Almost everything we buy today is made overseas. Although there are many contributing factors, the low cost of labor is the main reason. Off-shore manufacturing is so downright cheap that an item retailing for just a few dollars can be shipped to the U.S. and go through several layers of distribution, and the retailer at this end of the chain still makes a profit.
The effects of sending all our manufacturing to low-cost labor markets are many, but the most commonly noted effect is a difference in product quality; not just of any specific product but of every product. It’s been said that you “can’t get anything good anymore.”
Sometimes it certainly seems that way. No matter how much I’m willing to spend, I can’t buy plumbing fixtures that are made the way they used to make them, the kind that literally lasted a lifetime. But our perception of quality is affected by more than where something is made.
There are many ways to define quality, but my favorite is “performs as expected.” I expect certainthings from tools I found in the $7 clearance bin at a parts store, and different thing from those I buy from a tool truck. That’s because in this industry, quality doesn’t just come from the product. It comes from people too. If that 7-dollar tool works one time and then breaks, I got what I expected and I just won’t buy another. But I expect the tools you sell on your truck to stand up to everyday use for a very long time, maybe even for as long as I own them.
There are dozens of tools on your truck that were made overseas. Although your customers generally prefer to buy tools made in the USA, they’ll buy foreign-made tools from you. That's because you’re a pro selling tools to pros, and they expect your tools to last a very long time. They also know you’ll be back next week, and if there’s a problem with a tool you sold them, you’ll take care of that problem. They expect the same from their parts supplier, and their customers expect the same from them. No matter what product or service is being sold, if itdoesn’t do what the customer was told to expect, then it’s up to people who stand behind what they sell to add that final measure of quality.
It’s not always easy to find, and sometimes it’s expensive, but when it comes to professional grade tools and shop equipment, your customers know they can still get the good stuff.