Dec 212011
 

First the bad news. Everything is manufactured in China.

The entire consumer electronics industry silently closed all assembly plants in North America and Europe in the last 10 years. Today more than 95% of this products are manufactured in Mainland China, whether it’s Apple or Dell or HP or Cherrypal or Amazon or Epesitec, they all assemble in Shenzhen, about half an hour by train from Hong Kong.

Since all products (phones, tablets and laptop computers) are manufactured in China is there any difference in quality?

Overly simplified it very much depends who designed the products and who is watching the assembly/manufacturing process. Chinese manufacturers usually design their products for the local market, with very little consideration or understanding of the quality and usability expectations in North America and Europe. Believe it or not, the average Chinese consumer has very little appreciation for product quality. The only buying criteria is price. That’s also the reason for the incredible low prices for authentic Chinese consumer electronic products on eBay and other sites – low price – low quality – delivered as promised.

Well, differences in design are very obvious to the consumer. What’s not that obvious are guidelines how workers are treated and how environmentally friendly the assembly/manufacturing process is handled. Some Chinese contract manufacturers are famous for burning out their workers and polluting the environment at their discretion. Workers usually don’t speak up. There are hundreds of millions of Chinese farm workers waiting to get a better paid job in booming Shenzhen.

Companies like Apple and others are facing a lot of questions from the public. The true reason for the miserable working conditions is not related to cost pressure at all. The average factory worker makes about $100 a month and most factories actually employ too many workers due to generous government incentive programs. The root cause of the problem is poorly trained management and lack of interest to make the necessary changes.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/228384/foxconn_working_conditions_were_criticized_before_fire.html

Epesitec is an ODM (Origninal Design Manufacturer), headquartered in the States, with assembly facilities in China.

Like Apple, Dell, HP and the other major brands the products are designed here in the States and manufactured in Mainland China. Epesitec though is not a consumer facing brand, it designs and manufactures products that are branded by mobile phone carriers and others.

Here is what Epesitec considers “good enough” in order to assemble high quality and low cost products:

  • The more quality controls the lower the cost. Poor quality is not good enough and causes costly return¬† and replacements.
  • Treat workers well and with respect, enforce breaks, provide incentives and benefits, no physical punishment.
  • Minimize exposure for the environment, use less energy, less waste, think now so you don’t have to pay later.

Now the good news, manufacturing locally, I call it “homemade tastes better”, is not just possible, it’s even desirable.

Epesitec started with assembly/manufacturing in Mainland China like everyone else, but there is ample proof that placing assembly as close as possible to the engineering and design process will increase product quality with very little impact on cost for finished goods.

Epesitec will start with “Made in America” assembly in 2012, improve product quality even further and keep cost low. Ironically most politicians are not very interested in manufacturing jobs locally, go figure.

Ever wondered why next to nothing is manufactured in North America anymore? If cheap labor is the only criteria why is nothing manufactured in Africa, for that matter. Will share more another time.

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Dec 202011
 

Triggered by the Wall Street implosion of September 2008 the economic environment is changing at a dramatic pace.Governments are out of money, employees are losing their jobs, environmentally friendly initiatives are out of fashion, education is of poor quality for most children in the world.

On the other hand products and services like mobile phones and tablet computers, social networking websites and reality TV broadcasts are in high demand. The way we consume information and form opinions is changing as well. The more we are exposed to the Internet the more our preferences are determined by “hype” rather than rational thinking. What do we really want and need, what is good for us, what is good enough?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a vivid proponent of the “Internet Access for Everyone” initiative, however, like with many other products and services the price should be affordable, quality high and easy to use. In other words, it should be “Good Enough”, but what is good enough really?

Money is tight, at least for 99% of the population here in the States and 99.99% worldwide. Don’t get me wrong, access to the Internet became an “I can’t live without product” within only a few years. There is ample proof that access to the internet increases employment opportunities and quality of education, if used wisely.

I have spent the last four years designing cost and quality optimized consumer electronic products and decided to share some of my experiences and observations with you. To be perfectly frank, I went from heaven to hell and up again. I have first hand experience when it comes to saving cost, optimizing value, operating on a shoestring, learning from mistakes and last but not least humility. Is “good enough” settling for less than that we really want?

The “New Good Enough Approach” (aka “New Humility”, “Good Enough 2.0”)¬†raises many questions.

  • What products and services do we really need?
  • What’s a reasonable and fair price?
  • Do the “corporate values” of the vendor matter to us?
  • What are our spending priorities?
  • Is there such a thing as “New Humility”?
  • … and many more

I would like to offer some answers, thoughts, critical and hopefully entertaining perspectives. Stay tuned.



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