May 29, 2013

Crapchute

Port of Los Angeles
From the NY Times:
Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels 
By TODD WOODY 
LOS ANGELES — The solar panels covering a vast warehouse roof in the sun-soaked Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles were only two years into their expected 25-year life span when they began to fail. 
Coatings that protect the panels disintegrated while other defects caused two fires that took the system offline for two years, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues. 
It was not an isolated incident. Worldwide, testing labs, developers, financiers and insurers are reporting similar problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis just as solar panels are on the verge of widespread adoption. 
No one is sure how pervasive the problem is. There are no industrywide figures about defective solar panels. And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the more difficult. ...
Most of the concerns over quality center on China, home to the majority of the world’s solar panel manufacturing capacity. 
After incurring billions of dollars in debt to accelerate production that has sent solar panel prices plunging since 2009, Chinese solar companies are under extreme pressure to cut costs. 
Chinese banks in March, for instance, forced Suntech into bankruptcy. Until 2012, the company had been the world’s biggest solar manufacturer. 
Executives at companies that inspect Chinese factories on behalf of developers and financiers said that over the last 18 months they have found that even the most reputable companies are substituting cheaper, untested materials. Other brand-name manufacturers, they said, have shut down production lines and subcontracted the assembly of modules to smaller makers.

I studied marketing in MBA school over 30 years ago. It was explained to me that marketing was an ever-more sophisticated balancing of competing needs and wants. It was not anticipated by the marketing profs that the Chinese would conquer the world economy with the slogan: "Real cheap. You buy now!"

I bought eight solar powered garden pathway lights at Costco to keep people from tripping at night. With three of the eight, the plastic spikes broke as I tried to push them into the dirt. Other than that, they work great!

I have this hunch that Chinese manufacturers believe that Americans like the act of shopping, like going to the store and tossing stuff into their shopping carts. So, it's okay with us if the stuff they make breaks. In fact, the faster stuff falls apart, the more Americans -- deep down -- like it because that just gives us another excuse to go to the store and toss more crap in our carts, which is what we really like.

They may be right.

79 comments:

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, there is a soft glow that comes over me when I shop...

But I do get piss ass angry when shit I like breaks

(I was thinking of getting some of those lights...nice to know they work)

Anonymous said...

So the local content rules in many of the feed-in-tariff programs may make sense from a quality assurance perspective. I would get pissed off if I bought a $20K photovoltaic system for my roof and it crapped out after two years.

If it's going in your garden, buy Cosco. If it's going on your roof, buy American!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if the Chinese are to blame.

American companies are applying massive pressure on their suppliers around the world to produce at an insanely low cost. At these low levels, even the most basic concept of quality is not realistically attainable.

The real source of the problem are the Harvard MBA guys that our companies. These guys think reducing manufacturing cost by 99% is a good idea.

Dave Pinsen said...

The same attention to safety is coming to your breakfast sausage next: Chinese co close to buying largest US pork producer."

DJF said...

Reminds me of the energy crisis in the 1970's when the government gave out subsidies for solar water heaters. The few experienced companies were overwhelmed and lots of new companies popped up selling whatever they could put together. Most systems installed were defective and were ripped out and even today solar water heating has a bad reputation in the US.

Combine subsidies with the present globalist system of searching out sub/sub/sub contractors to supply equipment at the highest profit margin and the least accountability and its not surprising what is happening. At least in the 1970’s it was mostly US companies involved and there was at least a chance of tracking down the supplier, with the present system I doubt if many of the makers can even be traced.

elvisd said...

I'm forwarding this to the head of a local enviro who said in a meeting that trying to protect the solar industry in our country was bad because it kept the price of solar up.

Anonymous said...

"Not sure if the Chinese are to blame."

Chinese drywall, anyone?

Anonymous said...

One thing that's always bugged me is how lots of consumer electronics need repair and adjustment. Why don't the importers put a repair manual and schematic on their website so we can have SOME chance of repair. I have a Samsung VCR that failed but miraculously repaired itself, but it has tracking issues. Show us HOW to adjust it, will you?

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Steve - like me, you are old enough to remember the 70's. There are some key differences--interest rates, for example--but the basic stagflation dynamic is the same.

The real economy is being crowded out by massive public spending, regulation and debt. Capital is diverted to the FIRE sectors and government and producers cope with the scarcity on their end by cutting costs.

Exhibit 1, building eight-story factories in anthill Bangladesh instead of laying them out linearly in the spacious, non-crowded US.

peterike said...

We are reaping the globalist whirl-wind, aka the shit tornado. Meanwhile, the ever-wealthier global elite buys the super high end goods still made in Europe and America, and they can eat costly heirloom organic produce and pasture raised meat. The availability of superb quality goods and food has never been higher.

But for the rest of us, it's poison baby formula and factory frankenfood and rag tag junk.

Luke Lea said...

There's a book out, "Poorly Made in China," which documents the phenomenon of "quality fade" in Chinese exports such as the ones you mention. The idea is that manufacturers, many of whom are subcontracting under the firm that actually got the contract, are under tremendous pressure to cut costs -- or merely increase profit margins -- and so resort to unethical forms of cost cutting.

