Laboring Under a Misconception About Outsourcing
Fishman writes, “For years, too many American companies have treated the actual manufacturing of their products as incidental—a generic, interchangeable, relatively low-value part of their business. If you spec’d the item closely enough—if you created a good design and your drawings had precision; if you hired a cheap factory and inspected for quality—who cared what language the factory workers spoke?
“This sounded good in theory. In practice, it was like writing a cookbook without ever cooking,” he concludes.
It’s a lot like some of the print outsourcing outfits that exist today. Don’t get me wrong; some of them really know how to design for manufacturing. Some of the more secure outfits intelligently partner with those who do.
But others offer the end-user no more than the prospect of saving a few dollars and eliminating a group of people from the payroll. The losers there are not just the employees, but could be the companies themselves.
To this group, I offer the GE case of the GeoSpring water heater. When GE decided to bring production back to Appliance Park, no one in Louisville knew how to build a water heater any longer. The company realized that its engineers were so removed from the manufacturing process, that the heater was poorly designed and inefficient to produce. So, management got everyone—marketing, sales, engineering and line workers—all together in a room to tackle the problem.
The company opted for a complete redesign. In doing so, it eliminated one-fifth of the parts, reduced materials by 25 percent, and cut the labor hours required from 10 in China to two in the United States. GE improved the product’s quality and even its energy efficiency, all through the collaboration of the designers/engineers and manufacturing. By the end of 2014, GE expects 75 percent of its appliance revenue to come from U.S.-manufactured products.
A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC