Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quality of Chinese goods

Please read this post in conjunction with my basic position paper "What is this blog all about?".

The American market is large enough to support domestic manufacturing of TV sets, home computers, microwave cooking equipment, and similar items, using modern manufacturing facilities.

But even if manufacture in China of the above items can be justified on the basis of economies of scale, there is no justification whatsoever for importation from China of canned foods, cosmetics, or medical products, or ingredients of these products. Over and over it has been shown that there is no quality control in China for these types of products.  So we don't want to import from China any goods that are applied to the human body, either externally or internally.  Furthermore, there is no possibility of significant savings for the consumer, by importing these goods rather than manufacturing them domestically. 

An insane cult seems to have grown up according to which purchasing officials in government and industry automatically think of China first, before thinking of domestic sources.  Even when sourcing in China is completely pointless, as in the case of food, cosmetics, and medical items, they still think of China first.

Some years ago I was travelling and I needed a pair of scissors.  I made my purchase at a large chain drug store.  As soon as I opened the package, the scissors fell apart.  At a later time I was able to speak with the Vice President for purchasing.  His response:  "No domestic source could offer us the same price and quality".  He seemed to miss the point completely.  The quality was zero.  His statement was probably the automatic response to any question as to why he is purchasing in China. 

Government agencies such as Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission are very passive when there are problems with goods imported from China.  The common sense approach would be to simply ban the import of problem goods.   Instead, government agencies try to get the Chinese authorities to investigate and correct the problems.   The government agencies go to the Chinese authorities as weak supplicants, as if America is helpless and has no other source of these items.

Consider the issue of lead in paint used in toy manufacture in China.  The Chinese government and the factories in China making the toys are unable to follow the simple requirement:  Don't use paint that contains lead!  Instead of begging the Chinese to stop using paint that contains lead, we should ban the import of toys from the factories involved, and manufacture the toys in the United States.  The most ridiculous aspect of this situation is this:  Where do they get paint that contains lead?  Do the Chinese have great storehouses filled with cans of paint manufactured years ago?  No one currently manufactures paint that contains lead.  (Except maybe the Chinese.)

There has been a huge disaster with a medical product, heparin. Heparin is an anti-coagulant used in treating patients in hospitals.  According to a report issued by Congressional Research Service, "China - U.S. Trade Issues", July 20, 2010, there were 246 deaths of patients in 2007 and first half of 2008, attributed to tainted heparin.  Also many illnesses. The problem was caused by "an active pharmaceutical ingredient" imported from China.  The report states further that there "appeared to be a deliberate scheme to adulterate the ingredient". 

The ingredient is obtained from pigs.  The report states that due to the large number of pigs required, the ingredient is sourced in China. 

I see this case as an excellent example of the cult referred to above, namely the automatic mindset that China should be considered first, when sourcing and purchasing.   America has been known almost from the day of its founding as a nation with very high levels of initiative, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.  Surely America with a very large pork industry and strength in science and technology can solve the problem of production of heparin and provide it from domestic sources at reasonable cost.  Certainly there are cases of defective American products.  But it is very rare that there is "a deliberate scheme to adulterate".  By manufacturing in America you have some control over quality and safety issues, which you do not have in products made in China.

Chinese authorities never investigated the problem with the heparin ingredient, despite repeated requests from FDA.  Who in his right mind continues to buy from a supplier who provides a defective product and refuses to investigate and correct the problem?

In another insane purchasing decision, drywall was sourced in China and used in construction of new housing in the United States.  Tens of thousands of homes may be involved.  In relation to the total cost of a house, including land and construction cost, how much can you save by getting the drywall from China rather than from U.S. domestic manufacturers?  0.5%?  0.3%?

The drywall from China proved defective in several ways.  The drywall emits sulfur-containing gases, which are probably a health hazard for occupants of the house.  In addition, the gases are corrosive and may damage heating and air-conditioning equipment to the point where the equipment has to be replaced.

Further, the drywall proved to be of poor quality and very brittle, creating difficulties during construction.  A number of houses have been gutted and new drywall from domestic sources installed.  How does the cost of this process compare with the alleged cost savings associated with drywall from China?

I visited a wholesale plumbing supply store recently.  This is a store patronized by professionals such as plumbing contractors.  I was told that everything in the store is made in China.

If there is a failure in a pipe fitting or flexible hose installed in a house, the resulting flooding can lead to a repair cost of $50,000 to $100,000, plus tremendous inconvenience for the occupants, and loss of family records and heirlooms.   If I were a senior official in an insurance company, I would set a requirement that new construction, and replacement of components in existing buildings, must utilize American-made products, in order to obtain or continue insurance.  The reason is, obviously, that there is some hope of proper quality control in domestic manufacturing. 

Flexible hoses are of greatest concern.  We have no knowledge of the properties of rubber and related materials used in flexible hoses made in China.  We have no knowledge of the composition or extent of quality control in manufacturing.  If the price difference between a washing machine hose made in America and a hose made in China is $5, it is well worth the extra cost to reduce the chance of a very expensive home disaster due to a failed hose.

There was never a ground-swell of requests from consumers for lower prices on critical components, such as saving $3 or $5 on a washing machine hose.  The interest in lower prices has been artificially created by manufacturers to justify the loss of millions of jobs.

No comments:

Post a Comment