You've never had it so good

In 1957, Harold Macmillan, made a speech in Bedford, UK, to his fellow
Conservatives in which he gave the opinion that "Let us be frank about
it: most of our people have never had it so good". In the speech he
celebrated the success of Britain's post-war economy.
And not wanting to get into politics he was right.
Full employment [ for those that wanted it ! ] shops full of
affordable goods and the start of leisure time.
But when translated into the Model Engineering realm things were still
not so good and the shadow of wartime austerity was still upon Chuck
and the other Muddle Enjineers.
New lathes were available from Myford, Boxford, Raglan / Little John,
Harrison's and Colchester's but at a price.
Anyone not being able to afford this was left to buy pre war clunkers
that owed more to a cost cutting exercise than good engineering
Milling machines were like hens teeth, Tom Senior being about the only
small maker but at very steep prices for what in those days was
basically a deluxe add on for any workshop.
Attachment were even worse, pre CNC, rotary tables were still the
mainstay of industry and to get a 5" dividing head you needed to kill
someone for it. There were a lot of work around's in the mag hence the
prime years for ME with people like Proof Chaddock and J A Radford.
No one in 1957 could buy small collet chucks, tilting tables, diamond
wheels and other goodies unless they were very wealthy.
People like Hemingway and Model Engineering Services filled this gap
by providing kits for things like rotary tables, boring heads and even
in Ivan's case he did the Dore Westbury miller in 7 easy stage parts
to spread the work and the cost.
Many Muddle Enjineers cut their teeth on these kits and got good use
out of the finished products, they truly filled a gap in the market.
Fast forward a few years and we started getting the relatively cheap
imports, from initially, Taiwan.
Cheap and in many cases shoddy but as times and shipment with feedback
went on they did improve.
That much so that even Myfords started buying a mill from Taiwan,
reworking it and fitting French electrics, then bagging it as a
As things progressed so did quality and slowly their prices caught up
with the result that the Taiwanese started to out source to China and
the cycle was repeated, cheap and shoddy, later to improve.
By this time the western world had caught onto outsourcing in all
trades and so had the money men. People with millions of pounds or
dollars looking for something to invest in to get a decent return on
capital, insurance companies, pensions fund holders etc.
It was no good investing in a dying western manufacturing trade, they
needed new blood and China was ripe for it.
"If we loan you $20 million for two years can we have $25 million back
?" So One Hung Low grabs the $20 mill, goes to Japan and buys 20
machining centre's which then run two years non stop and produce $50
mill worth of goods. They then pay the $25 mill back and Mr Money says
"Do you want to borrow $50 mill ?" So One hung Low goes back to Japan
and buys the bloody company, ships it to China and carries on making
his goods plus machining centre's.
This isn't pie in the sky, I have seen rows of machining centre's with
China Fadal on them, all making generator engines that are that finely
made they only lack a cast in "Made in Japan " badge.
The upshot of all this is that goods now made in China is being made
on equipment not only better than we have , most times it's made on
equipment we have never even seen.
Which leads me to the crux of this post. Currently the quality of
goods from reputable factories in China is very good, probably better
than we made in our 1970's heydays.
Pricing is very favourable at the moment and the choice of goods is
better than we have ever known, - period.
Just as Taiwan got priced out of the market before is there now a
chance that we have seen the heyday of import goods given the
reduction in export tariffs by China ? Is this our 'Mac' point in the
goal to equip our workshops? Can this be our "We have never had it so
good" ?
A good point to ponder if you are thinking about adding to equipment
and it is available to buy.
We are not so lucky as the Yanks on this score, their market is far
bigger than ours, shipping distances are less and to be honest we have
the short straw.
An example of this is the BH600 lathe as sold by Warco, I don't know
in what quantity they ship them into the UK, possibly 10's or 20's at
a time but Grizzly in the US order a 1,000 of these PER MONTH.
Because of the US demand we do have shipping shortfalls and if prices
do rise it could get worse.
Just my take on this but I think we are at the peak of the cycle at
the moment.
Comments ? arguments ? flaming bricks ? etc ?
Reply to
John Stevenson
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All very true.Unfortunately the last bit could be taken as sales spiel given your involvement with imports.If it had came from a stranger I would have called it spam.
