A fact of life

Whether you order direct from the manufacturer or through a reseller, PC delivery
snafus have become a regular, if unwelcome, part of life.

As one of two suppliers on the Desktop V contract, Zenith Data Systems Corp. recently
got a publicity black eye for a problem that, in truth, plagues the entire PC industry.
Air Force brass held up Zenith orders for five business days when a small percentage of
the company's deliveries were outside the limits specified in the contract. As
compensation, Zenith beefed up the configurations of the tardy machines.

No doubt the Air Force has a long institutional memory still haunted by the Desktop III
debacle of the 1980s when orders from Unisys Corp. were plagued with long delivery times.

Closer to home, we at GCN have just completed what for us was a large PC purchase. We
bought equipment to refit our testing lab. As GCN lab manager Michael Cheek points out in
this issue, we discovered that several other mainstream vendors are capable of delivery
delays and errors. We figure our own experiences are similar to those our readers face

Yet basically, the delivery system works. When you analyze what goes into a typical PC
order, it seems a miracle that a machine ever gets delivered. A complex chain of events
has to take place. PC manufacturers are basically integrators of parts from scores of
suppliers of everything from cases to disk drives. All it takes for a delay is for one
part to be unavailable for a day or two.

The potential for delay actually starts further back in the supply chain. Many vendors
buy even their motherboards from suppliers, who in turn may be getting the actual board
stuffing from a contract manufacturer who is buying the bare board, semiconductors,
resistive components, fasteners, connectors and dozens of other minute parts from as many
manufacturers and distributors.

Then, too, mistakes by shipping departments and freight companies can creep into the

In the end, we got all of the lab equipment we ordered. To the credit of our suppliers,
it all arrived in good working order.

Late deliveries are annoying at best and can cut into employee productivity. We should
continue to hold suppliers' feet to the fire. On the other hand, I suspect the PC industry
is no worse than average, and perhaps a bit better than other industries with products of
similar complexity.

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