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United States Businesses Transportation Technology

In the World of Big Stuff, the US Still Rules 184

westlake writes "From Peoria, the WSJ a look at the giant trucks manufactured by Komatsu and Caterpillar. 'In certain areas — notably aircraft, industrial engines, excavators and railway and mining equipment — the U.S. exports far more than it imports. These industries produce relatively small numbers of very expensive goods, requiring specialized technology and labor. Their competitive advantage rests partly on expertise built by U.S. companies in making durable, high-tech weaponry and other equipment for the military — frequently applicable to other products.' It may surprise you to learn that Komatsu doesn't employee a single industrial robot. The quality of workmanship simply isn't there where it is needed."
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In the World of Big Stuff, the US Still Rules

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  • by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:29PM (#42187965)

    Neither the submission nor the article says otherwise. This doesn't change the fact that the products being referred to are manufactured in a US-base plant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:30PM (#42187977)
    Cool anecdote. I have one, too. My friend owns a plumbing supply business. Been in the family for 80 years. I was asking about USA vs China recently and he said that at first, the Chinese stuff was terrible. Now, the Chinese-made fittings are routinely better than the US-made stuff and cheaper to boot.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:37PM (#42188005)

    For the rest of the world 'Made in the USA' means 'Heavy, will break down, and none of your tools will fit'.

    May sound harsh, but that is my experience of industrial equipment and the feelings of those who work with it.

  • Thank Goodness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:43PM (#42188047)

    Thank goodness there's no possible way for this thread to degenerate into a hodgepodge of anecdotes disguised as fact. I'm certain the Slashdot audience will rise above the low hanging fruit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:50PM (#42188081)

    The price and the quality generally correlate. By the time "Made in China" means something more like "Made in Japan", those goods will cost a lot more. And yes, we'll have moved on to manufacturing elsewhere for Walmart Grade goods.

    To add to the summary, we're also pretty masterful at leveraging foreign manufacturing resources.

  • by Buminatrain ( 1737926 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @12:27AM (#42188291)
    It's not for cars/vehicles either. Honda's first ten years or so they imported only motorcycles, they managed to gain a foothold here due to their reliability and high quality, the early Honda bikes are all still sought after and fairly expensive. Most of the Japanese car makers had early struggles to gain acceptance due to the reputation Japan gained immediately after WWII as being an exporter of cheap/poor quality goods as it was trying to rebuild it's economy. Also the fact that the culture of Japanese car design was very different from the US's at the time... As big as possible with as much horsepower as possible compared to lightweight efficient simple designs. The quality of Japanese motors/cars was never an issue, it was just perception and creating a market for a different type of vehicle which hindered their early reputation..
  • Re:Komatsu? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @01:04AM (#42188509) Homepage Journal
    Caterpillar sells equipment that helps Israel illegally build settlements in Palestinian territory.
    So if they can blow up the Caterpillar plant, then the Israelis will not buy construction equipment from another company, they will simply realize the folly of their ways and give the land to the Palestinians? Somebody's spent too much time in the desert, methinks.
  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @01:16AM (#42188577)
    Well, if we're talking about the category of large airplanes [], then the undisputed winner is the Antonov An-225 Mriya [] which was built in the Soviet Union and the Ukraine to be the equivalent of the USA Space Shuttle's transport aircraft []. It tops the categories of :
    -- world's heaviest aircraft ever (max. takeoff weight greater than 640 tons)
    -- world's largest aircraft ever
    -- largest aerodyne (in length and wingspan) ever entering operational service
    -- absolute world record for airlifted payload at 189,980 kilogram (418,834 pounds)
    Of course, the largest wingspan ever is owned by Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, the Hughes Aircraft H4-Hercules []. It was never really an operational aircraft: it only flew once, and it was really made of birch instead of spruce. But hey, in terms of largest wingspan ever built, USA-ians can chant "We're Number One! We're Number One!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @01:19AM (#42188591)

