Why can’t the US build consumer electronic products?

I recently returned from a short trip to Shenzhen, the large Chinese city less than an hour’s drive north of Hong Kong. When anyone wonders why we don’t build consumer electronic products in the United States, the one word answer is Shenzhen.

When I first traveled to this city more than 30 years ago, I’d walk out of the train station and see locals hawking live chickens and the sidewalks filled with homeless people. I’d get into a cab that was usually filthy, both inside and out, and pray for my life while the driver navigated gravel roads full of ruts with his head sticking out of his window because the windshield was covered with mud. At that time, the area was full of factories making cheap consumer goods. Now, Shenzhen is a large modern city comparable to Shanghai or even Hong Kong. As I was reminded on this trip, Shenzhen has turned into the world capital of consumer electronics manufacturing. Shenzhen is to the making of these products as Silicon Valley is to designing them.

In fact, there’s a practical bond between the two areas, evident each day at breakfast at any one of the dozens of internationally branded hotels, such as the Sheraton, Shangri-La, Hyatt, Hilton, Four Seasons, St. Regis and Westin.

At breakfast you see tables full of young American engineers and project managers from Apple, Google, HP, GoPro, Amazon and dozens of smaller startups beginning their day before heading into the factories to solve problems and get their products into production. For many, it’s a constant shuttle between the San Francisco and Hong Kong airports — as often as twice a month for some.

An employee monitors machinery that adheres components to smartphone circuit boards in a manufacturing facility at ZTE Corp.’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China. Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

It’s certainly not much fun to make the 15-hour flight, especially crunched up in an economy seat. But, in spite of that, making the trip is the best way to take your product from an idea to manufacturing with the greatest chance of success — not just for large companies, but even for entrepreneurs with an idea.

Shenzhen companies thrive on building new products and there are usually companies skilled in your area. You can find an experienced team for not much cost, because they want to fill their factories.

Shenzhen looks much like any other large modern city but, with a population of 10.35 million, everything is larger in scale. It has the largest library in the world and the largest city hall. Beneath the appearance of a buzzing metropolis full of skyscrapers and clogged highways is a network of thousands of companies focused on supporting the world’s thirst for the next smartphone, HD TV or gizmo you didn’t know you needed until you read about it.

These companies are housed in factories scattered within a two hour radius that vary from nondescript cement structures to sprawling office parks that look like ones you might see in Japan or Taiwan. Depending on what they produce, they can be as clean as an automated Japanese factory or something resembling a sweatshop from the 1930s. Occasionally, but not often, there will be a factory producing low-cost components that barely skirt the laws of tolerable working conditions but that’s the exception rather than the rule when it comes to technology products.

But what this network in Shenzhen — supported by huge factories in other cities such as Shanghai — does better than anywhere else in the world is build huge volumes of the components that go into consumer electronic products: lithium-ion batteries, LCD displays, touch screens, motors, electrical components, switches, plastic moldings, printed circuit boards, semiconductors, packaging, antennas, speakers, microphones, leather, plastic and other assorted materials. For each component, there are scores of companies in intense competition to keep the prices down and advance the technology.

There’s one human characteristic that’s also important and it’s not labor costs, although that is a secondary factor. It’s the attitude of the people who work in this industry. They have a high work ethic and can-do attitude that gets things accomplished without any fear of failing or thinking something can’t be done — even when sometimes it can’t. Whether companies are thriving or struggling, they will rarely turn away new business and most have an insatiable thirst to try new things so they can learn and grow.

Now, it’s not all rosy. Every company has strengths and weaknesses, A teams and C teams, smart and not so. Interest in taking on your product can wane if sales don’t meet expectation or if a bigger customer comes along. It’s often painful to get things done with junior people. But, in the end, there’s no better alternative. As to copying your product, it’s not a big issue. When it occurs, it’s usually by other companies that become aware of it once the product goes on sale.

I’m often asked why we can’t make these products in the United States. When it comes to a high-volume consumer electronic product that contains a variety of components, building it in the United States is just not practical or often even possible, while still maintaining the cost, quality and fast time to market. Even if it were, we don’t have the same attitude of taking quick action and being responsive.

When Motorola tried building its smartphone in a plant in Texas, the company needed to import the parts from China. There are virtually no companies in the United States that make batteries, displays, speakers, semiconductor chips and wire for mass-produced products. While there may be companies building some of these components in low volume for the military, few are competitively priced.

Can it be Done in the USA?

