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Marc Herman
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Blogger
Re: Too Cool To Boycott?
Marc Herman   5/31/2011 3:46:01 AM
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Thanks for the reply, HC. Points all well-taken. To me it seems we're talking about two issues, which are the legal ones regarding labor and environmental standards required of imported goods, and the cultural ones regarding a US-based company's ability to carry on a relationship with an Asian manufacturer, at least to the extent that they can adhere to the legal standards. To take it out of the Apple/Foxconn case for a moment, we know, pretty conclusively, that lots of agricultural goods on the international market are the result of child labor. Importing goods produced by child labor is illegal in the US. However, I would bet that any chocolate bar you buy in any store in the US is, if not directly produced by a child's labor, reflects a market greatly influenced by the amount of child labor in, to use one example, the cocoa market. So how does one do business in chocolate bars? Very carefully, or with an air of blissful ignorance, seem to be the two most common solutions.

In electronics, as with clothing decades ago, we know that standards are different in different parts of the world, and those differences in standards are in part what makes it useful for companies to outsource parts or all of their production process. Why are there gold mines in Indonesia and Romania and Guyana, but not in California? Because the former have lower environmental standards, and lower liabilities for accidents, than the latter.

I'm not telling you anything you don't know. What I'm getting at is, in the case of Apple/Foxconn, the solution would seem to be a greater degree of transparency. I suspect, though can't prove, that articulating the reasons behind the accident -- including the cultural challenges you describe so well -- would help all involved. At some point, Apple or whomever is working with Foxconn will catch the attention of regulators. This could come, as it did in the case of clothing manufacturers, as a result of public outcry. It could come because some member of Congress decides to hold hearings on whether US companies are adhering to US import law. It could happen because a Chinese story gets so garish -- last year's suicides, for example -- that international press stay on the story a few cycles longer than usual. Or it could not happen at all, sure. But in that case, then we have to wonder why we have the import laws in the first place. And, indeed, why we bother telling these stories at all.

Thanks again for the insights.

Hardcore
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Supply Network Guru
Re: Too Cool To Boycott?
Hardcore   5/30/2011 9:01:42 PM
NO RATINGS

 

Hi Mark,

yes... I would prefer not to write under a pseudonym, but it is more a requirement for personal protection, I'm proud to say I have had a number of credible death threats, one of which was made by 'directors' of a Chinese company and in front of other whitenesses (which would tend to indicate I'm successful in my job ;-) ).

I deal with these sorts of 'issues' regularly and in the past have done so for some large companies, in many cases a manufacturing facility may have numerous rules and regulations in place, but unfortunately mainland Chinese excel at rule breaking, possibly as a result of the environment/government controls which ensure that the only way to accomplish anything is to break any number of rules. 

All over China you will see government 'standard' slogans that state:

"People have a responsibility to......", (... equates to what you should/should not do) this is a set Chinese expression.

This tends to have a knock on effect as regards health and safety(H&S) thoughts of the general public, in that they generally ignore such statements.

We could say it is the responsibility of managers & supervisors to control workers, but such a statement generally indicate a lack of understanding of Chinese factories, their size, number and educational background of workers.

As an example: I once berated a Chinese worker for crossing a main road with her eyes closed, her reply was not unexpected, she simply stated that she had as much right on the road as the vehicles(under Chinese law she is correct), but that since she was afraid of the vehicles, she would close her eyes … and run. Unfortunately this had a knock on effect for the other workers, since they would observe it was generally a successful way to cross the road and would follow suit, I on the other hand had seen this technique employed less successfully on more than one occasion. This sort of negative learning occurs continually in a production environment making it very difficult to stamp out.

Personally I feel that if Foxconn or its customers were in anyway at fault, that they should be well and truly shafted, but having been involved in the investigation of a couple of factory fires, I understand that getting to the bottom of the cause can be problematic (rules were clearly in place , but workers deliberately ignored them),in both cases whilst the investigations were (by western standards) chaotic, the local police/fire staff did an exceptional job of locating the causes, one of which was an 'impromptu' rewiring of the staff dormitories power supply by one of the factory engineers so that they(a group of staff) could get 'free' power.

Fortunately, neither case resulted in deaths, furthermore no information was to be found in any local paper or other report, compensation was paid to the workers who lost belongings in the fire, and a couple of staff 'disappeared'.

In the case of Foxconn I do not think there is a deliberate policy to flout  H&S, because it would be far too unprofitable and disruptive, but I do suspect that perhaps some of Foxconn's customers do not the right 'mix' of expertise for identifying potential issues, certainly if this explosion turns out to have been caused by Aluminum dust, it is a fairly common problem in other businesses that inject mold and be-burr aluminum parts.

As regards  "Terry Gou, hired Buddhist monks to pray for the workers ",

 It is easy for westerners to think this is 'funny', having been brought up to believe in a single god, but asians take this sort of thing VERY seriously, specifically because of issues related to dead people & unhappy Ghosts/Spirits. If Terry had not done this, then he would have received far more criticism from asians, for being uncaring and disrespectful to the dead, and it may very well have sparked further panic in the factory with some of the workers thinking that the ghosts of the dead were pulling more workers with them to the underworld, dealing with the dead in Asia is a highly complex area, especially if the persons death was un-natural.

 

HC

 

 

 

Kunmi
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Too Cool To Boycott?
Kunmi   5/29/2011 1:31:51 AM
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Ringing at the bottom of every investor is the profit and this is not dependent on the current or future. If you know the answer to this question please let know: Is outsourcing of job reversible? If Apples engaged in working with Foxconn, it is all about profit.

