(Oct. 12, 4 p.m. EDT) — Although no one could argue with Plastics News reporter Nina Ying Sun's opinion [“U.S. must safeguard its own consumers,” Viewpoint, Sept. 17] about quality control, or lack of it in China, let us not forget what got us there in the first place — cheap labor. Yes, it's time for another rant, but way down deep, you know I'm right.
In the mad rush to outsource production to the Pacific Basin, anyone who really thought it through knew quality control surely would suffer. Most experienced domestic manufacturers have to make a concerted effort to implement and standardize the use of their tools, whether it is basic statistical process control or something more complex like Six Sigma. Implement it quickly in a relatively few years in a recently industrialized “Third World” country?
I have no connection to Mattel, and I'm sure its products are well spec-ed out. But in China, as here in the United States, when you have so much work farmed out to second- and third-tier suppliers, it should come as no surprise when a glitch shows up. Unfortunately, most everyone usually goes for the cheapest source, hopes for the best, and then reacts to the problem.
Now, the idea of inspection. Let's see — the average Pacific-traversing car carrier can carry in excess of 2,000 cars. Think about it — 2,000 cars. How many Batman figures arrive on one ship? I have no idea. However, I do know that our country is having a hard time figuring out how to inspect incoming cargo for far more dangerous stuff than lead in paint.
I recently spoke with a toolmaker technologist whose employer farms out overload work to a shop in China. He has to go there frequently to “fix” things. He said the quality atmosphere is appalling, with one example being a teenager running an electric discharge machine, whose work was sometimes checked by the one person in the plant who knew how to perform these checks, in addition to checking everyone else's work, no matter the process.
I still maintain that high-volume plastics manufacturing can be performed in a quality, cost-effective way domestically. Imagine the transportation savings. Imagine not having to inspect the huge amount of product way after the point of manufacture, either pre- or post-shipping. And imagine the jobs and careers created, or re-created, here — at home.
By the way, the “Celebrating a Century of Plastics” issue of Plastics News was super. Great job all.
Spring Hill, Tenn.