Made in China. You see it all the time. Then you see stories that surround some of the world’s largest corporations, manufacturing premium consumer products and the ethics they purport to hold, but don’t quite follow through to the last degree with their OEM suppliers. Working conditions, hours and the age of ‘employees’ are all frequent news headlines, that sit at odds with the Western consumers ideals, so it is understandably and rightly, a major issue.
As parents, we were absolutely certain that we would not compromise. We feel that the best way to deliver the standard of living to a family that we take for granted, is to take all reasonable steps to avoid manufacturers that do not demonstrate the same employment ethics we do. Lead by example would be a shorter way of saying it.
What you need to know, is that by comparison to these multi-billion dollar corporations, even a large loudspeaker OEM manufacturer, is tiny. There is no opportunity to hide dubiously sourced workforce in square kilometers of factory because we are dealing with specialist engineering manufacturing in units of hundreds, not vast assembly lines gearing up for a release day 10 million-seller.
We know, because we went over and checked and we have a history with the OEM. They are not too big, but big enough to handle large volume productions.
For those who might doubt the outsourcing of minor components like screws? Well, you can be 100% certain those same screws are being imported by the billion into manufacturers across Europe for inclusion in premium ‘EU Made’ products. As a small manufacturer, as all European AV and Hi-fi manufacturers in global terms are, we can only do so much. We have to manage our expectations in the parts of the supply chain we can affect directly.
But why not manufacture in Europe?
Well, that’s the same question that was being asked 40 years ago about Japanese manufacturing, 20 years ago about Korean manufacturing, etc. etc. Nobody now doubts that these economies have caught and even exceeded western standards of living and that was through our investment in their products. 10 years from now, the same discussion will be had in China, but about buying African goods. What would be worse is developing economies not getting foreign money, because then they could never get on the road to achieving our levels of living.
The truth is, costs are currently lower in China. Relative to their cost of living, our OEM pays very good wages, but they are not Western level. Then again, plenty of people earn a satisfying living in the tundra of Northern Scandinavia, at a fraction of the average wage in the City of London and that’s all within Europe. The person that empties your bins, can only dream of earning the same as the doctor that may live in your street and that’s in the same town anywhere in the world. We can strive to close these gaps and improve the lot of the nations with which we work, but we won’t do that by not trading with them.
Another factor is that many of the more expensive raw materials used in loudspeakers are mined and made in China. Over 90% of the world’s Neodymium deposits are in China and it’s simply not practical, or green, to refine and manufacture Neodymium magnets anywhere else. Indeed, one of the main cost and green benefits of manufacturing in China, is in manufacturing close to all of the raw material sources and processors, hugely minimizing road and sea miles carrying wasted by-product. If you disagree with this, I trust you will throw your phone, tablet, computer, TV, etc, out immediately!
Finally and this is where the big gains have been made in the last decade – Rapid prototyping and production setup. The Chinese far out-pace the west in response times. It is possible to spec a prototype part, have it manufactured, shipped and in the test phase faster and have it done so to very high, consistent manufacturing tolerances.
This quality is borne out in the end product, with tight manufacturing tolerances and thorough quality control throughout the entire manufacturing process, at a cost that would be impossible in Europe.
We believe we have balanced our ethical responsibilities with our company ethos, to deliver a product of unsurpassed quality, reliability and performance at a price that benefits everybody involved, right down to you, the proud end user.
Designed in Norway. Conceived in China. Raised by you.