There was one case of a company with a contract to supply shampoo to a Syrian Jewish businessman who supplied it to a major drugstore chain. Once the contract was signed and the product started being shipped the manufacturers started reducing the thickness of the walls of the plastic containers containers in which the shampoo was bottled until one day the pallets on which the shampoo was stacked started collapsing.

The thing was it was the Syrian businessman, not the manufacturer, who was over a barrel because he was wholly dependent on this one low-cost supplier, and the supplier knew it.

But this is just one small aspect of the culture of cheating which is deeply embedded in Chinese society. It has to do with the fact that they have no concept of the public good.

Jeff Burton said...

These things go in cycles. Anyone here (aside from Steve) remember when "Made in Japan" was the punchline for a joke in a Jerry Lewis movie? Even the youngsters here might remember when "Made in Taiwan" was a guarantee of shoddiness. A couple of years ago I bought a specialty garden tool - it broken within one hour. "Made in China" I went back to the store and bought the more expensive one. Still have it - "Made in Taiwan". Now the really cheap stuff seems to carry the "made in India" label.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from personal experience, Americans seem much more focused on price than on an assessment of price/quality compared to Europeans. The area where this is most obvious is housing. American houses are not poorly made but would be considered very poorly made in Germany, for example. By contrast, German or Swiss houses tend to be made to last at least a century if not a lot longer.
Now one might say that you don't need to build houses to last that long given the speed with which consumer preferences change and so the US model makes more sense but it does indicate the tastes and preferences of consumers.

What is also interesting is that with cars, Japanese, Korean and Chinese carmakers have made almost no in-roads into the European car market whereas the Germans have almost swallowed up every segment of it. This has a lot to do with the European "perception" of quality in which people are willing to pay more for German cars than Japanese on the basis that the former represent better quality.

Anonymous said...

I dunno.
You gets what you pay for.

With high-end products made in China, such as computers and consumer electronics, I am more than happy with the quality of the product, but cheap crap is cheap crap whether made in China or no.

Dave Pinsen said...

A financial blogger in New York just tweeted that in China The Lorax is a business school textbook.

"These things go in cycles. Anyone here (aside from Steve) remember when "Made in Japan" was the punchline for a joke in a Jerry Lewis movie?"

I remember a line in a high school classmate's poem in 1989 about speeding in his "oh so Japanese car" to a rendezvous with his girlfriend from summer camp, the implication being it was a piece of crap that couldn't go as fast as he'd like. But I also remember driving my sister's 1985 Nissan Maxima a few years later, which was so superior to my piece of crap 1985 Mustang. So maybe that high school classmate of mine was driving a Japanese car built in the 1970s, I don't know. I don't know if I ever saw his car.

Hacienda said...

As an Asian I always thought white people thought I was "underperforming" and had a vast reserver of potential I wasn't tapping into. When I did something "productive" it seemed to please them to no end. I would receive all kinds of awards and acclaim.

But it got to the point I got tired of the awards and acclaim and other intercultural, interracial bullshite and I started to understand that whites aren't driven by thoughts or ideals. In fact whites are driven by black people! And I started to do just enough to keep whitey somewhat satisfied and "off my back".

Maybe the Chinese are doing the same thing?

Anonymous said...

My wife just gave me a CD/MP3 player for my birthday. Plugged it in and got fuzzy, barely audible sound out the other end. The reviews on Amazon basically said either "great sound" or "doesn't work." She took a chance. Oops.

Made in China. It's on the way back.

pat said...

You can't have it both ways. Those damn Japanese build in too much quality and the damn Chinese too little.

Strangely enough about thirty years ago I was a government official visiting an American steel plant in California. It was huge, incredibly dirty, hot and unpleasant. A lot of things made an impact on me - an office worker used to air conditioning. But the most startling was the speech by the vice president of the company about how unfair it was that the Japanese steel was of too high quality. He was very exercised by the injustice. He got red in the face and railed.

A nearby bridge over the Carquinez Straits was built with that hated Japanese steel. It was cheaper to ship it across the Pacific than use metal produced locally. And it was better steel.

On reason of course was that we had conveniently bombed out so much of Japanese industry. They had newer equipment. They showed me in the California plant a big machine - I mean a really big machine - that did something or other. That machine had been built in around 1880. The floor of all the huge plant was made of oak blocks - probably the state of the art construction technique a century earlier.

At that time everyone was convinced that Japan was going to dominate world industry. That was just before Japan went into a period of stagnation from which it has not yet emerged. The same thing will probably happen to China. We have old machines but they have old societies. There are thousands of social adjustments and adaptations that America and the West made during our industrialization. China like Japan will have significant "growing pains" in the next few years.

But of course China will likely triumph in the end as it resumes its traditional role in the world family of nations. China's position in the great scheme of things has been abnormally low for about 500 years. That seems to be normalizing now.

Albertosaurus

Alfa158 said...