The United States does build printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs), partly because it’s a highly automated process using assembly machines and components available worldwide. But you still need to take those PCBAs and combine them with the touch screens, the lithium-ion batteries and the tiny motors and speakers. To import these efficiently you must send them by boat and that takes a couple of weeks and ties up lots of dollars in inventory costs.

But, more importantly, suppose that when the displays arrive, they have a defect. What do you do? If you were building the product in Shenzhen, you would call the company that’s an hour away and they will have engineers in your factory in a few hours to fix the problem. Try that from the United States and you would likely shut down your assembly line for several weeks.

Multiply this by the hundreds of parts and processes that go into your product that comes from China. Not only is it inefficient, but it’s also just not practical to build these kinds of products in the United States. Even if a company were to try, it could not compete with its competitors on many dimensions. A perhaps cruel, but accurate, analogy is trying to build an automobile in the Arctic from parts made in Detroit.

Published by

Phil Baker

Phil Baker is a product development expert, author, and journalist covering consumer technology. He is the co-author with Neil Young of the forthcoming book, “To Feel the Music,” and the author of “From Concept to Consumer.” He’s a former columnist for the San Diego Transcript, and founder of Techsperts, Inc. You can follow him at www.bakerontech.com.

12 thoughts on “Why can’t the US build consumer electronic products?”

  1. Thanks for the summary.

    It only sheds light that we don’t have the vision, leadership, and will to do these things. When we wanted to build a nuclear bomb, or go to the moon (infinitely more complicated endeavors), we found a way.

    1. In the US there is a ‘vision.’

      But that ‘vision’ primarily consists short term profit goals, an overall willingness to exploit tax laws, environmental laws, and labor laws elsewhere–all combined with government policies that reward said ‘vision.’

      At one point there was a drive to promote ‘Economic Patriotism,’ of sorts. But “Buy American” was a union slogan, and everyone knows that unions caused every single problem ever faced in this country. It was reported on Fox News.

      And now I shall dismount from my soapbox.

      1. Wholeheartedly agree, especially with your “informed” sarcasm ;-). In the end of the day, it’s a reflection on our society.

        1. Yes, our priorities were focused on the defense industries while China focused on the consumer tech industry.

      2. Power structures not-withstanding, unions have done a lot to improve working conditions. We have long ago eschewed the notion of the workers needing living onsite. In those terms we, philosophically and thus culturally, are more focused on the individual than China. Almost no one in the U. S. would allow themselves to be used as the workers in China. I don’t see that as a problem. I’m not a union member, but I’ve worked for the producers who think labour is disposable.


  2. This isn’t just about differences in material resources, however. Or, actually it is a differences of philosophy of whether or not the human worker is a material resource. U. S. labourers are less likely to be “used” the way Chinese workers are. Not a moral assessment, but a cultural philosophical difference, not just from the top but also from the bottom of the hierarchy.

    Culturally as comparison, one should examine how the Chinese furniture industry took deliberate measures to pretty much over-throw the US furniture industry. This was a philosophy shared from bottom to top of the labour chain.


  3. You actually make it appear so easy together with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be actually something which I think I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complicated and very vast for me. I am having a look forward in your subsequent publish, I’ll attempt to get the cling of it!

  4. AsiaMe has on the spot messaging and video reveals that assist international daters make contact and stir up romantic emotions. Actions like exchanging photographs and making video or common calls are encouraged to make sure the profiles of consumers are actual. In case you wish to ship messages to the video calling feature, it’s important to pay for it first. She ought to need to fulfill in actual life finally. The agency began its work again in 1998. For the primary time, it was a small webpage geared toward serving to single men who want to fulfill stunning ladies. If you’d like to meet a charming Asian lady and pay less money, choose DatiInAsia or AsianDating. The whole lot issues if you do not want to waste your valuable time and money: your persona, hobbies, background, and how you see your excellent match. This system has a large number of filters and permits you to quickly discover the proper match. No, you can’t discover love without utilizing a bank card – the service provides a minimal set of free features. In our evaluation on AsiaMe dating site, we would like to say that the worldwide courting web site has many more options for a lower worth than many other in style dating platforms.

    Logan Ury is the director of relationship science on the dating app Hinge. We imagine that you simply shouldn’t hide your face if you’re in search of a associate for a serious relationship. You shouldn’t fear about automated renewal or expiration dates compared to different relationship websites. The websites are similar in their interactivity and profiles. Are they really stunning? As there are too many members on the positioning to speak with all of them, it is best to make the circle of potential companions narrower. There are additionally in style and dependable companies like TrulyChinese or TrulyAsian which have plenty of positive evaluations. The problem is that the gender ratio is 15/85, so you need to compete for the eye of Asian ladies. The high-high quality performance of the site allows you to shortly discover asiame the desired section and solve the issue. You can introduce your self and start a chat with any lady who is at present on-line, or open up her full profile to search out out extra concerning the woman you want.