Reply to
Much as she did to correct some anti-productive practices in the workplace, I can't help but wonder of the Grantham greengrocer's daughter was a bit over-enthusiastic in pissing all over Harold's white heat of technology.
France, Germany and Switzerland all have successful manufacturing industries and, even, machine tool manufacturers. We've been left with a bunch of merchant bankers.
Mark Rand RTFM
Reply to
Mark Rand
In article , Mark Rand writes
....and some of them even work in finance!
Reply to
David Littlewood
I believe the right collective noun for merchant bankers is "a wunch".
Regards, Tony
Reply to
Tony Jeffree
Looks about right to me, the last cheap manufacturing country was China, there aren't any more. India bypassed that stage with its IT industry and I cannot see any other country large enough to take over where China will leave off.
Peter -- Peter & Rita Forbes Email: Web:
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Reply to
Peter A Forbes
Well China has been investing heavily in Africa to be able to source the minerals needed for its rapid industrial growth, so I suppose theoretically various African nations could be the next cheap labour source.
BTW a succinct summary John, worthy of a one pager in Model Engineer I reckon.
Reply to
Andrew Mawson
Just taken as I see it Mark. My involvement with imports is on the R & D side, not sales. My only connection with sales is I help Ketan at ARC at 4 shows a year, for which I get paid and get the use of the company Mercedes to and from the show, all 7-1/2 tonnes of it
It wasn't given as a sales spiel but something hat has been germinating in my mind for a while and a chance phone call with someone who mentioned the Grizzly link yesterday made everything click.
I still think that whether I had posted this or someone else the outcome will still be the same.
Reply to
John Stevenson
...Bravo John...on the nail. --
Chris Edwards (in deepest Dorset) "....there *must* be an easier way!"
Reply to
Chris Edwards
......ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha etc etc etc - until I pee!!!!!
Good one Andrew, I like to start the day with a laugh. --
Chris Edwards (in deepest Dorset) "....there *must* be an easier way!"
Reply to
Chris Edwards
Not trying to upset you John,just a comment on how I personally see it. As a passing note I find we are running more and more parts for UK companies that were getting made in China.It`s not the quality issues that brought these back but rising prices and leadtimes.
Reply to
Mark, That last comment was interesting and goes to add to what i have thought for a while. Add to this Ketan's comments the other day about ships having to stand off to unload because of the increase and it makes sense.
I did hear of one boat that was due to sail China - Felixstowe - Rotterdam and because of string pulling got diverted to Rotterdam first, then spent that much time unloading it went back to China still with Felixstowe's cargo on board.
Reply to
John Stevenson
Well summed up John. What we are seeing is a massive wealth transfer to China and India simply because they are prepared to do the work. The west seems to be embroiled in Health and Safety , union restrictions, etc. People can make more money by suing for wrongful dismissal etc, than they can by working. Would you like to employ somebody then have to pay them for 6 months not working when the baby comes along. We have become decadent. The protective work ethic of holding back the most willing and brightest workers seems also to come into play as well. Is the best we can do to just wait and hope this malaise will go away on its own? Or have we got to work at it? Regards Alan
Reply to
I do tend to agree.
I spent 5 years working in Africa, based in Nigeria but also looking after other group operations in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Other than the possibility of South Africa doing this - and there is no reason why it shouldn't as they currently manufacture most of the aftermarket Alloy Wheels sold in the UK/Europe - trying to get either consistent quantity or quality from the rest of the Continent is not going to happen unless Imperialism makes a big comeback:)
Reply to
Peter Neill
Sounds about right.
In my field of expertise ( woodwind ) the Chinese phenomenon has wreaked havoc with the established industry - and given that music is such an 'emotional' business, it's upset a lot of consumers too ( few people want to admit that a £200 horn can sound like a £2000 one ).
China's initial foray into the marketplace ( call it Phase 1 ) was to provide adequately built copies of noted brands at ridiculously cheap prices. I dubbed these 'Ultra-Cheap horns'. I saw some truly amazing student quality instruments on the market for around a third, or less, of the price of well-known brands - and took a lot of flak for suggesting that by choosing carefully it was possible to buy a usable instrument for 'playstation money'.
I also suggested that the Chinese wouldn't stick at producing rock-bottom cheapies - they'd source western expertise, the dealers and players would provide feedback and the consumers would demand higher specs. And now the Chinese are on Phase 2 - the price has gone up a little, the quality a lot, and new brand names are beginning to establish themselves in the market.