Chinese made goods are often procured through a cut-throat bidding process where a large number of contract manufacturers compete with unrealistically low bids. To meet the quality standards for the bid they may initially use components and materials too expensive to be profitable at the winning bid, then substitute cheaper materials for mass production. Exacerbating the squeeze is the fact that although the workers are paid a pittance, the company owners expect to get enormous profits at the top end. A lot of the revenue has to be siphoned to corrupt officials in the local government and the PLA while the factory owners are looking to quickly make the millions needed to buy the bug-out mansion in the US and send their anchor baby sons to San Marino High School and then Stanford.
I bought a high end sub-woofer from a company in Colorado that was almost run out of business when they switched from making their own power amplifiers to sourcing them from China. The amps all began smoking themselves and almost destroyed the company's reputation before they switched back to US production. I suspect they were a victim of one of the standard bait and switches in electronics; using Japanese made parts for the large capacitors, which are a crucial reliability component, on the first batch then switching to counterfeit Chinese copies on full production.

Anonymous said...

[off topic]

steve, check out this article on zerohedge - it's the sort of thing you dig.

The Rich Actually Are Different
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-24/rich-actually-are-different

Anonymous said...

The export quality from these countries is usually way better than the domestic consumption fare.

"And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, "

LOL too funny

Mr. Anon said...

"Jeff Burton said...

These things go in cycles. Anyone here (aside from Steve) remember when "Made in Japan" was the punchline for a joke in a Jerry Lewis movie?"

Yeah, keep telling youself that things are no different than they were in 1965. The gay, pin-striped idiots at "The Economist" would approve. What happens when virtually all our industry has fled? Perhaps cheap happy meal toys in China will soon carry a "made in America" label. And the Chinese will laugh at us - at how stupid we are.

Photo-voltaics, so recently touted as one of those high-tech green industries of the future has largely gone to China. Electronic test equipment is in the process of completely decamping to China. The US Army buys memory sticks for their computers, made in China and already pre-loaded with chinese spypware.

We sold our country for "everyday low prices". We gave it away because - deep down - Americans are cheap, stupid, greedy bastards.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it's reassuring to dump the blame on others when your so frustrated Steve. But I'm guessing you slept through Econ 101. It is the consumers who set the market for both price and quality.

Cheap crap comes out of china because Americans would rather have cheap crap than slightly more expensive quality products. It's a reflection on the decline of Americans themselves.

Why do you think Germany isn't littered by the same cheap consumerist products? Probably because Germans appreciate quality more than Americans do.

I uses to work in upper management at target. Every year target would demand price cuts from its suppliers. What do you think happened to quality prices had to come down 5% a year?

MKP said...

I studied marketing in MBA school over 30 years ago. It was explained to me that marketing was an ever-more sophisticated balancing of competing needs and wants. It was not anticipated by the marketing profs that the Chinese would conquer the world economy with the slogan: "Real cheap. You buy now!"

Well, why wasn't it? You put that line in there as comic relief, but it's an important question. If someone's teaching MBA-level marketing at a good school, it's his job to understand the psychology and neurosis behind consumer decisions.

I wonder what one of your old professors would say if you want back to school and said "you didn't teach us any of this because you weren't smart enough to see it coming. You failed as a professor." I'm sure they'd have some explanation, though ("it's very complicated," etc).

Harry Baldwin said...

American houses are not poorly made but would be considered very poorly made in Germany, for example.

A friend who does remodeling work on old homes says he wouldn't buy a house built after the late 1960s. That's when he feels the quality of workmanship began going down.

Anonymous said...

What is also interesting is that with cars, Japanese, Korean and Chinese carmakers have made almost no in-roads into the European car market whereas the Germans have almost swallowed up every segment of it. This has a lot to do with the European "perception" of quality in which people are willing to pay more for German cars than Japanese on the basis that the former represent better quality.

German cars are actually less reliable than Japanese and even American ones based on extensive testing and surveying. They do have higher prestige value though.

Anonymous said...

Germany was actually infamous for shoddy manufacturing back in the early stages of its industrialization. Though it was probably chalked up to the famous German work ethic at the time. The Germans were working so hard they forgot to make reliable products that actually work and last.

Anonymous said...

"This has a lot to do with the European "perception" of quality in which people are willing to pay more for German cars than Japanese on the basis that the former represent better quality."

Ah, chauvinism!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9815860/German-cars-lose-out-in-reliability-survey.html

"German cars are not as reliable as their reputation suggests."

"Warranty Direct, which with 50,000 policies on its books is the UK's leading supplier of direct consumer warranties, claims that Audis, BMWs and Volkswagens have some of the least reliable engines available."

George said...

Good theory, that Americans like to shop more than they like to actually own stuff. People don't actually need all that much stuff; its incredible how little a person rally needs to be satisfied and happy; it would stun most Americans. I laugh when anyone talks about poverty in America. I cultivate having few needs and wants as a lifestyle choice. My lifestyle, perfectly reasonable from a historical perspective, would be considered unbearably austere by Americans. I live well within the official definition for "poverty". I chuckle to myself when I think that when people decry "poverty" in America, they mean me. Yet I have achieved peace of mind and content through voluntarily living like this, something that seems to elude most Americans.

