a hassle in time, energy, and replacement costs. Indeed, the majority of airlines would rather see a higher start-up cost than higher MRO costs or AOG incidents due to materials that cause repeated issues over the aircraft’s lifespan.  Again, the real cost is hidden and far more expensive, particularly when an aircraft is grounded to address and replace these inferior parts.

Cutting prices by creating inferior products damages trust and good customer service. Reduction in quality is short-sighted and makes it difficult to maintain strong, reliable business relationships over time. Working closely with customers is one of the best ways to balance all the factors necessary to make the highest-quality parts. While it seems expensive, this type of close integration between manufacturers and customers saves time and money.  

All these little compromises add up. These “soft costs” are the direct result of taking shortcuts that, in reality, amount to the “long way around.” When one looks beyond the initial invoice, true realized costs become apparent when adding the increased costs due to incidents of AOG, MRO costs, replacements, and rejected parts. They also show up in the weak relationships throughout the supply chain that create inefficiency, wariness, and make it more difficult to replace a part when a problem does arise. 

Over the years, we have heard this advertising argument that “just as good, but cheaper” is better. While that sounds nice, we have yet to see it work out that way in the field. These short-sighted cost minimization efforts are a proven recipe for frustration all along the supply chain.

As Benjamin Franklin remarked, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” Nobody winds up disappointed when they buy the best the first time around.

Frank Rechberg is president and CEO of Actron Manufacturing, based in Corona, California. Actron, founded in 1971, designs and manufactures a diverse line of FAA-certified products. Actron's quality system meets the world's most rigorous application requirements. For more information, go to