From the Publisher: Can You Complain?

January 1, 2005
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Whenever my Dad and I spoke of politics, he would always tell me that if I wasn't part of the process, I had no right to complain. I believe this certainly applies to the recent elections-if you didn't vote, you can't complain.

A recent white paper from Flinchbaugh Engineering Inc. (York, PA) reminded me of this lesson. The paper deals with the "the good, the bad, the ugly and the alternative" to offshore manufacturing, especially in China. The paper points out that the decline in discrete manufacturing jobs is, at least in part, attributable to moving jobs overseas. The decline has been occurring during the past 40 years, but has accelerated in the past decade.

It's not the decline of manufacturing jobs and the reasons for that trend that caught me off guard, but rather U.S. consumer behavior, and Flinchbaugh's response to offshore manufacturing that struck me.

A study Ipsos-Public Affairs did for The Associated Press found that 69% of consumers said outsourcing hurts the economy, and 64% said they felt "outsourcing is mostly caused by the greed of corporate executives." These findings aren't surprising. Sen. John Kerry played off such attitudes during the 2004 campaign. He tapped into that sense of outrage. However, as my Dad said, "If you aren't willing to get involved, stop complaining."

That same survey pointed out that only 27% of consumers check to see if an item was made in the United States, and another 40% said they would purchase the lower-priced product made in another country even if there was a higher-priced U.S.-made product available. So, while almost 70% of the people are outraged about losing jobs overseas, less than one-third bother to see where a product is made, and almost half will buy the foreign-made product rather than the U.S.-made product. While it is sometimes difficult to find a comparable U.S.-made product, there can be no complaints about offshore manufacturing from those who purposely purchase those products over U.S. products. Shouldn't there be a price consumers are willing to pay to help the country? The person losing his manufacturing job isn't some nameless face. He is your neighbor. He could be you.

Flinchbaugh is doing something to remedy the trend to offshore manufacturing. Caterpillar transferred a product line to Flinchbaugh's York, PA, facility. Caterpillar saves money, Flinchbaugh keeps and creates manufacturing jobs. Often this type of on-shore transferring allows those who used to build the product to keep their jobs with the new manufacturer. Flinchbaugh, and other companies like it, are part of the process, part of the solution. There needs to be more such solutions. Do you want to be part of the process or not? Your answer determines whether my Dad's axiom applies.

On another note, you will notice a different name to this column. That is because I am happy to say that Quality magazine welcomes Rebecca Hennessy as its new editor. She has an extensive background in technical and trade publishing. She will be contacting many of you as she leads the editorial content of Quality and tracks the pulse of the industry. I will continue in my role of publisher, and will look forward to introducing new ways of sharing the latest quality news, trends and technologies with you. Look for more on Rebecca, and our new associate editor, Maggie McFadden, in the February issue of Quality.

In the meantime, write me with your views and ideas at williamst@

bnpmedia.com.

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