Tvotapka
User Rank
Stock Keeper
Re: Re : Apple: Too Cool to Boycott?
Tvotapka   5/28/2011 10:03:25 PM
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This situation - and all similar ones before it - bring up the concept of ethics and group dynamics. Responsibility and accountability aren't necessarily dependent on zip codes.

Mr. Roques
User Rank
Supply Network Guru
Re: Too Cool To Boycott?
Mr. Roques   5/28/2011 12:56:26 PM
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"the more than efficient legal systems in China, in some cases this can result in life imprisonment or death sentence" ... haha! it's truly more than efficient, not very democratic but lets say it works.

This can't be blamed on Apple but the stress it puts on their contrators really has something to do with it.

Marc Herman
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Too Cool To Boycott?
Marc Herman   5/25/2011 10:09:34 AM
NO RATINGS

Hardcore, whomever that is, has usefully provided the standard rebuttal, and it's good to see that finally arriving to the discussion; even cliches have their uses. In this case, what interested me most about Apple specifically isn't that it's chiefly culpable. Rather, of all the companies doing business with Foxconn, it's by far the most valuable, and arguably, the one with the most success marketing its products by associating them not with quality or price or the usual selling points, but with a particular Apple culture. So when something bad happens at an assembly facility Apple contracts, it's interesting to me that bad news doesn't specifically stick to Apple. Because the kind of marketing they do would seem to make them more vulnerable to a backlash. More so than HP, say, who never put billboards of Gandhi up to sell their products ("Think Different," etc). That's not to say Apple is being hypocritical. I don't much care if they are. But I do wonder why Apple's client base, who are exactly the sort of people who tend to care about this sort of thing, don't. The predictable answer is HC's -- that this is egocentric hippie feel-good nonesense. But I'm not trying to ask whether or not boycotting is the right response. Rather, I'm asking why it hasn't happened, since the kind of people who buy apple products have, for better or worse, used this tactic before, in their responses to similar cases outside the electronics industry. I don't think it's because they think the Chinese courts will take care of it. I think it's because conditions are not well reported, because there's little funding to do so. And thus, they are not well understood. But it could be, as HC appears to believe, just knee-jerk silliness. I'm not sure there's evidence for that. Or at least, there's evidence that other explanations are more likely.

 

As far as uniformed and one-sided, I agree. We are uninformed because we are not able to inform ourselves about these sorts of cases as easily as we are other things, like the specs of an iPad. And we are one-sided insofar as we believe something went drastically wrong last year, and appears to have yet to reach a remedy. So the little news we have is all somewhat discouraging. It's possible that something fabulous is happening under the radar, of course, and if so, do us the favor and tell us what it is, in detail.

FLYINGSCOT
User Rank
Supply Network Guru
FLYINGSCOT
FLYINGSCOT   5/25/2011 9:33:03 AM
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Sorry for posting material from other sites but I saw this on Newelectronics.......

"The explosion at Foxconn is just the latest in a long list of problems for the company. It recently endured a spate of suicides which many blamed on poor working conditions. A total of 16 people leapt from the company's high buildings, resulting in 12 deaths. Another 20 people were stopped by the company before they could make similar attempts. Further controversy arose when the company's chairman, Terry Gou, hired Buddhist monks to pray for the workers and announced plans to build nets around the dormitories to catch any jumping employees."

Jacob
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Supply Network Guru
Re: Too Cool To Boycott?
Jacob   5/25/2011 7:46:02 AM
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1 saves

     We are bothered only about the wide popular brands. Most of the companies are outsourced the components manufacturing and they are just assembling the components under some popular brands. I know in china many of the popular cloth brands are coming from small scale industrial units. They supply raw materials to these peoples and they will do the work on behalf of them, finally they will collect the finished products and put branded labels.

    For companies, they can have the products at a cheaper cost without any extra infrastructure or investments. Most of such products are medium to average in quality.

Hardcore
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Supply Network Guru
Re: Too Cool To Boycott?
Hardcore   5/25/2011 7:28:46 AM
NO RATINGS


It is actually makes interesting  reading, to see how many uninformed one sided views are being expressed against Apple.

There are a number of factors to consider:

 

1. Foxconn also assembles product for other suppliers ,including HP as well as some other well known US brands, and yet we very rarely see this information in such posts.

2. Chinese factory safety laws are in some respects tighter than western countries, if any liability for the death of staff can be placed at the door of the factory owner or management, then generally such matters are handled by the more than efficient legal systems in China, in some cases this can result in life imprisonment or death sentence as well as the mandatory compensation to workers families.

 

Apple and other companies using Foxconn  do have a role to play in this , and that would be ensuring that Foxconn is following all reasonable precautions regarding safety, but again Apple is pushing technology to such an extent that currently no one really knows what triggered the explosion, maybe it was the Aluminum powder, or perhaps an Iron tool made contact with a grind wheel, or there is the possibility of solvents.

But Until the exact cause of the explosion has been discovered, it is a bit premature to lay this at Apples door. If they or Foxconn are guilty  then they both deserve to be taken to the cleaners, that said it is notoriously difficult to run a production facility in China and ensure that all the staff/mangers are doing what they are supposed to do.

As regards 'boycotting' Apple, any slack in their sales will gladly be taken up by Chinese consumers, so ultimately such actions will be totally ineffective, but if it makes you feel like you are contributing to the cause, knock yourself out.

 

HC



garyk
User Rank
Inventory Controller
Too Cool To Boycott?
garyk   5/24/2011 6:35:39 PM
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All the talk is about Apple and Foxconn, Apple only cares about the profit they don't care about what happens at Foxconn. Yes they should care! The funny thing is CHINA doesn,t care how Foxconn runs there business, they just want the assembly CHINA. The USA should care how Apples controls there assembly at Foxconn. What about all the conterfeit product?

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