I've argued with union members that they must be more productive to compete against lower-wage overseas workers, and I've argued with managers and CEOs about the hidden costs of outsourcing production. I have struggled with suppliers half a world away who don't speak English and can't or won't change designs, schedules, or shipping plans to work with my company's needs. I have ground my teeth in frustration over delays in making any supply-chain changes when that supply chain is 12,000 miles long.

What has been missing from your discussion so far, however, is any rational alternative to the current system. Yes, outsourcing stinks. Yes, we should take our corporate leaders to task for their shortsightedness. But please, please, don't propose that our government should step in and mandate what private capital owners can do with their capital.

As leading economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, there are only two alternatives: Either markets made of competing, profit-motivated individuals will decide how resources are allocated, or dictators will. We don't need to contemplate the latter. It's been tried, and it is nothing short of disastrous. They may be small groups of elites in a government bureaucracy, or they may be political strongmen, but they are dictators all the same.

We may hate outsourcing, but the cure is worse than the disease if it empowers government to restrict freedom.

DEREK LANE

 

One reason engineers have forgotten about the impact of dimensioning and tolerancing is outsourcing. As outsourcing has become commonplace over the last 10 to 15 years, the new generation of engineers have not gotten much hands-on experience with manufacturing and assembly. Without this experience, it is difficult to know the effects of tight tolerancing. In previous times, parts were made in-house and in-house machinists asked engineers if all the tight tolerances were really needed.

Today, there is no incentive for a subcontracting machine shop to make the same phone call. They simply charge more for building to tighter tolerances, as requested on the drawings. In my experience, subcontracting shops only call when a part is impossible to make or the drawing contains conflicting information.

Older, more-experienced engineers could check drawings, but this would essentially mean design work is being done twice. As more engineers retire and outsourcing becomes more embedded, the problem will get worse.

Outsourcing may save some money on the short term but end up costing us more in the long run.

PETER MASSARAS