Print this Post

Ethics of manufacturing in China

You’ve probably already decided to go, so this post may not be relevant to you, but for me it’s a serious consideration, with many pros and cons that have been weighing in, each with counterpoints.

There is definitely appeal to having products produced locally, pumping jobs into the nation and reducing transportation costs. U.S. pollution controls are much better, safety standards are higher, and workers get more benefits. There may be better communication, less theft of intellectual property or product, and maybe even substantial tax benefits offered by the state. It’s quite possible to make it work.

But business rears its ugly head, and many realities make themselves apparent. In electronics products, many of the components are already being produced in China or elsewhere in Asia and not in North America. Importing those components has a high cost. Assembling the components with union labor is expensive. Tooling and manufacturing delays are more expensive and longer. If the competition has the potential to make a cheaper product that can undersell yours and put you out of business, it’s a race to the bottom. Outsourcing to China is cheaper, and when your business model means being cheaper than the competition, then the choice is clear. But there is a cost to being cheaper, and that’s in pollution, safety, and worker’s conditions.

There are many industries for which the demand for U.S. made products is high enough and the increase in cost is low enough that it makes financial sense to produce the product in the U.S. and people will accept the increased cost. It seems the electronics industry is not one of them, and while I’ll continue to examine the feasibility of manufacturing locally, it makes the most sense right now to pursue this approach. I’ll try to inspect the factories where I produce my product, and ensure that the workers are treated well and that pollution is minimized and handled appropriately. Hopefully everything will work out; that’s what this blog is about.

Permanent link to this article: http://engineerinshenzhen.com/ethics-of-manufacturing-in-china/