20070904/莫把美国玩具商之过推给中国

新华网消息:加拿大《环球邮报》9月3日发表文章,题目是“莫把美国玩具制造商的过错推给中国”,文章摘要如下。

多年来,消费者一直在购买美国品牌的中国产品。许多人认为,美国企业把工厂迁往中国是为了降低生产成本。美泰公司大批召回产品的行为揭露了一个鲜为人知的事实:这些产品其实是中国的“影子制造商”生产的。

美国玩具制造商设计产品,把设计和生产知识转交给中国的转包商,回购最终产品,再以自己的品牌卖给消费者。

对美国制造商来说,业务外包妙不可言。他们既可以降低生产成本,又不必亲自过问工厂的运作。批评者反对业务外包的主要理由是,这种做法会导致就业机会流失,有可能把专利知识拱手让与外国企业。

此次召回玩具的行为表明,更大的风险是质量不过关。

各国的产品安全标准通常都会随着收入的增加而提高。在富国居民看来,穷国所谓的安全产品可能是危险的。因此,既然把生产活动转移到中国这样的低收入国家,美国玩具制造商就应该预见到产品质量会有所下降,所以应该相应加强质量监管。

 在一系列中国制造的产品遭到召回后,媒体、政府和舆论都在谴责中国,认为中国人把大批不安全和受污染的产品输入到美国市场。

其实,是美国进口商未能建立质量监管制度,未能退回不符合标准的产品。我们说的不是躲过质检人员审查的零星问题,而是实行业务外包的企业听任1900万件不安全的玩具流入市场。

我不是在为中国制造商开脱责任。他们必须与政府联手铲除害群之马。但是,如果我们真要指责谁,就不应让中国人为美国玩具制造商的过错承担责任。

首先,实行业务外包的美国企业把节省下来的大部分成本作为利润据为己有。最近的一项调查显示,在中国组装一个iPod的成本仅为4美元。在299美元的售价当中,苹果公司拿走了80美元。因此,如果中国的转包商要为质量不合格承担责任的话,只应承担不超过5%的责任。

其次,大多数消费者在选择商品时考虑的是品牌而不是制造国。他们购买中国生产的芭比娃娃,并不是因为他们看重中国,而是因为他们信任这个品牌。

第三,即使转包商向消费者提供了优质产品,美国制造商也会把成功的功劳全部据为己有。史蒂夫·乔布斯是否说过“我的iPod是台湾转包商生产的”?如果没有,美国玩具制造商是否应该把转包商作为产品不合格的替罪羊呢?

谁把成功的全部功劳据为己有,谁就应该为产品不合格承担全部责任。

Don’t bash China – U.S. toy makers are at fault

CHINESE TOY RECALL: OUTSOURCING PRODUCTION DOESN’T MEAN WE HAVE OUTSOURCED RESPONSIBILITY

Companies that take full credit for product successes must accept just as much blame when things go wrong

SHIH-FEN S. CHEN

Born in Taiwan and trained in the U.S., Shih-Fen S. Chen is an international business professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business, at the University of Western Ontario.

September 3, 2007

For years, consumers have been buying Chinese-made products bearing American brands. Many believe that U. S. companies moved their factories to China to enjoy a lower production cost. The mass recalls of Mattel toys reveal a little-known fact – those products are actually made by “ghost manufacturers” in China.

In a typical outsourcing arrangement called Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM), U.S. toy makers design a product, transfer design and production knowledge to subcontractors in China, buy back the final output, and resell it to consumers under their own brand names.

Outsourcing is a magic trick for U.S. manufacturers to enjoy low production costs abroad without the hassles of managing plant operations themselves. Critics of outsourcing focus mostly on job losses and the risk of ceding proprietary technology to foreign firms.

The current recall of millions of toys indicates that quality failure could be an even bigger risk.

Product safety standards usually improve in step with the increase in income in each nation – what is safe in a poor country could be considered dangerous in a rich one. So, by relocating production to low-income countries such as China, U.S. toy makers should expect to receive low-quality goods and step up quality control accordingly to pre-empt product failure.

