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RE: Design via Internet (India & Mexico)

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>The idea of a Global economy is fine - if and only if every one were on the
>same economic level. 

Agreed, but there's more to it. 'Global economy' sounds like some great unified marketplace, but it just ain't so. Right now it means the ability to send promises around the world in a split second where once people had to shake hands. When it comes to understanding those promises and delivering, things start to break down. Free trade would be a wonderful thing, but it's not going to happen for a while. There are too many customs and practices that Americans simply don't understand or choose to ignore, just like we've been doing since Commodore Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay.

The Asian financial crisis is the latest wake-up call that global business standards are just as different as always. Likewise technical standards. Take the 'Chinese flange' episode reported by the National Board. Following some pipe flange failures the National Board ran a year long investigation and found bogus identification markings, non-compliant material and wretched construction in pipe flanges imported from China. In one instance a steam line flange broke during a pre-hydrotest bolt-up here in Minnesota. Turned out that the flange wasn't a forging as required by the specification ID stamped on the OD, but a piece of cut plate with the hub 'welded' on. Worse, the weld was slugged: wire placed in the groove was overlaid with weld metal and machined to the required contour. No one found out who exactly made the flanges--that got lost in a web of importers, exporters and trading companies. The flanges came with the right paperwork and were indistinguishable from real pipe flanges: if they'd broken with the system on line, people would have died.

A few years ago U.S. industry got whacked with low quality bolts having counterfeit grade identification. Counterfeit bolts failed in service causing loss of life and property damage. The Defense Industrial Supply Center found that 30% of its supply of fasteners (about 9 tons of bolts) had to be scrapped because there was no way to tell the good bolts from the crap. Now we have the Fastener Quality Act, although I can't imagine someone would forge grade markings and balk at forged paperwork, especially someone who can safely ignore U.S. laws.

A bigger issue?protection against misrepresented or forged evidence of standards compliance?is probably lost on the suits who can't think further than profits on pricey exports. Our regulatory structure and legal system can't touch foreign suppliers. The best we could do with copyright violation and software piracy was a promise to try to do better from the same people who denied shooting up Tienamen square. And I daresay any other form of intellectual property, like design drawings, is about as safe. What's more if your offshore design firm screws up, you know who's going to be hauled into court, if only because going after citizens of another country is an even bigger hassle than suing your fellow Americans.

Before you take this as a Jesse Helms-style xenophobic rant, I really like the idea of international trade. Fair trade does wonders for people's lives and for product quality. If not for the VW bug and the Honda, Detroit would still be flogging the same crap they gave us in the 20 years following WWII. The notion that I can work with someone in Jordan or Singapore on a design analysis problem is a big-time rush. And I like the idea of Americans building factories in Central America and paying people good wages so they can buy cars and TV sets and even decent drinking water. But that's not what it's about, is it, folks? Kathy Lee and the Pakistani kids making soccer balls and rugs showed us that. My own opinion is that 'global economy' has become a buzzword like 'supply side' and 'service economy' so greedheads can say 'Screw you, Jack, I'm all right,' without offending our sensibilities.

Christopher Wright P.E.    |"They couldn't hit an elephant from
chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com        | this distance"   (last words of Gen.
___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)
http://www.skypoint.com/~chrisw