Friday, November 30, 2012

And Now, For The Viewers At Home

Two blogs in one day. I may crap myself. But this is one I've been meaning to write for a while, and it's not particularly timely, nor is it in keeping with my usual motif. Therefore, I'm just going to throw this out there.

No, this is not a plea for attention, by the by, though at times you may think so. Just saying. Onwards, then!

Mine is not an earth shattering blog of proportions epic and influence boundless. Counting this one, I'll have 25 posts. My little corner of the Internet, in three months, has garnered just under 800 views. Some of my posts have hit over 50 individual views, but most are in the 10-20 range. In short, not the most successful way of transmitting ideas.

However...I have some really weird numbers I would like to bring up now.

First, I have a fan base! There are 13 of you out three that read my blogs like clockwork. One is my husband, one is my sister, six are good friends...and that's what I know.

Whoever the rest of you are, thanks! (But seriously, who are you people?)

Next up there's this sweet little function provided by Google that tracks where views are coming from, what browser is used, what parts of the world I'm being viewed in, etc. Understandably, the lion's share of my hits are in the U.S.

The runners up, however, are (drumroll, please):

Germany, just under 60 views, and Russia, just under 50.

Uhhh...not that I mind. In fact I'm rather tickled. But who are you?! I mean really, there's someone in Germany or Russia that reads an American college student's blog about social issues? I'll freely acknowledge my deific fabulosity (yes, I made up a word. Sue me) but I'd love to find out why my blog interests you!

Finally, a minor little thing: if ya' read it, and ya' like it, would you share it on Facebook or Twitter? Yes, it's shameless plug time!

In all seriousness, though, if you read it, you probably agree with it. I'm not exactly about love and bunnies, people. And when you're as ranty as I am, dialogue is the only way to get a more open view of the world.

So please share Sum Iratus with your friends. Especially the friends that will hate me on first read and seek to force me to stop breathing through the power of debate. Those are the people I want to talk to most, to mutually expand our views of the world.

That, and I just like knowing people read my stuff.

To recap:

1. Woot to mah fans! Drop a line so I can find out who you are, please!

2. Holy crap, German and Russian people! You especially, talk to me! I thirst for the knowledge of why you read my stuff!

3. Share my stuff, please. Cause I'm awesome, yes, but also so we can get some debate going around the issues I discuss.

And thanks to all of you who read this Cogito, Ergo Sum Iratus, for proving that an angry writer with a mad-on for society and humanity in general deserves some loving too.

Made in America. No, Really!

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the rare happy blog. I know, where the hell did this come from? Well, a wonderful lady I know posted this article a few days ago. Very short synopsis: the manufacturing industry has come to the realization that outsourcing wholesale is probably not a good idea. 

Normally, this would be a "point and laugh" moment, around four hundred words that all boil down to "holy gods, you idiots." But in this case, the realization comes not from catastrophe or bankruptcy, or the slow bleed of the economy. It comes because someone had a freaking brilliant epiphany and actually tried doing it the other way.

General Electric, that venerable old house of absolutely everything that can be designed and built (no seriously, they've built just about everything at some point) is the proud owner of this monstrosity:

This is Appliance Park. That's a factory so big it has it's own zipcode. The five manufacturing plants and the warehouse take up 103 acres, or 4.5 million square feet. And that's just the buildings. We're not including the freaking parking lot, which, you may notice, is nearly as big as the buildings. Appliance Park has it's own fire fighting station, for gods' sakes.

It's been pretty much dead or dying since 1973. A great big chunk of wasted space. Between the "death" of the American manufacturing industry, and the outsourcing boom, this massive facility had a whopping 1,863 people working there in 2011.

And then, someone realized the innovative, brilliant designs they'd been sending overseas had two major problems: 

FIrst, once you send something out of sight, it gets a lot easier to steal. I mean, if you designed a brilliant device that enhanced the consumer experience and market, and was worth millions of dollars, would you then promptly ship it off to another country where the only thing between your million dollar idea and a thousand cheap knockoffs was some guy whose only concern is making sure he hits production quota?

Second, there's no way to ensure any of the following: quality of product, design viability in manufacturing, stable shipping costs, and receipt of intact product. In order to get those things, there has to be lots and lots of little checks and balances that add up to a lot of money when there's an ocean between you and your product.

What does this all boil down to? 

GE started bringing their products back state-side. And not just "power up the lines and crank it out." They grabbed people off the line and asked them "what would make this easier to build?"

They had a dishwasher assembly line that went from one end of a building to the other end and back. Remember, these are huge buildings. So they asked the guys building them how to fix this. They then guaranteed to all employees working to streamline production that they wouldn't lose their jobs. 

And when they did, in fact, cut production time by 10 hours, GE asked the guys on the line what piece of the dishwasher they thought would be better off being built in the states. They chose the control panel, and the whole team sat down and figured out an efficient production line for building that

Their new, incredibly efficient water heater? Brought it state side. Assembly dudes took one look at it and went, "Dafuq. Were. You. Thinking?"

It had this weird coil thing that had to be welded perfectly. The whole water heater depended on it being welded perfectly. The tiniest screw up, and that water heater would either not work, or not perform to spec. And it would die faster. 

Assembly dudes sat down with design dudes to try and fix the problem. They ended up redesigning the water heater from the ground up, this time taking manufacturing process into account. It's now 60% more efficient, and 20% cheaper. Not even kidding.

This. Is. Fabulous!

So what is it? 

It's called lean manufacturing. And until GE started in on it, the only stateside companies taking advantage of it were car manufacturers. Why should you care?

Partly because manufacturing and skilled labor jobs could make a comeback. Not enough to turn the economy around by itself, but any jobs are good jobs in an economy as fragile as ours is right now. 

But mostly because it's the best freaking thing I've heard in the news in a long time. One of the oldest and largest companies in the U.S. has just come to the sudden realization that assembly line guys and gals are valuable resources that can make their products better. You know all that crap that falls apart on you every day? 

That could conceivably go away in the next few decades. Products might not only become more innovative, they might actually start to look cool. Manufacturing and assembly might become a viable U.S. industry again. We might go back to being a nation with a real industrial contribution to the world, instead of being an exporter of our crappy pop culture. 

In short, "Made in the U.S." might, some day in the relatively near future, actually mean Made in the U.S.

Not "partially assembled in the U.S. after a dozen or so parts were built elsewhere by people we can't talk to cause we only speak English due to ethnocentrism." 

We might be able to visit a foreign country and see "Made in America" labels on products. We could flip a microwave over and not try to pronounce the place name of some country in Euarasia or South America. 

We…could be proud of the products our fellow citizens built. With their hands. On our soil. In our factories

Holy. Fucking. Shit. We could actually have something to be proud of beyond being one of the richest nations, with the greatest excess, and the best equipped military. 

I could stand here and say, honestly and with a straight face: 

"Damn. Look at that awesome thing. That got built here. I'm so freaking proud to be an American right now."