I think it is also likely that the Chinese are finding that they simply can't compete against the West and Japan and even Korea when it comes to making quality products, so what are they gonna do? I wonder how much sheer numbers in the case of China will compensate for a lower quality population. I wonder if it is really possible to be a superpower through sheer numbers with a medium quality population. I suppose the coming decades will tell.

Whatever the case, as the decades since Chinese economic liberalization stretch on, the idea that China can do the kinds of things that the West and Japan do is becoming less and less plausible. They are just a different sort of people. Typically, it takes about 20 years after economic liberalization for a country to show what it can do, and no more than 50 years to reach the peak of its potential. How long has it been?

Paul Durow said...

The World's Most Important Conservation Problem.

Interesting article.

Anonymous said...

"With three of the eight, the plastic spikes broke as I tried to push them into the dirt."

Pilot holes come to mind; maybe a screwdriver blade? I just read a SGN article on gun stocks, and the 'smith said you should drill PILOT HOLES before you screw in your sling swivels to avoid stock cracks.

Anonymous said...

This is another way in which the standard rules by which mainstream economists judge things do not apply in the real world.

In a functioning, transparent society you can't go around cheating people on quality because the market will (presumably) catch you out. And in big cases, one can always turn to the courts.

But what do you do once you have send all manufacturing overseas where the same standards of trust don't apply? The Chinese drywall is the perfect example. "Oh, the millions of tons of drywall we sold you is contaminated? So sue us."

Chinese and Indian businessmen are not more dishonest than American businessmen, but their societies haven't developed the same checks to force them up to Western standards.

Paul Mendez said...

I have some knowledge of the PV industry. Even the best-made panels are unlikely to outlast their warranty except under the most ideal conditions. Manufacturers slap a 20 or 25 year warranty on the things to sell them, and then cross their fingers.

Some day, we'll look back on the PV fad and all the money wasted on it world-wide and either laugh or cry.

Anonymous said...

Truly, idiocracy is upon us:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/drunk-car-sex-crash-785912

Anonymous said...

Solar panels are just a status symbol, very few people honestly give a damn about the functionality, so "Real Cheap! you buy now!" is an excellent slogan for them. The Chinese have their market identified through and through.

Mitchell Powell said...

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned another possibility for why solar panel production is so shoddy: the total amount of solar energy production has been doubling every two years for about two decades now.

With an industry growing that fast, it's no surprise that quality is uneven.

Anonymous said...

What is also interesting is that with cars, Japanese, Korean and Chinese carmakers have made almost no in-roads into the European car market whereas the Germans have almost swallowed up every segment of it.

Strange. I was in Germany a while ago and I could have sworn I saw Toyotas and Kias.

Anonymous said...

"I'm forwarding this to the head of a local enviro who said in a meeting that trying to protect the solar industry in our country was bad because it kept the price of solar up. " - Be sure to point out that R&D for future research is something that they cut to keep costs down.

Anonymous said...

"With high-end products made in China, such as computers and consumer electronics, I am more than happy with the quality of the product, but cheap crap is cheap crap whether made in China or no."

I'm not happy. Electronics stuff is all made in the same Chinese factory run by Foxconn. The workers are slaves, and the defect rate way high across the board; that's why the Apple store pushes the three year warranty. The average lifespan of a piece of consumer electronics is about three years. Hewlett Packard in its heyday made some of the highest quality, defect free, durable electronic equipment known to the free world. Labs everywhere are still full of decades old HP stuff even though you can't get most of it serviced anymore. When HP turned into a paper company and Agilent took over making its test and analysis equipment, there was a marked decline in quality. Agilent equipment is frequently flaky and often requires a service call within about a year.

Anonymous said...

"I have this hunch that Chinese manufacturers believe that Americans like the act of shopping, like going to the store and tossing stuff into their shopping carts. So, it's okay with us if the stuff they make breaks. In fact, the faster stuff falls apart, the more Americans -- deep down -- like it because that just gives us another excuse to go to the store and toss more crap in our carts, which is what we really like."

My favorite man job used to be going to the sanitary land fill to throw away busted concrete and construction waste from my home projects. The landfill was literally a mountain of effluvia ground to fine particles by a fleet of heavy bulldozers driving back and forth over it 24/7 for the past forty years. But in the past decade the mound started growing at an unsustainable rate and the county finally had to close it.

Hm, I wonder why.

Anonymous said...

"With high-end products made in China, such as computers and consumer electronics, I am more than happy with the quality of the product"

Quite a lot of hi-tech medical gear - scanners, X-ray machines etc is now made in China by companies like General Electric.

Of course, what happens when they're scrapped ....

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/may/27/asos-withdraws-belts-radioactive-scare

"A batch of metal-studded belts sold by online fashion retailer Asos have been hurriedly withdrawn from sale after they were found to be radioactive.

The peplum leather belts, which have a ruffle attached, could cause injury to the wearer if worn for more than 500 hours, according to an internal report by the retailer. They are being held in a radioactive storage facility after testing positive for Cobalt-60.

The report said: "None of these belts are suitable for public use or possession."

