Bargain shopping I read with interest the “Good Buys” editorial (October 2004), and I must share with you two stories that members of my family had with Wal-Mart. My daughter worked for a clothing manufacturer as an H.R. director. They did much contract work for the folks with the smiley faces and “Low Prices, Always!” and here is what they experienced: Every invoice they submitted was shorted by 10% (90% paid). The claim was “10% of the merchandise was damaged.” That 10% went directly to the profit line.

The second experience was with my sonin- law, who works as a construction management engineer. He had a premeasured fabric processor as a client, and they experienced the same treatment from Wal-Mart. They invited Wal-Mart management to tour their new facilities and demonstrated the new digital measuring equipment that ensured exact measurements. Following that visit, the 10% reduction on all invoices continued.

In my daughter’s case, her employer closed 13 plants and laid-off 13,000 employees and sourced their merchandise overseas. Vendors seldom challenge Wal-Mart, which gradually increases consumption until it has a stranglehold on the vendor, leaving them with no other markets. The end consumer, who works for the vendor, will soon be without a paycheck to take advantage of all those bargains.

Jack R. “Clancy” Jones

The cost of buying American

I agree with the basic premise of your October 2004 editorial. It seems odd to me that we, as U.S. citizens, vehemently complain about the government allowing manufacturing jobs to move overseas while we stand in Wal-Mart buying foreign goods. There is certainly a dichotomy there.

Unfortunately, I think we are in a Catch-22. I can pretty easily find durable goods manufactured in the U.S. But they are often only assembled in the U.S.; the components are often imported. However, finding everyday items manufactured in the U.S. is extremely difficult. All the U.S.-based manufacturers have either failed or set up manufacturing overseas to stay “competitive” (read “cheap”). So here we sit. We have no U.S. manufacturers to supply goods for us to buy if we are willing to pay the higher price. Additionally, no U.S. manufacturer will take the chance to start making goods here because there is no history to suggest people will pay the higher cost for them just because they are made in the USA.

How do we get out of this? I don’t know that we can. We Americans are an odd lot. We tend to talk a good game until it imposes on us personally. If we ever hope to get out of this cycle, every U.S. citizen needs to take a little beating and buy American as much as possible. Good luck getting that to happen.

Keith Menges

Staying competitive

I am the owner of a 30-person design/build automation house in Sylvania, Ohio. I read your October editorial this morning. It comes on the heels of continual presidential campaign blather this week in Ohio, dealing with outsourcing and the loss of Ohio manufacturing jobs.

I feel I am on the front lines of this manufacturing issue. Not only do we struggle with competitive in-house machinebuilding costs for our own machine systems, but we also supply to automotive and packaging companies that must compete in the worldwide market. I don’t know the answer. But I feel the only chance we have to survive the lower cost labor markets is for U.S. manufacturing to continue to compete. If we stop competing, things will only get worse. If we close our markets (force Wal-Mart and consumers to buy American), I don’t think it will help our long-term situation.

I’m sure Wal-Mart and other companies can use more restraint. We can veer slightly from the principle of competitive trade advantage, but the basic premise is solid. If we close our markets, we end up like the Argentineans — selling inferior products to ourselves.

Tom Ballay
President
Autotec Inc.

Omission

In the closing of the Course Audit series Hypoid and bevel gearing (November 2004), one last point should be made:

A spiral bevel set with a large number of teeth and a small amount of profile-separation crowning shows no edge contacts in loaded tooth contact analysis. All points of peak pressure lie on the tooth surface, even at loads 25% higher than the endurance limit for bending stress. What does this demonstrate? The smooth motion curves shown in the eight plots above make evident the benefits of a high contact ratio.

Also, the author would again like to extend thanks to The Gleason Works of Rochester for their graphics permissions on this article.

Bring back the fun

Your magazine is among the best for interesting and informative articles, as well as columns like In the Loop, In Response, and What’s New. I have never missed, and often save, the Fun with Fundamentals section. I cannot imagine any engineer not enjoying this column. I always enjoy a challenge! That said, you can imagine how disappointed I’ve been receiving MSD without my favorite column. I hope you manage to bring it back.

Evan Keefer