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Buy Local! But why?….

Aug 21, 2013 | Posted by Matt Elson


Those of you who know me, know that I am a big supporter of buying local for two big reasons. First, it supports the local economy, which is good for the community. Second, (putting my TPS hat on for a moment), it reduces, in many (most) cases, the overall system costs by reducing inventory & lead-time, increasing market flexibility and reduces supply chain costs (anybody who had to fly a plane full of parts from overseas because of a quality problem or engineering change can attest to this one!).

So, I try to buy products that are made in Canada and the USA when possible (one could argue that Mexico is also “local”, but maybe that would be a bit of a stretch, considering the logistics challenges there). I would say that most people, if given the chance, would do the same. I think that this is a trend that you’re starting to see in advertising (as companies start to realize the marketing power behind “Made in xxxxx”), as well as in political commentary and in social commentary.

That’s great, but there is a catch…what we make as to be competitive! We can’t just rely on our morals to help bring these jobs back or create wealth in our economies. The old saying goes: “The buck stops here.” History has shown that people will usually try to save money (even if they have to spend more in the long run because of suspect quality).

A great example of this happened to me personally recently while shopping for a new car seat for our son, who is at the point where he’s outgrown his “bucket seat”. We went to the store, and I was surprised and excited to see “Designed AND Made in Canada” on one of the products. You can bet I made a beeline to this product, taking my wallet out at the same time…I was going to buy this seat, even if it cost more!

Unfortunately, after getting over the slick promotional materials, we both realized that the seat lacked many of the features of the other seats (side impact cushions, cup holders, etc.) and the quality seemed shoddy (very little cushioning in the seat itself…felt more like a piece of metal under the fabric, rather something that is soft and comfortable for our son’s bum!). All this with about a 20% premium attached to it! I could have (maybe) looked past the premium price, but the bottom line is that it was an INFERIOR product compared to the other ones, so we passed it over. I was very disappointed in the whole experience…kind of bummed out, really!

I think if we are really going to make a difference, we need to make good quality products at home that can compete with other products, based on features AND cost.

That’s the power behind TPS…the system drives costs down constantly, and sets an organizational system in place that frees our minds to innovate and improve quality in the long run. You don’t have to skimp out on quality…just focus on the important things every day (standardized work for team members and leadership). The system will tell you when to react.

In the mean-time, lets work on designing that flying car or the robot butler! (Made in North America, of course!)


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