    There's plenty of outright shit Made in the USA. Here's what you are missing, it's not about origin, it's about making things to spec. Generally the spec for people contacting manufacturing to China is as-cheap-as-possible, and that's exactly what they get. Sure, labor and environmental costs less over there, but shipping, customs and other overhead associated with outsourcing eats a bunch of that, so to significantly increase the profits (as promised to shareholder) companies tend to drop quality as well. Turns out you can do this in the US as well! So there is quite a bit US made junk floating around these days. Conversely you can tell your Chinese partner to implement better processes, ramp up QA and that you will not only pay for it, but pay extra. Chances are you will get quality stuff, if not, try the factory next door. Point is, quality mostly depends on what the producer is wiling to pay, which is just about independent of what you are willing to spend. Origin is a useful heuristic, but the reality these days is that unlike with, say, German stuff you can't rely on US stuff to be good in the general case, you merely have a decent chance.

  • by dutchwhizzman ( 817898 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @02:34AM (#42188953)

    The USA has resorted to buy everything imported, since their consumers would rather whine about quality than pay for it. The thousands of billions spent on clothing, electronics, food, cars and building materials to name a few industries don't weigh up to the few that come in by exporting planes or mining equipment and such.

    Also, quite a lot of these products are assembled from imported materials or half-products, the owners or shareholders are often foreign so apart from providing actual manufacturing and producing jobs to the USA, a lot of the profit is often not staying in the USA.

    The Netherlands used to have a very prosperous ship building industry. That died out, competition from lower wage countries with good sea access made the cheaper, worse quality ships still a good investment. Then the competitors got better at building ships with the experience they gained and even the high quality ships could be purchased from lower wage countries. By now, these countries have lost most of their ship building industry to the far east, where they build ships in assembly lines by the dozens per year, on dozens of assembly lines. Imagine an iPhone 5 manual assembly line, building 1000 yards and larger ships. Now imagine 20 of those lines in a shipyard. This is reality now. If mining excavators, planes trains or any other product named in this list ever gets produced in numbers big enough to warrant mass production sites, cheap labour countries will start producing. We may laugh at India or China's plans to produce their own aerospace or commercial flight equipment, but in 10 years, Boeing and Airbus will most likely be buying 90% of their parts prefabricated from those very countries and in 20 years, they will probably be reduced to a manufacturing and assembly location for them.

  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:54AM (#42189699) Journal
    Quality is still there... if you pay for it.

    Take tools for an example: in the old days, all tools sold were pretty good, and pretty expensive. If I visit the hardware store today, I see a lot of inexpensive crap on the shelves but the good stuff is still there, so I now have a choice that I didn't have before. If I expect to be building a couple of houses, it makes sense to buy expensive power tools that are dependable and will last forever. However, if I will only have occasional use for a tool, the cheaper version makes better economic sense. My electric screwdriver is top of the line as it sees a lot of use, however my drill press is a cheap Chinese one that only sees occasional use. It's still going strong after 10 years; the point is that in the old days, I probably couldn't have afforded it, or justified the cost.

    My washing machine? Over a decade old without any servicing whatsoever; this brand still has an expected useful service life of 20 years
    TV? I got rid of my old glass tube dog kennel model to get a flatscreen, but that old TV found a new home and still works... 10 years old.
    Cell phone? People throw them out because technology moves fast these days; the difference between a 2 year old phone and a new one is significant. But my old iPhone still works perfectly after nearly 5 years, and it's getting a new lease on life as a home automation control panel.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @07:39AM (#42190123) Homepage Journal

    I see the typical idiot USA bashing going on here but anyone who needs to use construction or mining equipment world wide already knows this. Likewise anyone dealing with oil and gas discovery-recovery and industrial farm equipment. But slashdot faux Marxists are free to buy those Angolan built passenger airplanes.

  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:39AM (#42190823)

    The American car manufacturers said they couldn't comply with new pollution standards for years, and along comes Mr. Honda with his CVCC engine that already does, and without a catalytic converter.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!