Regarding the editorial “Don’t Get Distracted” (“First Word,” Dirk Dusharme, April 2008): Excuse me? Quality of products is not a red herring. I want my money’s worth! I am old enough to remember toys and electronics in the 1950s. The tag “Made in Japan” was synonymous with “inferior” and “break-at-first-use.”
Now we have cheap Chinese goods everywhere--Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. I purchased a pick at Home Depot that was made in China. After several ground strikes, the flat edge bent. It was made of cast iron. Any fool knows that you don’t make lasting tools out of cast iron. After much searching, I found a forged steel pick at Sears… Craftsman.
No, sir. The real question is, “Is anything made in America… and if so, where can I buy it?”
I have to disagree with the author on many of the points that he made.
First, if we are to lose our jobs to Chinese vendors, then we should demand reforms as part of the deal. To allow the Chinese to disregard labor and environmental issues is criminal. We are seeing that fact finally showing itself in the recent protests as the Olympic torch tours the world in anticipation of the games in Beijing this summer.
Next, our government has allowed our military to outsource critical skills and technology. You indicate in the article that we need to develop new skills and new technologies. This is accomplished when companies spend 3 percent to 5 percent of sales in basic and applied research. Many of the skills needed to support the new technologies and the existing military-industrial complex are being lost to retirement and outsourcing. The apprentice class needed to continue skilled trades are not finding opportunities in the United States, which ultimately forces even greater dependence on foreign and risky manufacturing sources.
The loss of U.S. manufacturing has been primarily caused by U.S. policy and U.S. firms moving offshore en masse. The best interest of the United States’ national security is that we maintain the technological leading edge and at the same time not lose our knowledge of how to manufacture products. In the United States, manufacturing (and quality) has been viewed by corporate managers as an expensive overhead instead of their firms’ primary asset. They think, for example: “Why should we engage in the high risk of losing capital dollars by investing in new equipment when the Chinese approach carries low cost with minimal downside risk?” The multinational business manager cannot list ingenuity and knowledge on his or her balance sheet because it cannot be quantified if it doesn’t exist. I warn you that these attitudes are not likely to change anytime soon.
The multinationals should follow the lead of United Technologies. Its management strongly believes that its products should be produced in the country where they are consumed. What a wonderful concept! Our nation’s physical and economic health, welfare, and security depend on following this example.
The problem is not outsourcing in itself or the Chinese people--the issue is the Chinese government. At some point in time it has to be about more than where we can buy the cheapest pair of tennis shoes. Let me give you a few reasons not to support the Chinese government:
• A total disregard for intellectual property
• Predatory pricing designed to cripple competition; they will raise their prices once competition is gone
• Little if no regard for the environment; look at the top-ten list of most polluted cities
• Terrible record on workplace safety
Unfortunately, it has taken the Tibet issue to spotlight the China that the Chinese government tries so hard to hide. We need to take personal responsibility for the fact that our dollars are being used to prop up one of the most dangerous regimes in the world.
In “An Open Letter to the Leaders of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors” (Allen Huffman, http://qualitydigest.com/IQedit/QDarticle_text.lasso?articleid=12654), the author makes many good points and accurately describes the problems that U.S. automakers face. However, the solutions are not going to be easy.
U.S. automakers have a lot to overcome. Cars now being produced in the United States are equal to any made anywhere in the world. The current problems for U.S. automakers are ones of cost and perception. The public perception will take time to change. It is difficult to regain the customer’s trust once it has been lost. The cost problem can only truly be fixed if manufacturers adopt a culture of eliminating waste in all areas--manufacturing, design, purchasing, administration, etc. This is starting to happen; we will see if it is too little too late. As a supplier to the global auto industry, I hope it is not too late.
Mike Micklewright’s column “The Greatest Waste” ( http://qualitydigest.com/IQedit/QDarticle_text.lasso?articleid=12607) was terrifying and accurate, yet hilarious! I’d write more, but fear that too would be deemed office nonvalue-added.
Shall I consider the time I spent reading this and responding to it as wasteful? Hmmmm.....