It added: "Unfortunately, this incident is quite a common occurrence. India and the far east are large consumers of scrap metal for their home and foreign markets. During the refining process of these metals, orphaned radioactive sources are sometimes accidentally melted at the same time. This in turn [contaminates the process] and traps the radioactivity in the metal as an alloy or in suspension."

Evil Sandmich said...

confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret

What's up with that? Did they sell it 'below cost' under agreement that their name could never be mentioned if it went bad?

Anyone here (aside from Steve) remember when "Made in Japan" was the punchline for a joke in a Jerry Lewis movie

That's really getting tired. They may have made bags of plastic garbage, but they also had firms like Nikon and Mitutoyo that made/make high precision gear, firms which do not and will never exist in China. Even when Japan was getting beat up over their rust bucket cars, sales still took off because they were preferable to the American rust buckets.

Whiskey said...

Germans shop more on price than Americans in supermarkets. Aldi, Fresh and Easy, are examples of super-low prices, stuff on pallets, minimal inventory, etc. So the idea that only Americans buy on price is not supported by evidence. It varies by sector and nation.

The real issue is that most of the buying of solar panels is by governments and companies that buy on price not quality. Governments are the worst because the pressure to maintain patronage not service levels and effective investments is massive.

Of course, the Chinese have dumped solar panels, producing them below cost, and exporting them with hefty financial assistance from the government, to drive other producers particularly Europeans out of business. This is why the EU (the Germans really) are fighting with the Chinese over tariffs and penalties for Chinese dumping designed to kill the European solar industry.

Solyndra and other Obama-backed solar companies failed because they could not compete against dumping (again, producing and selling below cost) from China.

John said...

I have never studied marketing or business, but I have been around any number of foreigners who have, and until recently I wondered what the fascination was. It was obvious the art was preciously foreign - the Portuguese for "marketing" is marketing, the Serbo-Croatian for "business" biznis - but only recently did I understand it seems magical because it IS magical. Consumers don't always "do the math" and even if they do and "the math" says both 8-3=5 and 5=8, that may not stop them. When real math does prevail, it may be trivial, like anything times zero is zero, or zero is lower than a zillion. If ex-Soviets bought things with German, Arabic, and Hindi labels, it was because there was nothing with Russian labels; if Brazilians shop just over the Paraguayan border, it's because taxes and tariffs are jiggered to ensure that. But such simplicity, so stark that no one is really "marketing" anything, is exceptional.



I have never studied magic but my guess is that when a trick works over and over, the magician doesn't worry that one day the audience will figure it out, he may not even laugh at how dumb they are for not having figured it out already - he just keeps doing it. Especially if he's got a huge cheap docile labor supply on his side. The sheer steadiness of this culture, a culture otherwise expected to be totally mystifying, may keep its crummy products on the shelves, even when they prove more expensive than price alone would indicate.

Maxwell Power said...

That reminds me of a good WSJ story I read decades ago, on the page 1 left side. It had to do with the "Jaz" brand disposable cameras--found at Walmart etc. & priced only a few cents fewer than Kodak's and Fujifilm's but invariably outselling their established competitors. The cameras sucked, maybe because the Jaz CEO was just intercepting trash barges in New Jersey and "reconditioning" the throwaways. Anyway it did create jobs for Kodak/Fuji legal representation.

I should've e-mailed it but recently they had a counterfeit golf club story too--a nondescript shack outside Guangzhou with enough spare parts for thousands of shiny knock-off Callaway clubs. That's a real libertarian dream scenario

Jack Amok said...

These things go in cycles. Anyone here (aside from Steve) remember when "Made in Japan" was the punchline for a joke in a Jerry Lewis movie?

The difference is, the Chinese have never had a tradition of craftsmanship. The Japanese do, going back centuries.

In the 30's they designed and built some very good ships and aircraft. They surprised a lot of Westerners with how good they were.

The crappy reputation of Japanese goods was from the period immediately after the war, when they were still rebuilding their industrial base from the rubble the USAAF turned it into. Once they were able to bootstrap themselves up again, they started making high quality goods.

I really don't see China ever doing that. They don't have the history or tradition. There's never been a time when China had a reputation for making quality goods outside of pottery and ladies clothing.

Plus, there seems to be a cultural acceptance of cheating your customer. The practice Luke Lea mentioned is pretty widespread. To get the contract, a Chinese manufacturer will create prototypes using far better goods and more labor than the contract would ever support, then gradually cut corners until the customer notices and complains.

This isn't just another cycle, this is what China is.

Maxwell Power said...

American houses are not poorly made but would be considered very poorly made in Germany

In California the quality of homebuilding tanked in the 50s. In East Germany, a little after that

Sword said...

Speaking about quality:

The Captcha Words that I was up against this time were really simple - the 2nd Word was not twisted up at all! Not even a teensy tiny little bit.

libertarian newsletter said...

The good Chinese companies will out-compete the bad. Right now the bad companies are only profiting because the N. American consumer lacks knowledge, which is power, and also information wants to be free. Therefore a massive public education program is needed to clarify which overseas vendors are good or not. If the government ran this program it would be inefficient and manipulated by cronies' interests; so it should be funded by various Chinese trade consortia, which will be more efficient.

no ticky no washy said...

