Flutterby™! : Where was my bike made?

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Where was my bike made?

2010-07-06 12:25:37.34296+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

[ related topics: Bicycling ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-07-07 20:55:10.574137+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've been watching the controversy on various sites over that Andy Grove essay that you've undoubtedly seen. You can point out that he got some of his statistics claims wrong, or point out other ways to accomplish what he's calling for, but I think two paragraphs summarize the problem fairly well:

Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment. Equally important is what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up. They work out design details, figure out how to make things affordably, build factories, and hire people by the thousands. Scaling is hard work but necessary to make innovation matter.

The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S. And as long as that's the case, plowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs.

Charlene and I were reading The Boy Mechanic[Wiki] last night and giggled over "How to Make a Miniature Electric Locomotive" (p165). It starts out:

A miniature electric railway is a thing that attracts the attention of almost any person. The cost of a toy electric locomotive is beyond the reach of many boys who could just as well make such a toy without the much expense and be proud to say they "built it themselves."

It then goes on to describe a $1 (in, presumably, 1913 dollars) electric motor coupled with machine shop work that it says should cost about $1.50 including the metal for the track and wheels.

That machine shop work, beyond the metal, requires lathe work to cut a pulley and four wheels. Ask your machine shop what that costs. I dare you.

Mass production has its advantages, and I'm not going to deny the things we've gained in the past century, but when we're this far removed from the actual creation of stuff, we lose track of how to do it. I've been developing things that end up spending a lot of time communicating with China because they have the production lines and the knowledge about how those lines work, how to actually build stuff. And whatever the other flaws in Groves' arguments, the fact that a substantial portion of product development happens in China because we don't know how to do it any more bothers me.

I'm not sure how much labor happens in the construction of a bike frame, but I think in sending that labor over to China we're losing more than the few hours (if that) of labor that goes into the frame, we're losing the knowledge of how to take a change to that frame and make a product out of it.

The school environment I grew up in had a saying that the only thing an intelligent child can do with a complete toy is take it apart. Sending our bike frames to China (and building them out of materials that aren't hackable, like mild steel is) means, quite literally, that we're getting complete toys.

And, for the most part, we're not taking them apart.

What does that say about us?

#Comment Re: made: 2010-07-07 15:20:29.659577+00 by: petronius

Globalization has strange byways. I heard one time that China dominates the garlic powder business, and if you buy a jar of pasta sauce odds are that China grew the garlic listed on the label, even tho the jar says "Made in USA.". So, does China abound in garlic plantations, or is the climate particularly suited to the bulbs, as Hawaii is to pineapples? Did the Party decide to put a stranglehold on the West by ruining the garlic trade in California?

#Comment Re: made: 2010-07-06 19:50:02.039404+00 by: Larry Burton

Ya know, this doesn't really concern me in regards to the quality of bicycles available. It does disappoint me in that we can't compete with asia in mass producing bicycle frames.