    The new user will obtain a message about those Asian ladies who may be of interest to you. It is short and easy to fill in, so you will not be burdened with any complications. You will also see what women appear like on the location. You’ll be able to search for Asian brides via a search instrument too. The website gives ways to search for other members. Due to this fact, learn our AsiaMe evaluation of the website and make your determination. The members who have already found their love notice that utilizing the providers was a pleasure as a result of the administration of the platform does its greatest to make the positioning perfect. An excellent boost to your vanity and a perfect method to ascertain communication (will suit you if you happen to aren’t afraid of ladies who make step one). On this part of the review, we are going to discuss in regards to the historical past of the company. In this part of the review, we have now systematized all the helpful data, which is able to permit you to understand is AsiaMe value it.

    The algorithm will quickly analyze the profiles in the database and recommend the best options. In fact, the matrimonial service gives some choices without cost. Of course, the price of providers is above common, but you pay for security, convenience, and effectivity. Sadly, contacting your matches requires you to pay cash. Admirers encourage people to start chatting or not less than listen to a user’s profile. You may reject the offer or start chatting with women (after making a deposit). Select the perfect girl and start chatting online. Now all that is still is to decide on the Asian lady you like, start a pleasant dialog and invite her out on a date. Moreover, the corporate permits sending flowers and gifts to ladies and even helps to prepare a date. Furthermore, the administration of the service posts useful information on how users can save themselves from scams. Furthermore, a handy format permits you to rapidly find the desired section, and at the bottom of the page, there’s a convenient sitemap with solutions to standard questions and information about the company’s obligations. Their objective is to find a associate to create harmonious relationships. That is an important part of the process as a result of it determines the type of matches you find.

  5. As CharmDate is an area for guys to see women, it does not matter even if there are phony male customer accounts or otherwise. Last updated: August You obtain a personal profile which you can submit For solitary guys what are trying to find Russian as well as ukrainian women Huge user pool Thousands of active participants day-to-day Members are pleasant and receptive Man to Female ratio fasts signup process The process will only require you to give basic details After joining, you will certainly be asked to respond to a few questions concerning your match choice FORUM confirmation e-mail will certainly after that be sent charmdate you after signing up Giveaways are provided when you complete the procedure. Easy to make use of interface The app has countless downloads. Multiple means of communication are readily available All asiame platforms are paid functions Video chat, live indication, and com service features are existing Females on the site are very active Browse filters are totally free to make use of.

    That means they have actually sent a copy of their totally free asiame record with their photo. Additionally, if you currently have an account on among the Qpid services, you do not require to undergo the registration process. To become a member of online service, you need to pass the enrollment process. Settlement Alternatives. The following are the 3 various types of call solutions: Set up Telephone calls For this dateinasia of telephone call service, you have to make a login before you can continue to the phone call. This can aid you make your looking easier and extra pleasurable. It is necessary to fill out the account as quickly as it is feasible since the even more information there is on your web page, the quicker you will certainly see your ideal partner. After that the site will certainly ask you to fill out your profile. Yes, you can change your profile dateinasia. This can be done by entering your standard info such as your area, age, and also name. Send them the URL of the website which leads to the error login, the date, the dateinasia, as well as the area of asiame when you experienced the mistake. So spending a little to stay connected with asiame you like will not harm a lot if you make certain that you are speaking to a legitimate individual.

    As soon as you become a member, you can easily check out its list of participants as well as at the same asiame check out the website with a safe as well as secure account. Your corrupt procedure camouflaged as a reliable dating site is an Incredulous, Iniquitous Fraud! “Even if you had no good luck on CharmDate or any kind of various other online dating website does not mean that it’s a fraud,” Natasha stated. It’s only.5 credit histories for each minute of talking! The Charmdate registration usually takes the regular amount of time, however every min you invest filling up as well as finishing the survey out your testimonial in addition to completing a profile biography will pay back when seeking fulfills online. Phone call Service: 1 credit report per min. I wouldn’t call it fraudulence, but it’s not precisely sincere, either. Well,.5 debts is 1 buck, but it’s very easy to forget that. An essential point for members is they require to buy a bundle of debts in order to start talking using interaction functions on the web site. Web site uses special communication with the Oriental ladies from all the Oriental countries.