Would it be too much to ask for the (very obviously above-board) "confidentiality agreements" practice to be dispensed with? If certain of China's finest, cheapest solar artisans are so modest they don't want to see their brand on the work isn't that a valuable enough piece of info as to be noted prominently by U.S. Customs? I'm disgusted to see the domestic facilitators of crap solar panels getting through the news cycle with the "They're very shy" excuse.

Hunsdon said...

Would this be an appropriate place to comment on the fact that many of the electronics in our high-end military systems are also produced in China?

I'm not quite sure which big brain thought that would be a good idea. It's the kind of thing that you have to have a big brain to think is a good idea, because any Tom, Dick or Harry would listen to it and say, "You're higher than near Earth orbit."

DR said...

"If it's going in your garden, buy Cosco. If it's going on your roof, buy American!"

Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Switzerland, Sweden, Holland, South Korea and Singapore all consistently out-rank the U.S. in average manufacturing quality.

This can easily be seen by each country's share of the "machine tools" market. I.e. the stuff that needs to be manufactured to manufacture other stuff. These products need to be be built with extremely high precision and reliability, because small defects in the machine tools will cause much larger defects in the end products.

Basically how good a country is at manufacturing quality should be reflected by what percent of its manufacturing exports are devoted to machine tools. Developing countries like China, India and Mexico have very low shares of their manufacturing devoted to machine tools because they can't deliver the quality.

The U.S. does atrociously in this segment. Barely registering above most third world countries. In contrast Northern Europe is the world leader, with developed Asia in a close second.

Anonymous said...

How Sailer can become famous.

He should remake Woody Allen movies into wasp versions.

Instead of ANNIE HALL, ANNIE HOROWITZ.
Sailer plays a wasp celebrity in love with a Jewess.

In ANNIE HALL, there's the bit where Allen whines about some guy at a record shop mentioning a sale on Wagner.
In ANNIE HOROWITZ, Sailer complains about how he went to a bakery and some Jew told him 'white bread is on sale'. Get it? White folks are bland and dull.

In ANNIE HALL, Allen goes to have dinner at Annie Hall's family and Annie's grannie looks at Allen and sees a Hasidic Jew.
In ANNIE HOROWITZ, Sailer goes to the Jewish family's house and the Jewish grannie looks at him and sees Hitler or a Cossack.

Auntie Analogue said...


Let's hope that U.S. wind farms aren't using Chinese windmills, or a hell of a lot of us might be dodging huge flyaway propellers.

Anonymous said...

Last year I got my MBA in supply chain from one of the top sc programs in the US. QC never came up.

europeasant said...

"With three of the eight, the plastic spikes broke as I tried to push them into the dirt."

I bought 5 of the lights from Aldi's and all five went in fairly easy. Of course the ground was soft from all the rain but in you case maybe it "never rains in Southern California" ( but man it pours, it pours )

Anonymous said...

It is still very possible, and not particularly difficult to find quality goods (amongst the mounds of crap). I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but in most cases it's just a matter of doing your internet research well.

If you can find an online review site (e.g. amazon) with enough reviews to make it statistically significant, that's pretty much your search ended there. At that point I read every single review (or at least 50 or so if there are more than that), about the highest rated products. In this way I will learn about issues I should consider that I did not know before - the unknown unknowns as well as the known unknowns. And get an idea whether the reviews are astroturf or not.

If that is not available, I google the item category and read about the various contenders in the marketplace. Google " review".

Once I have decided, I then look at prices on ebay, and whatever meta shopping search will find me the best price from a reliable vendor.

In short, it's about finding the best product, at the cheapest price, from a trustworthy vendor.

I must admit, I'm country of origin agnostic if the quality/price disparity is large. But I find that often what I buy comes out of either the USA, Europe (Germanic countries including Britain, or sometimes Italy), or East Asia. If it is manufactured in China, the brand is usually from elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The difference is, the Chinese have never had a tradition of craftsmanship. The Japanese do, going back centuries.

Um, you do realize that Japanese crafts, architecture, cultural artifacts, etc. come from China?

I don't think it's true that the Chinese don't have a long tradition of craftsmanship. Their wood working and pottery was traditionally appreciated in the East I believe. Also the Chinese junk rig is still considered one of the best ocean going rigs in terms of safety, reliability, ease of operation.

jody said...

if solar worked...why doesn't china use it?

why is china building hundreds of coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro power plants for the world's largest nation, a nation growing in energy demand every year...when they could just use the millions of PV panels coming out of their own factories instead?

why would they build all that stuff...if solar worked? they've deliberately cornered the global market on solar, crushed all competitors, dropped the price greatly, vastly increased production...just to sell it? just to give it away for cheap? and then turn around and purchase more expensive energy sources like coal, gas, oil, uranium? they're deliberately taking a net monetary loss...just to be helpful to the rest of the world?

isn't this the energy revolution which the green people have been predicting? solar is so cheap, and so abundant, and so easy, we don't need coal and gas and oil and nuclear anymore. we can just print solar panels and slap them on everything!

