Made In China

It seems that almost every day there is a report about the poor quality of “ Made In China” products whether it be lead paint in toys, contaminated pet food, or sub par medications. (Of course China has suddenly found problems with products made in the U.S.A..) This has resulted in a tendency to shy away from products with the “Made In China” label, which is virtually impossible. American corporations have flocked to China with its cheap labor in order to supply Americans with the low cost products they demand.

Low cost and poor product quality do not have to be synonymous. Think back to the 30’s when a purchase of a product labeled “Made In Japan” was the equivalent to buying junk. That all changed in the late 40’s when The Japanese embraced the American quality guru W. Edwards Deming whose immense contributions to revolutionizing the concept of quality in Japanese manufacturing have been well documented.

The following are excerpts from the Encyclopedia of Small Business:

“Quality circles were originally associated with Japanese management and manufacturing techniques. The introduction of quality circles in Japan in the postwar years was inspired by the lectures of W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993), a statistician for the U.S. government. Deming based his proposals on the experience of U.S. firms operating under wartime industrial standards. Noting that American management had typically given line managers and engineers about 85 percent of the responsibility for quality control and line workers only about 15 percent, Deming argued that these shares should be reversed. He suggested redesigning production processes to more fully account for quality control, and continuously educating all employees in a firm—from the top down—in quality control techniques and statistical control technologies. Quality circles were the means by which this continuous education was to take place for production workers.”

“Deming predicted that if Japanese firms adopted the system of quality controls he advocated, nations around the world would be imposing import quotas on Japanese products within five years. His prediction was vindicated. Deming's ideas became very influential in Japan, and he received several prestigious awards for his contributions to the Japanese economy.”

The turnaround in Japanese product quality became the envy of all industrialized countries (a portrait of Edward Deming hangs prominently in the lobby of Toyota headquarters). We all know the story of Japanese autos and quality.

The point of all this is that the Chinese are not stupid and they will overcome their product quality problems just as the Japanese did. “Made In China” may very well become synonymous with quality. So where does that leave the good old U. S. of A.?

Buying American for the sake of buying American will not work. The work ethic must be devoted to finding ways through American ingenuity to foster technical innovations which will make us product quality and cost leaders. The Federal government and American corporations have an obligation to help. The government needs to devote as much time and money to providing incentives for American R&D and manufacturing as it does to developing free trade pacts. American corporations need to play fair - give the innovations a chance here rather than shipping them overseas.

( Incidentally I bought a six pack of Chinese beer for $2.99. Not bad - there was not a trace of anti-freeze.)

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