Down-home in China
Skil In China
Skil has been putting out power tools for a long time, and the same can be said of Mike Graham, the plant manager for Skil tools in Hangzhou, China. I first met Mike years ago in Heber Springs, Arkansas … and in truth that locale seemed a bit of a more natural fit for Mike. His Southern drawl is pronounced, a fact that the Chinese people on his team seem to find a bit of a challenge.
Skil is moving to China in a big way, although it is nothing new to them. They have been in Asia since the mid 1990s. It is an inevitable move when the situation is looked at as a whole. Most of the parts that Skil is using in its power tools are made in Asia, so getting close to the source just makes sense. And there is hardworking dependable workforce as well.
When I asked Mike if Skil can build good quality tools in China, he said absolutely. “These folk are good workers and very diligent. There is no question that we are building very good tools here”.
The plant that I saw was very efficient, and remarkably tidy (much cleaner than my office). Skil is using the process improvement and manufacturing processes -- pioneered by Toyota -- that are now the gold standard in manufacturing systems around the world. As a frequent visitor to many woodworking tool-manufacturing facilities, I can say the Skil plant was a familiar sight.
And while it is clear that Mike Graham will always be more at home in the hills of Arkansas, it was also clear that he is moving Skil products forward in Asia with a sure hand.
Photos in this blog entry:
Mike Graham and your attentive editor. Mike Graham.
A group of Skil line-workers, meeting to improve the production process.
A happy forklift operator and a typical assembly line at the Skil plant.