The naked engineer: We’ll pay for that

Posted on 2 May 2013

Hemlock gets its fingers burnt playing the late payments game.

Monday 10.30am and I get the warm and fuzzy’s from beating Sir Patrick into the last (disabled) parking space. Though perhaps he wouldn’t use it now since our ‘previously known as Chairman’ leader has taken a PC turn recently and started insisting on being referred to as ‘the Chair’.

Frankly I find it a little unnerving to think of our multi-national engineering conglomerate being entrusted to an inanimate piece of furniture.

But lack of a parking spot of any kind turned out to be an unwise aggravation for an already parlous sense of humour.

The late arrival of the engineering world’s answer to Basil Fawlty resulted from his smashing one of the Aston’s three and a half grand titanium alloys in a pothole the size of the Mariana trench left by some careless navvy installing yet another set of bloody roundabout traffic lights on the A57. Delivery time for a replacement wheel from AML was unknown due to ‘difficulties in the supply chain’.

As it happens Sir Patrick was in for similar news from Hemlock. We were gathered for an emergency finance pow-wow following a stark realisation that his latest cunning plan to creatively improve our metal processing division’s dire cash flow was back-firing spectacularly.

Jimmy the Greek (FD) was tearing out the remnants of his hair. He’d told the big chief weeks ago that increasing supplier’s credit terms from 30 to 75 days rivalled I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of here for top slot in a list the world’s crapist ideas and today he was taking no prisoners – it was a joy to watch.

“It’s bloody bedlam,” yelled the irate Welsh Greek across the table at Sir Patrick. “Supplier go slow’s, ops directors from major auto clients hammering my door down because we can’t deliver light series alloys and three sub-contractor materials processors refusing to deliver. They’re all claiming breach of contract and one’s threatening to file for bankruptcy because they can’t fund the working cap. Any improvement in cashflow we might have had is gonna get shot to pieces in costs to the legalistas to defend all this shite.”

Jimmy tossed a sheaf of printouts across the table detailing the fiasco caused by the ingenuity of the Hemlock thinktank. My eye skimmed the formal complaints and threats of legal action page and hit on Tit Forge plc, supplier of titanium alloy wheels to the rich and famous.

“They’re all claiming breach of contract and one’s threatening to file for bankruptcy because they can’t fund the working cap”

I leant over and whispered in Sir Patrick’s ear.

“Well, implementation of the cash flow improvement plan hasn’t been as effective as we’d hoped,” intoned Sir Patrick in a masterful dispersal of blame. “So we’ll put it on hold for now. You can notify all suppliers that we’ve listened to their concerns and will revert to 30 days credit.”

Jimmy’s relief was palpable and as we headed out to Cavendish’s for a little destressing elixir I couldn’t resist remarking to Sir Patrick with a knowing wink, ‘I’m sure you’ll get that wheel for the Aston sorted soon Sir Patrick!”

Any similarity of characters to persons living or dead is completely intentional.