Quality Magazine

From the Publisher: Trump Plays to Strengths

June 1, 2005

I don't watch "reality" television programs. I don't know who is a "survivor," nor whom the "bachelor" or "bachelorette" have selected, nor joined the excitement of the "amazing race" around the globe. That was my track record until recently. I have been caught up with "The Apprentice." I enjoy watching the aspiring business moguls try to win a job from Donald Trump by solving the business challenges he sets before them.

A recent episode showed each team developing a product for Staples, the office supply store. The winning product was an upright revolving desk organizer. It was such an impressive product that I ordered one online and three days later had my "Desk Apprentice." I was surprised when I saw the "Made in China" label on the shipping box. Here was a product designed on a show that's hosted by that bastion of American capitalism, Donald Trump, and made overseas in a country known for cheap labor. But in reality, it is the capitalism that Trump espouses and practices that promotes making a consumable product like the Desk Apprentice in China.

In a global economy, it makes sense to do those tasks in those regions of the world where the resident skills excel, or where those tasks can most effectively be completed.

The strength of Trump's product is the creativity and innovation that went into its design, creation, marketing and distribution-skills that excel in the United States. It did not have to be made here. If it had, I may have paid $64.99 instead of $34.99.

This doesn't mean manufacturing in the United States is unimportant, but as I have said before, not every product needs to be made here.

In the United States, it makes little economic sense to have engineers dedicated to manufacturing the Desk Apprentice, or other such consumable products. In such cases, design, marketing and distribution add value, rather than manufacturing. In other instances, where the product is high value or mission critical, for example, Pentium processors or aerospace products, the strength that exists in U.S. engineering makes it important for the product to be manufactured here.

Yet, even with a product made overseas, U.S. companies should take seriously the need to set up the manufacturing processes and quality control.

From the beginning, Trump and Staples set expectations for the Desk Apprentice, because both realized that regardless of where the product was made, it had both their names attached to it. It had to meet and exceed expected quality and reliability. It does. Do your products?

From the very beginning, those involved with a product must realize that it's their name and reputation, even in a huge, seemingly anonymous organization that will be forever attached to that product. Companies dedicate resources to ensure products are innovative, marketable and profitable. They need to put the same level of emphasis on quality. It shows.

Who sets the level of quality in your plant? Write me at williamst@qualitymag.com.

Tom Williams is publisher

of Quality magazine.

Tom can be reached at williamst@qualitymag.com.