nevermind that's it's ruthless chinese capitalism and wage slavery which has created the current PV panel market. why isn't china doing EXACLTY what the green people say should be happening? why is chinese oil consumption...going up. coal consumption...going up. nuclear power construction...going up. those things should all be steady or going DOWN. china makes almost all the solar panels in the world, shouldn't they be powering their society on them?

solar doesn't work, so they don't. but what china does see is an opportunity to expand manufacturing exports to silly international buyers who do think solar can work. so, instead of JUST PLAIN USING the PV panels which they themselves are making, they're happy to sell them to other nations for a profit.

if solar worked, and if china is by far the biggest producer of PV solar...then china would be on it's way to being solar powered. china works on long range plans. if solar worked, their long range plan would be to build the shit out of their PV manufacturing infrastructure FOR PERSONAL USE, so that by 2040 or whatever, they would barely need anything but THEIR OWN panels to power the entire country. but china is not doing that, because solar cannot ever do that. watch what china DOES, not what they sell. what are they DOING? they're going for OIL. in other countries.

Steve Sailer said...

Solar / LEDs worked well last December for Christmas lights -- no need to run an extension cord out an open window.

Cail Corishev said...

Solar, wind, hydro, and other alternative energy sources can work for specific applications, or for individual homes or towns located in the right spot -- a town situated next to a river dam with a large drop, or a home on top of a hill in a windy area. But for the vast amounts of energy required to power cities and transport people and things, they just won't cut it. Those require fossil fuels or nuclear. No other methods are even under serious consideration.

JayMan said...

I guess this map was spot on then?

How to Offend (or Size Up?) The Entire Planet with One Image | JayMan's Blog

Jack Amok said...

If you can find an online review site (e.g. amazon) with enough reviews to make it statistically significant, that's pretty much your search ended there.

I wish it were, but you have to read chronologically. Products (especially Made in China ones) that got good reviews four years ago frequently get terrible reviews today. The recent reviews are peppered with comments like "this isn't the same product I bought five years ago. I loved my first whatchamacallit, so when it finally wore out I ordered another one. But what I got was not the same. Cheaper material, poorly made..." etc. Companies are prone to eroding quality and trying to ride on previous reputations. Chinese manufacturers are the worst at this, but it's pretty common among corporate types in the West now too.

Some executive already made his reputation making a great product, the guy that followed him has to change it, or slash production costs, in order to get credit himself. Corporate stupidity.

Um, you do realize that Japanese crafts, architecture, cultural artifacts, etc. come from China?

The Japanese are Chinese who left the mainland two or three millenia ago. They have a different culture now. They're not the same people any more.

Also the Chinese junk rig is still considered one of the best ocean going rigs in terms of safety, reliability, ease of operation.

No, it isn't. A Bermuda Rig is tops. A gaff is second (and maybe first if you're doing a lot of trade-wind sailing and don't need to beat to weather very often).

Sherwood Smith said...

The Chinese are producing exactly what American companies want for their customers. Besides they can always blame the Chinese instead of the American company that approved and signed off on corner cutting and bait and switch pricing and volume schemes.

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 8:19 AM said: I'm sure it's reassuring to dump the blame on others when your so frustrated Steve. But I'm guessing you slept through Econ 101.

Hunsdon said: And anonydroid slept through elementary English.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Paul Mendez said...

I have some knowledge of the PV industry. Even the best-made panels are unlikely to outlast their warranty except under the most ideal conditions. Manufacturers slap a 20 or 25 year warranty on the things to sell them, and then cross their fingers."

Yes, that number doesn't really pass a smell test. It's like the 30-year shingle, or the 60,000 mile tire. Has anyone ever had a tire last for 60,000 miles? As long as the manufacturers are lying about it, why don't they just sell them as 1,000,000 mile tires.

Mr. Anon said...

"jody said...

if solar worked...why doesn't china use it?"

Very good point. I think there is a lot that could be done with solar. It could be used a great deal more than it is. But it will not replace large centralized fossil-fuel or nuclear power stations, and it will not be possible to base our economy on it.

Anonymous said...

"He should remake Woody Allen movies into wasp versions.

Instead of ANNIE HALL, ANNIE HOROWITZ.
Sailer plays a wasp celebrity in love with a Jewess. "

LOL too funny. Instead of Allen's whining about his lack of manhood, Sailer complains how his menschness intimidates women.
Instead of being LJBFed like Allen, he longs for a deeper connection with women who'd rather love love love his Aryan hotness.

Solar Maxx said...

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john marzan said...

you get what you pay for. you want cheap, you get inferior.

here's a pro tip, dont buy anything from china that will cost you more than 5$.

don't buy anything from china that you have to put in your mouth or eat.

that's it.

Peter the Shark said...

"Why do you think Germany isn't littered by the same cheap consumerist products?"

When was the last time you were in Germany? The country is increasingly littered by cheap consumerist products. To what extent that reflects the changing tastes of the German consumer or the increasing number of immigrants with a different shopping ethic is an interesting question.

Cail Corishev said...

Has anyone ever had a tire last for 60,000 miles? As long as the manufacturers are lying about it, why don't they just sell them as 1,000,000 mile tires.

