On Tuesday This short article appeared in the Wall St Journal:
The article had the usual complaints about not being able to get stuff made here in the US. The plaints of how impossible it is, how there were no suppliers to make what they want. I read the article, rather mystified, because I’ve never had much trouble getting all sorts of stuff made here in the US. Then I read it again and I realized the problem. When you bid for a job in China it’s turnkey. Essentially the manufacturer does all the work and all the company here in the US has to do is ship and collect the checks.
Like Tony Faddel described for his nest thermostat:
Now a thermostat is about 10 parts total, some injected molded, a circuit board, a display, some stamped parts, and three or four screws. Not much stress for anybody’s assembly facility. But Foxconn has the facility already and Faddel would have to build from scratch to get his stuff made here. That would mean hiring more people. But what do you give up. One is that you give up control of your supply chain and to large extent your quality control. You also have to plan in batches. That is Ok for Faddel, who expects to sell at least hundreds of thousands. He’s willing to take the gamble and he’s large enough of customer
You give the agent your drawings and specs and get the products, back, theoretically. I’ve seen good stories like this:
And bad stories. But that’s not what this is about and I’m not going to talk about stuff made in China, right now.
The complaint is that you can’t get you toy or toaster oven made here in the US. Unlike China, there’s no contract outfit that you can go to and get your stuff. I thought about it and I realized why. Here in the US, the general rule is that the actual OEM does the final assembly and produces and ships the product themselves. And much of it is done in the US.:
This the value added work that most American companies expect that they have to do. It’s not just large companies either. Here’s my friend Ethan, who makes sound isolation panels for audio rooms and studios:
He has a list of vendors like Ram fabricating, but does the final assembly himself.:
That way he can control the quality through his facility and ship his panels knowing what he shipped. it also cuts down waste because Ethan is not 5000 mile or from his vendors and can fix problems easily.
The fact is that you can get just about all the stuff you need made here in the US, with the exception of standard IC chips and other electronic components. All you have to do is go to the manufacturers version of the old fashioned yellow pages and let your fingers do the walking:
This was me doing search for injection molders. there’s also IHS as well:
Which led me to this place for getting a board assembled:
As for final assembly and packaging, well here’s a place right up the street from me.
None of this represented a great deal of effort. Just some google and thomasnet searches. If I actually had a project in mind I would do a lot more due diligence and check the potential vendors out. This isn’t rocket science though. It can be done, and I think that it might actually work out better. Look, when you have the assembly done here you can control the process. If you want make a change, it’s not a 5000 mile trip, it’s 50 miles maybe, that is if it isn’t 50 ft downstairs. The inevitable quality issues can be squelched before you have your 5000 toasters coming in a container. If you have a sudden success, added production is easy. You don’t have to wait six months for the next slot in somebody else’s plant and another six weeks for the container to be loaded and transported. Your stuff isn’t on the wrong side of a union spasm and work slowdown. You have complete control over your supply chain. There are some distinct advantages to doing it yourself, especially if you expect your production to fluctuate. Maybe these people should have tried just a little harder. It seems to me as if they stopped just before they could have made things work. That’s a shame. Both for them and for us.