Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Enter the Dragon

Black & Decker Factory Tour: Suzhou

Suzhou is at the epicenter of the industrialization of China. In the last decade or so, this city of 7 million people has ramped up to creating 8.9% of the total foreign trade in China. Just last year more than 750 new businesses opened their doors. Part of the reason is that Suzhou is benefiting from some special governmental zoning that makes is a favorable area for foreign businesses and for local workers. Part of the reason is that Suzhou is a beautiful and ancient city with much to offer regarding culture and scenic beauty. Situated on the Yangtze River and modern highway and rail systems and just 50 miles from Shanghai, Suzhou is home to hundreds of brands of consumer products that you know well.

Qin Zou, the Managing Director of Black & Decker’s Suzhou plant (and several others as well), presented many surprising facts to me regarding the state of manufacturing in Suzhou. As I stated, the workers are well paid, plus they get a series of government directed benefits – pensions, special housing allowances and medical benefits too. And it is a worker’s market. As you can imagine, with 750 new businesses start ups last year, the demand for experienced workers is very competitive. As with a business anywhere in the world, employee turnover is a number that you want to keep quite low, so the market is favoring the workers in many ways. This is true from line workers to engineers. Chinese workers get vacation time, sick time and at B&D, there is a year-end bonus. I did not find the oppressive working conditions that my personal prejudice had painted a picture of in my mind.

During my tour of the factory, I saw conditions that were the same as I’ve seen in the USA and in Germany. In addition, I was very impressed with Black & Decker’s testing facilities and the rigorous amount of benchmarking and quality control testing being done. In short, the plant I saw in operation would be a top-flight facility in any region of the world.

The Daily Meal Report:
Lunch was uneventful consisting of sandwiches and soda. Dinner was something else, as I got to eat in a small restaurant that featured the special dumplings (served in broth) that are local to Shanghai. Lotus helped select the various types of victuals we dined on. We had returned to Shanghai during the afternoon and spent the early evening seeing some sites and doing some shopping for gifts. Then we decided that dumplings were on the menu. I have to say they were excellent, although I do not know what was in some of the dumplings. I also had black rice … and don’t know why it was black. Later, we went to the Bund, a truly lovely area of Shanghai that is a legacy of the early British influence in this area.

Tomorrow we fly to Taiwan and the adventure continues.

Photos top to bottom: Qin Zou, Managing Director of the Black & Decker Suzhou plant. A worker during a lunch time ping pong game. Two workers who enjoyed having their picture taken. Lotus and your intrepid editor.


Anonymous Lotus said...

Rob, it's very nice of you, I am really so happy to see the photo with you. But Qin Zou, his title is VP Asia Operations.
Take care!
Good Luck!

10:07 PM  
Anonymous larry said...

What I want to know is, did you challenge on the ping pong table. What was the score?

9:01 AM  

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