Some items do come with lifetime warranties, which is pretty much the same thing. The assumption must be that most items will be sold to another party (ending the warranty) before they break, or people will forget about the warranty or just not bother with it.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Solar panels are like bond ratings. The product is not what's obvious to casual observers. When you buy a bond rating for your derivative security, what you're buying is, literally, a rating. You want a AAA rating, so you can sell it to a pension fund, and the pension fund wants a AAA rating so it can buy it and get a higher interest rate than if they bought a safe bond. Neither of you wants an informative rating-- that kind of quality is actually a Bad.

Similarly, with solar panels what you're buying is a government subsidy, not a way to make electricity. Or, for some consumers, you're buying Green Boasting Rights. You want it to be obvious to friends, but you aren't going to get rid of your regular electrical service. Subsidies and fashion change, so durability, especially, is not a big deal. Next year maybe you'll want to replace the panels with a wind generator.

Anonymous said...

In an age where words in the English language keep getting shortened for the common venacular, it is surprising that the word "SH!T" has been lengthened to "MADE IN CHINA".

Anonymous said...

“I really don't see China ever doing that. They don't have the history or tradition. There's never been a time when China had a reputation for making quality goods outside of pottery and ladies clothing.


Of course they had that reputation - they were the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet for most of the common era.

The Japanese were mere students at their feet. Even in the Tokugawa era, which was supposed to have been characterized by isolationism, they were importing Chinese craftsmen and technical experts.

The sheer ignorance of many visitors to this site is just staggering...

Eric said...

You can't have it both ways. Those damn Japanese build in too much quality and the damn Chinese too little.

Most Japanese branded products are made in China through Taiwanese subcontractors.

My sister works for an American company that has everything manufactured in China. Her company has a very good reputation for quality, and it's not a coincidence, as she's always flying over there to make sure things are getting made the way they're supposed to.

Dahlia said...

Path lights.
Et tu, Steve?
:(

Cail Corishev said...

I know of a couple of doctors who had an idea for a kitchen appliance, and decided to try manufacturing it and selling it. They were made-in-America buyers themselves, so they looked into having it made domestically, but found that it would have pushed the price way beyond what anyone would pay in the store, compared to other similar products. So they went to China. They were pleasantly surprised to find a nice factory with good conditions and managers (American, I think) who were high on quality control. They still had reservations, but they went ahead with it.

The first run of products met their standards, and I think they were well-received by customers. But that was several years ago, and I haven't kept up. I wonder if they still fly over there to check on things regularly; and if not, are the things still being made in that factory under those conditions, or have they been moved to somewhere cheaper and more corners cut? That seems to be the pattern: the Chinese are capable of putting on a good show and producing a good product at first to get the job, but as soon as no one's watching they cut costs to the bone and quality drops through the floor.

Anonymous said...

if solar worked...why doesn't china use it?

why is china building hundreds of coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro power plants for the world's largest nation, a nation growing in energy demand every year...when they could just use the millions of PV panels coming out of their own factories instead?

why would they build all that stuff...if solar worked? they've deliberately cornered the global market on solar, crushed all competitors, dropped the price greatly, vastly increased production...just to sell it? just to give it away for cheap? and then turn around and purchase more expensive energy sources like coal, gas, oil, uranium? they're deliberately taking a net monetary loss...just to be helpful to the rest of the world?

isn't this the energy revolution which the green people have been predicting? solar is so cheap, and so abundant, and so easy, we don't need coal and gas and oil and nuclear anymore. we can just print solar panels and slap them on everything!

nevermind that's it's ruthless chinese capitalism and wage slavery which has created the current PV panel market. why isn't china doing EXACLTY what the green people say should be happening? why is chinese oil consumption...going up. coal consumption...going up. nuclear power construction...going up. those things should all be steady or going DOWN. china makes almost all the solar panels in the world, shouldn't they be powering their society on them?

solar doesn't work, so they don't. but what china does see is an opportunity to expand manufacturing exports to silly international buyers who do think solar can work. so, instead of JUST PLAIN USING the PV panels which they themselves are making, they're happy to sell them to other nations for a profit.

if solar worked, and if china is by far the biggest producer of PV solar...then china would be on it's way to being solar powered. china works on long range plans. if solar worked, their long range plan would be to build the shit out of their PV manufacturing infrastructure FOR PERSONAL USE, so that by 2040 or whatever, they would barely need anything but THEIR OWN panels to power the entire country. but china is not doing that, because solar cannot ever do that. watch what china DOES, not what they sell. what are they DOING? they're going for OIL. in other countries.


This is true. The economics of Solar do not add up even with technological improvements that have come in leaps and bounds. Even by 2018 with significant cuts in costs solar will still be way more expensive than the fossil and nuclear alternatives. However, Jeremy Grantham, founder of the $126 billion hedge fund GMO and an investor with a great track record, has some interesting thoughts on Solar and also what China is looking to do with Solar.

This may all be academic. The supply of natural gas is almost limitless - and new technologies that convert coal into nat gas will render everything else obsolete (including fracking).