Friday, September 22, 2006

Enjoying Business

JET and Powermatic

As I spent the day with John Otto and Alan Huang from WMH – JET/Powermatic, something that my father taught me many years ago came to mind. “You don’t do business with a business, you do business with people”. From the moment that we stepped into the OAV Company, one of WMH’s key suppliers for about 16 years, I could see that maxim was absolutely true. OAV’s President, Mike Liu, started our time together by making tea. While we sipped, we chatted and learned about each other in a friendly atmosphere. It was clear that John and the folks at OAV were more than mere business partners – that a warm friendship cemented their relationship.

As I toured the manufacturing facility, Mike’s son, Dennis, explained their very modern and sophisticated systems. Whether they were making band saws, table saws, dust collectors or air filtration systems, they applied the same level of efficiencies and quality control procedures. An example of their sophistication is a weight-based inventory process, where when a bin of parts dropped below a certain point, their supplier – monitoring the weight via the Internet -- deploys a shipment to OAV. Just in time inventory, automated over the Internet.

Later, we were graciously allowed to see part of Mike Liu’s collection of Asian antiques. They were absolutely amazing. Everything from several carvings of “the happy Buddha” to exquisite ivory carvings.

Later, Alan Huang, Director of Product Development, took me to two more plants. Alan showed me the custom tooling and the extra steps taken to insure the quality of their products. A demonstration of balancing band saw wheels was very impressive. Even more impressive in my opinion was the level of testing and documentation that Alan showed me later at their Taichung office. Basically, if a problem appears with any JET or Powermatic tool, simply by means of a serial number, they can look at the quality inspection and testing results for that specific tool. Their record keeping is very impressive, documenting the products development process all the way through to the most recent manufacturing run and container shipment.

John, Alan and I ended the day by hooking back up with Mike and Dennis Liu at a lovely restaurant for good food and good fun. Mike was in a happy mood and made me promise to come back to Taiwan – next week! (I don’t know how I will explain that to my wife.)

Photos top to bottom:
Mike Liu preparing tea for his visitors. Dennis Liu explaining processes to your traveling editor and John Otto. The whole gang from OAV. Alan Huang explains the exacting band saw wheel balancing process. Alan and John Otto explain some details regarding the production of their PM2000 table saw. The support staff at WMH in Taiwan and a happy editor.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very informative. If we can learn anything from your trip it is that Asian quality is much higher than many think.
We are going to have to dig our feet in if we want to remain competitive with these hard working folks.


12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article! and I'm sure you've been told this before, but I'm jealous.

Unfortunately not everyone shares this sentiment as shown in your last e-zine. A lot of people are upset at the thought of you going overseas. What they don't realize or don't want to, is that we are living in a Global Market. If we stick to things designed and created in one country, we will not progress. Look what happened to East Germany when the wall came down. They were so removed from the rest of the world that their economy crumbled. I'm not saying we shouldn't buy things made here, but we shouldn't be opposed to buying something just because it's made in another country.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what you saw on this trip was what the peoples republic wanted you to see. what you heard was what they wanted you to hear. their economy is subsidized by the govt. if someone would have spoken badly about anything, you wouldn't see them again for a long time, if ever again. i'm not paranoid or against asia, that's just the way communism works. check your history or talk to someone who has lived there. any foreigner is treated very well and chinese love us. it is a very well developed front. sorry

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry that you consider me disconnected and an antagonist. You visited factories but did you visit any suppliers who work in alleys off the main streets? I may be tilting at windmills but in ten years when our economy is in serious trouble I hope you will explain to my children and grandchildren how great this move to Asia was when they are trying to survive in a wrecked economy. Have you look at the balance of trade lately? China will soon begin to unload the billion of US dollars they hold, trading them for other currencies, and this will result in a very bleak future for us.
Can you tell me one thing that China buy from us. They do not even allow our farmers to import products to their contry. Those of us who provide for our families with our hands will only be the first casulties of this "Global Economy". It is not us who demand low cost products. If that were true DeWalt would never have sold a $300+ cordless tool outfit. The truth is that the corporations only want to maximize their profits and managements saleries and bonuses through low cost manufacturing.
You can be sure that I will NOT respond to another "SURVEY" from Woodworkers Journal and will not renew my subscription.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is no surprise to me that we woodworkers are anxious about buying tools from China independent of any concerns about the balance of trade. I'm eagerly awaiting delivery of a Rikon 10-325 bandsaw tomorrow, and I am heartened by your observations, especially after I unpacked a couple of Jet clamps today, also made in China and very, very shabby.

It seems that often when a manufacturing plant is established in China with the benefit of western financing and technical experience the results can be superb. When a plant merely produces knockoffs of western products the results are maddening to whomever has just bought them. I'm sure that as China becomes ever richer and can afford to invest in first rate plants, and as the Chinese catch up in technological expertise, as they are sure to do, the situation will change, but right now we seem to have something to offer.

Consequently it seems to me that we have a very brief opportunity to establish a model of cooperation rather than competition, or perhaps I should say we have the opportunity to use the model it appears the plants you visited have established. This is a time to make solid friendships and alliances and to foster reform as possible since many of the dangers pointed to by other posters seem very real to me. I'm afraid that if we don't we're going to get stomped.

7:18 PM  

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