Quality monitoring is particularly important in product outsourcing. Ghost manufacturers in China are anonymous to consumers in the U.S. and hence have “no stake” in the product brand. They may have an incentive to cheat on quality if they can shift the blame for product failure to U.S. toy makers and save on manufacturing costs.

After a series of recalls that involve Chinese-made products, the media, governments, and public opinion are all pointing their fingers at China for flooding the U.S. market with unsafe and contaminated products, ranging from pet food, toothpaste, tires, to toys.

The reality is that U.S. importers have failed to install a quality control system and reject any outsourced product that does not meet the benchmarks. We are not talking about a few random errors in production that escape the eyes of quality control managers, but about a colossal failure of the outsourcing firm that let 19 million pieces of unsafe toys slip into the marketplace.

I am not giving Chinese manufacturers an easy pass here. Together with their government, they must find an effective way to root out bad apples that ship faulty products to foreign markets and as a result damage the “Made in China” label as a country brand worldwide.

But, if we really need to find someone to blame, don’t blame China for U.S. toy makers’ failure to protect consumers. Let me explain why:

First, U.S. firms outsourcing products from China pocket most of the savings on production costs as profits. A recent study sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Personal Computing Industry Center at the University of California Irvine found that it costs only $4 to assemble an iPod in China, using parts and components from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, etc. Apple keeps $80 in the total price of $299. If subcontractors in China must split the blame for quality failure with Apple, their fair share should not exceed 5 per cent (i.e., $4 divided by $80).

Second, most buyers rely on product brands rather than country names in making their choice decision. They purchase a Chinese-made Barbie not because they value the country name, but because they trust the product brand. Thus, the liability for breaching consumer trust should be assigned to the party who brands the final product, regardless of its country of origin.

Third, U.S. manufacturers take full credit for the success of an outsourced product if their subcontractors happen to deliver high quality to consumers (as they do in most cases). Has Steve Job ever said that “a subcontractor in Taiwan makes my iPhone” or Phil Knight told anyone that “shoemakers in China assemble the Air Jordan line”? If not, is it acceptable that U.S. toy makers scapegoat a subcontractor for their failure in screening out unsafe products?

My answer is “no”. The party who takes full credit for product success must bear full blame for product failure – it’s as simple as that.

Of course, U.S. toy makers can terminate their co-operating relationship with those subcontractors who violate the quality standards, seek punitive compensations from them, or bring the cheaters to a commercial court for possible legal sanctions if so doing is necessary.

Ironically, Mattel may end up a winner in the next toy-buying cycle, although it is now mistaken by some as a victim in the recall fiasco.

Previously, consumers relied on toy brands as a quality guide in making their purchase decisions. Yet, the publicity of these recent recalls has taught them that the “Made in China” label is also an important quality cue.

Imagine what will happen at toy stores during the coming holiday seasons – consumers pick up a toy, inspect its country of origin, and put the toy back if they see the “Made in China” label.

Many shoppers will leave the store empty-handed, given that more than 80 per cent of the toys sold in North America are made in China. Without buying any toys, they will instead spend the money on computer games, theme park trips, and other substitutes. The toy industry will collectively suffer from its poor outsourcing practices.

In December, however, some consumers will remember that Mattel is the company that initiated large-scale product recalls. So, any Mattel toys that remain on store shelves should be good and safe. The firm may then gain sales from competing toy makers.

Will Mattel share with its Chinese subcontractors the glory of bouncing back at that time? If not, let’s stop bashing China for the failure of U.S. toy makers.

Chinese recalls

27,000

Number of pencil cases made in China that Toys “R” Us Inc. recalled because of lead paint on the outer packaging.

9

U.S. recalls of Chinese-made products in August

18 million

Number of toys recalled

by Mattel Inc.

9,500

Pairs of steel-toed work boots

recalled by Caterpillar Inc. amid fears wearers would suffer electric shock.

Agence France-Presse

work boots recalled by Caterpillar Inc. amid fears wearers would suffer electric shock.

Agence France-Presse

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070903.RAGENDACHEN03/TPStory/?query=toy

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