Can We Make A Difference

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by viking north, Nov 30, 2013.

  1. viking north
    Joined: Dec 2010
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    viking north VINLAND

    Thought this might be an interesting topic that could be very interesting or alternatively crash and burn :D As an individual involved in building and repairing boats I have always made reasonable effort in supporting suppliers based on many factors. Quality, Service, Where Made with Cost possibly being the last consideration. Owning a quality tool is sort of like a little reward to myself. A source of pride even further enhanced if a fellow countryman produced it. We are very lucky here in North America in that we still have companies producing many of the finest boatbuilding tools on the market. However they will only survive if #1 We support them, #2 They stand up to the greed of the bean counters and shareholders and don't sell out their manufacturing base for short sighted profit. #3 They reinvest in R&D along with maintaining good service and above all for Pete's sake seek out and correct feedback problems from their customers. I mention this last point from personal experience. STORY : For years I sought out a dust mask equipped with an exhaust port that actually prevented steaming up my glasses. Finally about 5 yrs. ago i located a brand. They are quality, expensive and made in the USA but have one critical flaw. After a few ON and OFF cycles the top elastic breaks rendering a perfectly good expensive mask useless. I phoned the company and complimented the product but pointed out this one bad flaw. Reply, Sir could you send us a few samples of the failed masks. No, can you have your local supplier come to my shop and pick up a few samples. Anyhow it went no where. The dam masks were so good I solved the problem by going to the local Dollar store buying cheap made in China masks and using their elastics as replacements. This continued for about 2 yrs. until one day i got pissed with playing myself a fool and phoned the company again, reminding them of my previous phone call and how i was solving a problem they should have solved for the good of their company and the jobs of their employees. They thanked me asked for my address and sent me four free cartons of masks (48 masks). I am still using these masks along with the Chinese made elastics. On my last check at the mask suppliers about a month ago the elastic problem has not been rectified. I keep thinking --Soon from a supplier near you, the same high quality Brand masks --now made in China with dollar store elastics that don't break. This same response has occurred on several tools and products that i have taken the time to provide feedback on. Has anyone out there ever gotten a positive change on a tool or product as a result of their feedback or is it just a big waste of time and effort.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2013
  2. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    I feel the same way you do, I would think every company would want to make the best product possible, but it is often much more complicated than that. if they supply a lot of masks, they get loads of "suggestions" most of them useless, impractical or too costly, so there is a tendency to ignore all of them. they just can not address them all (so they address none), and typically they are worried about routine production and supplier problems too much to even consider making any changes to the design.

    A simple change might not seem complex to you, but for them it might mean finding a new supplier, with unknown quality control and unreliable delivery, it could mean they have to change the attachment method, which means retooling their assembly jigs and changing the assembly process. that means they would have to adjust their price too, and they run the risk of a new unforeseen problem developing after they have made a few million of them, putting them on the verge of bankruptcy.

    their sales staff might listen to their customers that buy a million or more of the masks from them, a hobbyist like you and me they will almost certainly ignore. Their large customers are likely telling them "make them just like they are, but cheaper, or we will buy from off-shore suppliers".

    This unfortunately is the practical reality of running a business that makes a disposable product that major buyers do not think twice about.

    I remember many years ago when I worked for a local commercial airplane company here in the Pacific Northwest. they had a problem with assembly mechanics not wearing their safety glasses and personnel was worried about getting too many eye injury claims. they tried the "soviet" method of encouragement to punish those that would not wear their safety glasses, much to more complaints and really not much compliance. It occurred to someone to ask why the workers would not wear their safety glasses (imagine that!). They found out the glasses were uncomfortable and even had painful frames, poor quality lenses cause head aches and suited poorly for precision work. They bought better safety glasses and than no one has issues wearing them.

    This is typical of this kind of purchase, the people ordering the safety glasses in large numbers never had to use them, they were just looking for the cheapest "rated" glasses out of a catalog tjat they could find. and to get the workers to actually use them management had to threaten them. There is no safety gained to the employees if they will not use them. It was solved when some actual thought to ask why they would not wear the junk glasses.

    The same is likely true with the dust masks, the majority of their large customers that buy them do not actually use them, but simply want the lower price possible. Changing anything on them will have to alter the price since it means a change in procedures, purchasing, suppliers, etc.
     
  3. viking north
    Joined: Dec 2010
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    Location: Newfoundland & Nova Scotia

    viking north VINLAND

    Yup you've possibly hit the nail on the head. The greatest example in modern times( late 50's/60's??) being the Chevy pickup with the exploding on impact external frame saddle fuel tanks. Too bad, as in this case it would only require a change in the elastic rubber formula all else remaining the same. No re-tooling what so ever. Oh well I did my best on this one. I am now looking for another brand of mask, getting tired of re stapling on the Chinese elastics. Speaking of China, viewed the documentary "Death By China" on Netflix last night --Scared the hell out of me. I'm a cold war military veteran, don't think the "Bomb" rattled my chain as much. Certainly makes the point for this kid to buy even more wisely.
     
  4. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Petros Senior Member

    the exploding Ford Pinto is another example. that one bit them in a law suite where they produced internal memos showing Ford made a decision, knowing they has a serious safety problem, that it would be cheaper to pay off the victims. That had resulted in the largest punitive damages award in history, just to make an example of them. I guess their bean counters did not figure that into their cost/pay back analysis.

    I just choose not to do business with companies that have so little regard for their customers. If enough people would do that, they would go away and only the best producers would stay in business (until they become a monopoly, or at least a major player with a loyal customer base, than their quality goes to crap).

    The more suppers we have, the more choices we can make, and usually the better quality we can find. Until the government puts them all out of business except the one "approved" supplier, than it again becomes junk.
     
  5. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    To make a difference you have to name names. Chevy pickups and Ford Pintos are specific, whereas 'a dust mask' is not much to go on. I think it takes more than one guy complaining to affect change. Maybe if you email them and tell them you're complaining on an international forum, they'll take notice.
     

  6. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    To make a difference "we" can't do much, but "we all" can.

    The 1970's were "dark years" not not only the marine industry, but several others. I don't think you can site Pinto examples today, as the market is just way too competitive now.

    In the end, these sort of things really all boils down to which costs more. Is it a business decision about being more advantageous to pay off a suit, then fix a known issue or is it culpable negligence? Now, define culpable negligence under the appropriate statute. Lastly, can the usual sources (ACLU, SPLC, etc.) afford a 7 year litigation on this topic. Which is cheaper, retooling or settling . . .
     
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