    3. Exactly how do you search and sort the ladies? Video clip Program: You can view their video clip show of the ladies. New Members: you can see all recently signed up users. Sites’ accounts are not so comprehensive The website can auto-write your summary for you Restricted photos are available to check out free of cost Account verification can be through email, phone, or ID The profiles are not very comprehensive The network information can be changed later on. The majority of these features are not discovered on various other dating sites however you can not simply appreciate these either. The credibility and safety and security of the area are of the prime emphasis. Thus, they have email verification, Safety Tips, as well as Customer Defense Policy. Your call will be informed as well as you have to wait till she accepts and also evaluates the demand when you have actually made an appointment. Likewise, present them the email address you are presently utilizing, and afterwards wait for the guidelines that they will send. The security and the credibility of its members are the sites main online forum.

  6. You enroll on a site. We would suggest you trying out the sites users’ opinions as it is probably the most informative technique to learn a few relationship site! In this part, we are going to indicate you the most common problems that guys face while relationship Latin brides for marriage on-line! What makes guys from totally different countries seek dates with Latin brides is the truth that they are very communicative. Women from Latin international locations love males who will be accountable and assertive. To my great surprise, a number of men had been fascinated about my persona, however I dared to respond only to 3 of them. Nonetheless, despite the great communication skills you may have, cultural variations is usually a challenge for on-line courting. If you’d like options (and who doesn’t), then LatinAmericanCupid is a great choice. It provides career, age, interest category, bodily features based Latin singles in city of choice. A dating site is the most effective reply for Latin women dating as per your selection and need. For the sake of honesty, it is value to note that a relationship with Latino girls America just isn’t for everyone. Lawmakers on the committee turned aware of thirteen out of 23 doubtlessly undeclared accounts price over $20 million just days before releasing their report.

    With that maneuver, “Credit Suisse enabled what appears to be doubtlessly criminal tax evasion by a consumer to go undetected for almost a decade,” the report says. Girls from this region want to fulfill a strong, confident, and honest man. Be confident and show that you’re a real man with strong beliefs and ideas. I’ve just a few besties from Puerto Rico, and that i can state with certainty: these girls will dedicate their whole lives to the man they love. If you continue to want to know more about Latin brides, we will give you a couple of more latamdate review facts about women from this region. You probably have specific criteria for a woman that you wish to find, chances are you’ll spend just a few weeks. On common, discovering an appropriate date is a matter of some hours. Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Mexico are among the most well-liked locations to look for a date. Most dating platforms supply a huge variety of mail order brides and girls for on-line communication, so if you realize whom to look for, you may be capable of finding her.

    Because you won’t be capable of keep away from this drawback, we suggest you either look for ladies who’ve higher English or be patient and assist your lady categorical herself correctly. Though Latin mail order brides often know English, some ladies may be less fluent in it. Mail order brides Latin America are known to be expressive, emotional, and passionate. A number of Jewish communities within the Caribbean, Central and South America flourished, significantly in those areas underneath Dutch and English management, which have been extra tolerant. The feel is extra of men searching for app. Why do men desire a Latin girl for marriage? If you need to go back, feel free to register with the identical credentials. Hundreds of Latin mail order wives join on the same site. There are lots of of portals with Latin mail order brides! As a substitute of going out, in search of a date, getting a disappointment, and spending quite a lot of free money and time, one can get access to 1000’s of fantastic brides from all around the world. No have to waste your time on ladies who don’t meet your descriptions!

    For those who aren’t certified divers, you can join a snorkeling excursion. Nevertheless, you’ll be able to expect to spend a rather small sum of money, especially in contrast with actual-life relationship! The principle of courting companies is pretty straightforward. Premium services corresponding to Stay Chat and Video Chat require purchasing a membership and credits. You search women you need to talk with. For example, the choice to view profiles of charming Latin girls is free. As soon as you’re all set, you might start looking through scorching single women’s profiles. Relating to on the lookout for love, all of us have completely different tastes and preferences. You may also use the progressive “Let’s Mingle” feature, which allows you to send a mass message to a gaggle of Latin singles who match your preferences. Free members can trade messages with their Prime Picks, and paid subscribers can message anybody they fancy! You can alternate photographs and videos and communicate through dwell chat with gorgeous ladies. Whilst you and your important different are online or video chatting, you possibly can exchange photographs and videos through the chatbox. On common, dating sites with month-to-month membership cost around $10-30, while websites with credits price around $40-eighty for 1 month of online courting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *