Chinese Manufacturing Vs. American Manufacturing: The Real Cost

In Marlin Steel Case Studies, American Manufacturing, Quality Control

Marlin Steel on October 5, 2017

chinese-manufacturing-vs.-american-manufacturing-the-real-cost.jpgMany companies look for the most cost-effective solution they can to meet their needs. This only makes sense because they have to do whatever they can to keep the doors open and profits coming in. Not only do many companies have shareholders and investors to look out for, they have their employees to consider as well.

However, some companies have, in their search for a cheaper solution to their needs, run afoul of another problem: Chinese manufacturers who cut corners in their products to save costs.

One manufacturing company recently reached out to Marlin Steel to create a set of replacement high end material handling devices. Why? The devices they had originally ordered from the Chinese company were not performing as expected.

After inspecting the client’s specifications and examples of lifts the client received from the Chinese manufacturer, Marlin’s engineering team noted multiple discrepancies between the design and the physical product. Many of these differences were so severe that it was a surprise any of the assemblies could work at all!

What Was Wrong with the Devices?

The high end material handling devices were meant to be a simple design—basically like a little automated forklift arm for loading and unloading computer components in data cabinets or racks. To successfully accomplish this, the arms needed to meet tight parts tolerances so they could fit in the enclosure while carrying the components.

The problem was that the arms of the devices made by the Chinese company were roughly 7/10” off from the height they were supposed to be. This threw off the angle that the lift’s arms were bent at and compromised their ability to hold the parts and fit in cabinets.

Also, while the individual components wouldn’t be very heavy, these lifts would need to be capable of lifting and holding the components over and over again. The issue here was that the Chinese manufacturer literally cut corners in their design—cuts that would compromise the structural integrity of the lift and increase the risk of it breaking during use.

There were other problems in the forward prongs of the arms, as well. The hooks that would keep the computer components from sliding off of the rack were cut at an incorrect angle. This would make it so that the prongs might catch on the rack/cabinet during use, causing damage.

The end result was a misshapen, unwieldy mess that was more an approximation of the intended design rather than a usable product.

Buyer Beware

There’s an old saying: “you get what you pay for.” In the above case, the attempt to cut costs with a cheap custom metal form resulted in getting a product with cut corners. However, this is far from the only case of an American manufacturer getting a shoddy product that didn’t conform to their specifications.

Another company ordered a set of stainless steel parts from a Chinese manufacturer and received an unpleasant surprise some months later. The parts they got conformed to the shape specified in their design doc. However, the parts weren’t purely stainless steel like they had ordered.

Each part that the company received was more than one-third plain steel. This was bad for a number of reasons. First, the plain steel would be susceptible to corrosion from the part’s regular use. Second, contact with the iron in plain steel would compromise the corrosion resistance of the stainless steel.

These issues would make the part practically unusable.

Unfortunately, getting reimbursement for contract violations from a foreign-based and owned business in a country that lacks a strict trade agreement with the USA is notoriously difficult. Unless the manufacturer decides of their own volition to pay a refund for faulty or unusable products, it’s not going to happen. To force repayment, you would have to convince a foreign court system to make a decision against a local business—one that might be subsidized by the state. This creates an inherent conflict of interest.

Unless your company is a strategically vital trading partner to that government, the odds of being compensated for lost time/money are virtually nonexistent.

Why Getting It Made in America Makes Sense

After getting burned by Chinese companies that tried to cut costs by cutting corners, the manufacturers from the examples in the article above both turned to Marlin Steel, an American manufacturing company, to make the replacement products they needed.

Why? Because of the benefits of reshoring manufacturing work like:

  1. Domestic Companies Work Under the Same Rules as You. As an American company, Marlin Steel follows the same rules and standards that other U.S.-based companies have to. This means not only higher quality, but also protection if arbitration is ever required. You can be certain that the judge will be an impartial officiator enforcing a fair judgment.
  2. Fast Delivery of Product. Domestic companies don’t have to wait for months for some free space on a cargo ship to make a weeks-long journey across the ocean. Instead, it can be shipped via truck in a matter of days.
  3. Improved Collaboration. Working with a domestic company means not having to deal with massive language and time zone barriers. You can confer with your manufacturer without having to worry about something getting lost in translation or having to stay up into the wee hours of the morning so you can call them during their business hours.

Marlin won over these clients with “Quality, Engineered Quick®” that handed them replacement custom metal forms that actually conformed to all of their needs.

Don’t gamble with whether or not a cheapskate manufacturer is going to cut corners. Get reliable products engineered to high standards of quality!

Contact Marlin Steel

Author: Marlin Steel
Marlin Steel
Marlin Steel is a leading manufacturer of custom‐engineered products from steel wire and sheet metal. Its industrial material handling containers serve many industries including aerospace, defense, medical and automotive.

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