Monday, September 18, 2006

Meeting with Black & Decker

Down to Business

I started my day in Shanghai, a city of around 12 million people. I found it to be a modern and active city – very industrious and much more Western than I had expected. At about 9AM I met with representatives from Black & Decker, the parent company of DeWalt, Delta and Porter-Cable. These included Todd Huston, the Vice President in charge of woodworking, Lowell Lueking and Frank Mannarino, Vice President of Marketing – Asia Pacific Industrial Products Group (and a host of others).

Black & Decker is a worldwide producer, with manufacturing on nearly all the continents except Africa and Antarctica (and no plans for Antarctica … as far as I know). As explained to me, B&D has a commitment to creating and owning significant infrastructure wherever they do their business, including China. This allows them, along with their internal systems and management style, to create products of good quality, regardless of geography or culture.

All at the meeting agreed that quality products begin long before they get to the manufacturing. Market research, a commitment to great engineering in product development is where quality products begin. Lowell pointed out that B&D has high expectations of the material and component suppliers that they use and that rigorous testing of the supplied materials is the norm.

All in all, I could see the sizable commitment Black & Decker is making to Asian production. Next, I will get to visit their plant in Suzhou (pronounced sue-joe).

Enough Business

After the meeting, I was hosted by, George Bennett, head of Asian manufacturing for Black and Decker. First off, we stopped by a B&Q, a home improvement store in which any American DIYer would be perfectly at home. It was a bit like Home Depot meets Ikea.

Then we moved on to lunch. We ate in easily the biggest restaurant I’ve ever seen in my life. The food was delicious … I ordered the chicken feet (among a bounty of other dishes), they were a little bony – but tasty.

Next we left for Suzhou, where we got to spend some time shopping – I think my wife and daughters are going to like me when I get home. I have to thank my guide, a young woman named Lotus for her help -- she was a very good negotiator. The day ended with a lovely meal. Snails, abalone, fish … the biggest mushroom I’ve ever eaten – too much to mention, and I loved every bite. Dinner ended at 9PM with me feeling so tired I must have appeared stupid. For me it was the end of a great day in China.

Pictures from top to bottom:
Frank Mannarino with yours truly. Lowel Lueking and Todd Huston. Shanghai, China. The world’s biggest eating establishment (In my experience). Scooters in Suzhou.


Anonymous LH said...

Nice articles about tool factories, and I have a shop full of Asian built tools that mostly work very well. My pride and joy is a Jet table saw.

But --- and it's a big one --- what about American tool builders who are now out of work or who are scraping by with minimum-wage jobs and no futures? Would Asia be as competitive if Chinese money were exchanged at its full value? I cry a little inside every time I must buy an Asian-built tool because there is no American equivalent.

1:31 PM  

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