Sunday, March 22, 2009
I had an interesting talk about manufacturing the other day with a friend. Very interesting. He also has a company that is a manufacturer. During part of the conversation, he told me that I should look up this video on Youtube. Check it out – “Chinese Press Automation”

The video shows such a manufacturing situation so ridiculous and incredibly dangerous that I really question whether it is authentic. Sadly, I suspect that it is.

I made the comment to my friend that I believe that USA manufacturers have been demonized. I am not sure he agreed with me but I still stand by what I said.

Here’s the situation … as a country develops, things are going to happen which are not good. People will at some point be exploited for cheap and dangerous labor. Our country had its share of that. I am not condoning this … just saying that it happened here and now it is happening elsewhere. Looking back over the years, you can see the progression … Japan, Mexico, China, Indonesia, India … but there’s something really important to notice … the “cycle time” is getting faster and faster. By that, I mean the window of time within which a developing nation offers the cheapest labor, which means unsafe conditions and exploited humans.

The reason for this shorter cycle time is that manufacturing methods are so much more advanced than they used to be. For a period of time when a country is developing, it can exploit cheap labor, ala the above video link. But, after awhile, things start to catch up … the country has money to adopt new technologies and people begin to stop tolerating unsafe and exploitative conditions. (It’s a little more complex than that but that is a decent synopsis.) This cycle time, if you will, is getting shorter and shorter all the time. While it lasted a couple of decades with Japan, it lasted maybe one decade with Mexico. China is quickly progressing through the cycle so Indonesia and India are next. Eventually we will see some South American countries also run through the cycle.

Here’s the bad part … as this continues, more and more of our manufacturing is moved offshore and, more and more, we just buy products made by foreign companies … companies taking advantage of exploited humans and unsafe conditions. And, at the same time, because US manufacturers have been demonized – painted as “the man” who needs to have it “stuck to him” – we make US manufacturing not only less and less competitive but less and less attractive for anyone to pursue as a business.

Do not misread what I am saying and think that I am in favor of exploited humans or unsafe conditions. Quite the opposite because I believe fully within my heart that, with US technology, ingenuity, and hard work, we can have the most competitive manufacturing in the world. We have all the makings of it. The technology advances that eventually run other countries through “the cycle” are for the most part based in US technology which is more common sense than European technology.

But yet we have made US manufacturing into “the man” – we want it to carry a bigger and bigger tax burden – through unionization (read up on EFCA) we want it to cover huge ongoing legacy costs, supporting people who no longer work – we want to “stick it to” US manufacturing however we can because it is “the man” and “the man” is bad and needs to be penalized or corrected … or exploited and milked for all its worth. But the problem is that this is only pushing US consumers to end up exploiting workers in other countries … because we want cheap products. And we get upset when we pay a price like lead in childrens’ toys or drywall in houses that outgases sulphur dioxide and makes people sick.

We drive manufacturing offshore … we make it less and less attractive to be a manufacturer in the US … we talk about the US becoming a “service-based” economy … somehow that seems good and right

But here’s the conundrum … all of these other countries that can be exploited for a period of time for cheap labor and unsafe conditions … they eventually do work their way through “the cycle”. And “the cycle” keeps getting shorter. Eventually where do we end up? Buying expensive products made offshore and with seriously deteriorated and diminished domestic infrastructure to support our own manufacturing, as well as no financial incentive to start up new US manufacturing. And much of this is because of the way that our country and our legislators have, meaning to or not, demonized manufacturing – “stuck it” to “the man”.

This is a serious problem … escalating rapidly. If we as Americans and our legislators do not soon realize that we must bolster and support safe and efficient US manufacturing, we will soon find ourselves in a world of hurt. And I am not talking in my grandchildren’s lifetime … I am talking within my lifetime.

  posted at 8:35 PM  


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Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

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