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RE: Design via Internet (India & Mexico)

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Thank You very much! An Excellent point and very well stated.

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Wright [mailto:chrisw(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 1998 11:45 AM
To: SEAOC Newsletter
Subject: RE: Design via Internet (India & Mexico)

>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)        | this distance"   (last words of Gen.
___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)