Designed in U.S. Made in China

American businesses have a history of designing products in America, but then sending the designs to companies abroad, especially to third world countries, to be assembled. Why would a first world country, with the capacity for better materials and production processes, outsource the building of their products to lesser developed nations? The answer is simple: cost.

One of the most common countries for assembling American-designed products is China. In 2011, there was an article in Forbes titled “Buying from China is in Fact Buying American.” In this article, the author talks about his friend Johnny, a middle class American who owns a couple of small restaurants. 

Most of the cooking utensils and furniture in Johnny’s restaurants were made in China. Like most middle-class Americans, he shopped at stores that sold primarily Chinese-made merchandise. Johnny’s reason for using these Chinese-assembled products: they were cheap and “good-enough.”

The article went on to talk about different American companies that sell products that are made in China (Apple, Dell, Gap, Hasbro, Nike, etc.) and how, according to a San Francisco Federal Reserve study, an average of 55% of the value of American imported goods from China goes to American companies and workers. 

This is compared to 36% for American goods in general. Not only can companies that outsource to China sell their goods at a cheaper price, but they actually make a lot more money in the process.

The Image of Exclusivity

In his May 12, 2015 article Taking the Fast Lane in the Handelsblatt Global Edition, Christian Schnell (schnell means fast in German) wrote about Porsche’s success in the U.S.

“Porsche keeps setting sales records in the United States, with double-digit percentage growth over four years. Of 190,000 Porsche’s sold last year, 47,000 were delivered to U.S. customers. The brand, part of the Volkswagen Group, has grown sales by double-digit figures for four years straight.”

Porsche is a niche player. It has a U.S. market share of only 0.4 percent. “It shouldn’t become much more than that to protect the car’s image of exclusivity, in Porsche’s view.”

“We have not set a figure as a target. Instead, we want to get a sense of how much we can expand the brand,” said Porsche-CEO Matthias Müller. “We’d rather sell a car less than one too many.”

Schnell noted: “At other companies, such elitist thinking has led to conflicts.” In 2014 the chief executive of Ferrari, Luca die Montezemolo, said he only wanted to build 7,000 cars per year. “The statement angered Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Ferrari’s parent company Fiat.” Not long thereafter, Montezemolo was out of a job.

It was an incident which the Porsche-CEO could not understand. “If Mr. Marchionne thinks he can turn Ferrari into a mass market brand I can only say: ‘A very warm welcome’.”

POSs

The book American Gods by Neil Gaiman, follows the adventures of a man called Shadow as he travels across America. At one point during his voyage, he finds himself stranded in the middle of the Wisconsin, attempting to rent or buy a car.

As it turns out, there is nowhere nearby for him to rent, so he has to settle for buying. In an attempt to find someone willing to sell him a car, he tries talking to a woman manning the till at a gas station:

“Car died a few miles down the road. It was a pieceashit if you’ll pardon my language,“ said Shadow.

‘Pee-Oh-Esses,’ she said. ‘Yup. That’s what my brother-in-law calls ’em. He buys and sells cars in a small way. He’ll call me up, say Mattie, I just sold another Pee-Oh-Ess. Say, maybe he’d be interested in your old car. For scrap or something.’”

Eventually, Shadow meets the brother-in-law, and although he has plenty of money with him, at this point in the story he only needs to drive about 500 miles, so he tries to buy the cheapest car that could take him the full way. 

“The piece of shit he chose was a 1983 Chevy Nova, which he bought, with a full tank of gas, for four hundred and fifty dollars. It had almost a quarter of a million miles on the clock, and smelled faintly of bourbon, tobacco, and more strongly of something that might well have been bananas. He couldn’t tell what color it was, under the dirt and the snow. . . The piece of shit had a radio, but nothing happened when he turned it on.”

Nevertheless, despite the poor performance of the vehicle, Shadow was content with his purchase because it was cheap.

Engineers – Quotes

„Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them.“ James Michener

„Engineers are behidn the cars we drive, the pills we pop and the way we power our homes.“ James Dyson

„Silicon Valley has evolved a critical mass of engineers and venture capitalists and all the support structure – the law firms, the real estate, all that – that are all actually geared toward being accepting of startups.“ Elon Musk

„I’ve actually found the image of Silicon Valley as a hotbed of money-grubbing tech people to be pretty false, but maybe that’s because the people I hang out with are all really engineers.“ Linus Torvalds

„I think one problem we’ve had is that people who are smart and creative and innovative as engineers went into financial engineering.“ Walter Isaacson

„The South produced statemen and soldieres, planters and doctors and lawyers and poets, but certainly no engineers and mechanics. Let Yankees adopt such low callings.“ Margaret Mitchell

Mechanicians Musicians Metaphysicians

“The Yankees, the first mechanicians in the world, are engineers – just as the Italians are musicians and the Germans metaphysicians – by right of birth. Nothing is more natural, therefore, than to perceive them applying their audacious ingenuity to the science of gunnery.” Jules Verne

Does Verne mean with „gunnery“ the making of weapons? And does he mean with „them“ the Yankees (Americans) or the Germans?

Verne (1828–1905) was a French novelist, poet, and playwrite best known for is adventure novels and his great influence on the literary genre of science fiction.

