When I was about ten years old I had my first experience trying to plane a board. I’ll never forget it. I had grown up in a booming California town and had spent hours watching carpenters at work building new houses. I had visions of long wooden curls streaming out of the plane as it glided noiselessly across the wood.
The reality was a little different. Basically, my plane chattered along the board, gouging out divots that pretty much ruined the project.
My second experience with wood working, about fifteen years later, was better. Under the influence of the crafts renaissance of the early ‘seventies, I had acquired several fine planes, some from England, and some American ones from the early 1900s that I was able to track down at flea markets. They worked. No chatter. No divots. Plenty of satisfaction. And I realized at that time that the plane in experience number one, thought a combination of poor fit-and-finish and low-grade steel, could never have worked for anybody.
What does this have to do with modern manufacturing? Plenty.
Manufacturing companies in the U.S. – and, to be fair, large retail chains as well – have become so obsessed with price that the shelves of our stores are now filled with products that, while affordable, don’t work! There are planes that don’t plane, personal shredders that don’t shred, space heaters with switches that break and can’t be repaired, lawn mowers that fail at cutting grass… the list is endless.
There’s an opportunity here. How about building tools, appliances, etc. that really work, and really last – and then marketing them as life-long investments? We could do that in America. And with a little smart marketing we could convince a significant percentage of the population that buying on quality is a smart choice.Producing high quality products that compete on merit instead of price is a golden opportunity for many manufacturing companies. In fact, with the average wage in China at $0.57 per hour, it may be the only opportunity available.