For the established manufacturers it's all been a bit of a nightmare. Those involved in the budget market have found the floor has dropped out from underneath them, and they're moving heaven and earth to raise their profile by moving up-market. The problem with this is that the Chinese are doing the same, only faster. The only guys who're reasonably comfortable right now are the ones who make high-end kit...they have a history to fall back on, brand loyalty and a sort of Rolls Royce kudos - and in the long term they might actually do quite well due to the increased number of potential customers for professional quality instruments.
One side-effect of the whole business is the crash of the secondhand market. There's no point buying a student instrument secondhand - the asking price can't match that of a new Chinese horn, and the quality's about the same.
I think you're right regarding the peak - it's due anytime now. Initial resistance to Chinese products was very strong - but this is rapidly breaking down and as it does so, demand is rising. Dealers are regularly running out of stock, and prices have begun to edge up even on the cheapest models. I get the feeling that for the rest of the world it's a case of hanging on as best as possible until such times as the market levels off - with the caveat being that it might comes to rest at a position that only the Chinese can afford to maintain.
Reply to
Stephen Howard
Some of it may already be in effect. I ordered some reamers from J&L today. The new catalogue has only been out a week and already the prices were higher than catalogue list, by around 10% Oddly enough, the metric reamers were all made in USA, and the imperial ones came from India.
Reply to
Peter Neill
Spot on John, and just as applicable to Canada - or more so given the trivial size of our market! The only good thing in _our_ favour is our wealth of mineral resources, like Africa, which we are rapidly selling off to the Chinese, Japanese, Amerikuns or anyone else with a pocketful of cash. J.C! why are governments so short-sighted? selling us down the river for a handful of silver, it astounds me.
Here in BC, the Japanese bought our wood - as trees - put it on ships with mills aboard; milled it as they sailed home, used the sawdust as fuel for the ship's boilers, and landed home with vast quantities of freshly milled lumber. Then one government put a stop to "raw log" shipments, hooray! Next government, the present one, re-allowed such shipments. Now the folk on Vancouver Island watch enormous barges go by each day carrying logs to Washington State while the mills which formerly converted them are closed and the people out of work. Aye, weel, an American company bought up a Canadian company AND their timber land license (most timber in Canada belongs to the Crown), shut the mills and built a brand new mill in Washington State! End of rant as I could go on and on. Upshot - allow selling of raw material, but insist it be processed in the country of origin! Tertiary production only allowed abroad. Sorry UK, doesn't leave you with much, does it?
This has wandered off-topic, but I believe it's all part of the so-called 'globalization' of trade ie. the mega-corporations get to do what they want. Look at what WalFart have done to the States balance-of-trade.
Mike in BC, Canada, a hewer of wood and hauler of water.
Reply to
Michael Gray
Apropos this subject, I was reading today in the IMechE magazine, 'Professional Engineer', that the 600 Group have a bulging order book, with sales doubled compared to 2 years ago; markets expanding in the US and europe as well as the far east. They are also entering a partnership with a chinese m/c tool company called Dalian, 95% of whose output is sold within China. Make of that what you will.
Reply to
No, it's Brazil next, apparently.
Reply to
Charles Lamont
Bosch Rexroth the hydraulics people have a factory in Glenrothes.Four years back they were recruiting heavily to up production.Eighteen months ago they were paying everyone off and moving production to a new factory in Brazil.Today all production is back in Glenrothes and they are again recruiting. Another customer of mine who`s products are known to everyone from engineers to diy`ers closed their Scottish factory recently and moved it to Hungary.They have factories all over the world including China.This factory was all cnc,nothing over two years old and costing from =A3300,000 to =A3600,000 each.Now we are being asked to start producing for them again as they cannot get production out the Hungarians. Six months ago I would have said that engineering manufacture in this country was finished now I`m not so sure.As I said in a previous post we are seeing a lot of work coming back. It`s not down to cost as much as ability.These low cost countries just do not have the depth of experience in the workforce that the western world has.Of course a proportion of them have it but there is just not enough of them to handle the volumes of work that has been moved there from every technically advanced country in the world. In Hungary it seems that the years of communist rule have inbred a sense of" why should we work?we get our wages just the same if nothing is made." Personally I think India is going to be a bigger threat to the engineering industry than China will ever be. Mark.
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