QIC Awards

Every year the American National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) grants Quality in Construction (QIC) awards to any asphalt producer, paving contractor, and/or road owner in the United States who completes a project “that deliver(s) on the promise of high performance and drivability.“ 

In 2014, 205 projects were honored with a QIC Award, and of those 90 projects were singled out for their use for sustainable construction practices (such as using recycled materials). Some of the 2014 winning projects include:

Golden Gate Constructors of San Jose, California for work on the San Francisco International Airport. The company had to construct new taxiways to allow for installation of an engineered material arrestor system. Crews worked round the clock to produce a high quality pavement under budget and 30 days ahead of schedule, allowing an early reopening of the runways.

Everett Dykes Grassing Co. Inc. of Cochran, Georgia for work on SR 27 in Appling County. The project included milling, resurfacing, and shoulder rehabilitation, and through the use of careful paving techniques and careful quality control, the company produced a pavement that was 58 percent smoother than the previous road.

J.H. Rudolph & Co. Inc. of Evansville, Indiana for work on Evansville Regional Airport, which included rehabilitation, reconstruction and new construction work. Paving with multiple laydown techniques and employing strict quality control, J. H. Rudolph & Co. achieved a smooth pavement seven days ahead of schedule.

Earle Asphalt Co. of Farmingdale, New Jersey for work on SH 33 in Monmouth County. The project required the mill and overlay of both westbound and eastbound roads to achieve a 36.5 percent improvement in ride quality. Paving crews worked at night to limit traffic disruptions.

Malcolm Baldrige Award

This award was established in 1987 by the U.S. Congress in order to raise awareness of quality management and to recognize American companies that use successful quality management systems. 

Initially, awards were only given in 3 categories: manufacturing, service businesses, and small businesses. However, in 1999 education and healthcare categories were added, and finally in 2007 a government and nonprofit category was added. 

Up to 3 awards can be given in each category annually, and the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology manages the award. Recipients are chosen based on their performance in seven areas: 

  1. Leadership: How upper management leads the organization, and how the organization leads within the community.

2. Strategic planning: How the organization establishes and plans to implement strategic directions.

3. Customer and market focus: How the organization builds and maintains strong, lasting relationships with customers.

4. Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management: How the organization uses data to support key processes and manage performance.

5. Human resource focus: How the organization empowers and involves its workforce.

6. Process management: How the organization designs, manages and improves key processes.

7. Business/organizational performance results: How the organization performs in terms of customer satisfaction, finances, human resources, supplier and partner performance, operations, governance and social responsibility, and how the organization compares to its competitors.

Business Majors

Business has long been a cornerstone of American culture. The American Dream is typically associated with the ability to start with almost nothing, and through the virtues of business, to rise to great wealth and social stature.

Although the U.S. is no longer the country with the largest rate of social mobility in the world Americans still hold business savvy and an ability to rise in social stature in high prestige.

The most popular major for American university students is business, with approximately 22% of graduates. Science and engineering are the least popular majors, with approximately 5% of American students choosing engineering, and only 1.4% choosing physical sciences.

As a result of this business prestige, in every American engineer you’ll find a businessperson – someone who’s always looking to get the best for less, and will never consider quality without also considering the cost necessary to achieve it.

“March to our own beat”

WordPress software powers 70 million websites. Just about half of the biggest blogs in the world run on WordPress. Automattic – owner of WordPress – is not your typical Silicon Valley Web start-up.

“We march a little to our own beat, and sometimes it’s out of sync with Silicon Valley — and that’s been to our advantage and disadvantage,” co-head Toni Schneider said. 

“We don’t get sucked into the latest thing, while some of our competitors are distracted by the latest shiny object. The disadvantage is sometimes we’re against the grain of what everyone else is excited about, and people ask ‘Why don’t you have x yet?’ — but we go at our own pace.”

Another way that Automattic is unusual is its extraordinarily low rate of staff changeover. It currently has 106 employees — and it has only ever hired 118 people.

Automattic was founded by Matt Mullenweg. From Houston. An American with a German background.

World-class whiners

Jammern auf hohem Niveau – whining at a high level. This is one of the many ways in which Germans complain about their complaining. And, indeed, the Germans complain quite a bit. Nothing seems to be right, or just right, or good enough.

Sven Astheimer wrote a very interesting editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in June of 2015. His basic argument was that German whining – a more accurate term is German Unzufriedenheit or dissatisfaction – is one of the German people’s great strengths.

Never being fully satisfied. Always “looking for the hair in the soup.” Striving for perfection. “Geht nicht, gibt’s es nicht” is a very well-known German figure of speech. It translates loosely into: “It can’t work, doesn’t work for me.” Or “It’s impossible, is impossible.”

Astheimer fears that Germans are becoming too satisfied. The country is extraordinarily successful. Strong economy. Balanced federal budget. A finely meshed social net protecting the weak and the unfortunate (and the lazy).

In other words, Jammern is under threat. Germany does not have abundant resources. It has only the creativity, the innovation, the strong minds of its people. Knowhow. And knowing how to do something – how to do it better or in a new way – is driven, is sparked, by Unzufriedenheit.