Poorly Designed, and Then Made in China

Thursday, August 13, 2009 23:35
Posted in category From the Factory Floor

While it has been 2 years since Lead Paint Barbie hit the store shelves, I have seen a flurry of related activity over the last two weeks. From books on “Made in China”, to two Posts at China Law Blog The Six (Not Five) Keys To China Quality and Six More Keys To Quality Product Made In China., and wrapping up with another recall.

A recall whose roots are in poor design, much like those 18 million magnets that forced Mattel’s recall, and are now bring out the entire “Made in China” quality fade debate. The specific product that is forcing the recall is a plastic nail that is about 3 1/4 inches (7.6 centimeters) long

The Little Tikes Co. is recalling about 1.6 million toy workshops and trucks, after an 11-month-old boy got a plastic nail lodged in his throat.

… and to make sure they cover their bases, they are recalling 15 years worth of product!!

Now, I do not want to take anything away from this boys pain, nor do I want to suggest that brands like Mattel and Little Tikes do not have a responsibility to design products that cannot be swallowed, but I would like to once again What Level of Product Failure is Acceptable?

Is 1/1,600,000 a percentage that warrants the return of the remaining items?

If yes, then does it make sense to recall the entire set, or should (in the name of waste management) Little Tikes simply tell parents to mail in the nails for an exchange of a new product?

Over the next few weeks, look for more on this. Following my read of “poorly made in China”, my brain has been on fire over the subject. It is one of those books that offered an opportunity for me to see things between lines … and I will be putting together a series of posts focused on the myth that is quality fade, the underlying issues, and some strategies I have for minimizing supply chain failures.

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2 Responses to “Poorly Designed, and Then Made in China”

  1. Andrew Reich says:

    August 17th, 2009 at 12:49 am

    This is a good point. I would say that about 50% of the product recalls from China that we see are due to poor design of the product on the US/Euro side. An extremely dangerous recall recently released which is exactly this is that of a Fiesta BBQ Grill. Designers had the regulator tube (the tube that carries the propane gas) too close to the burner in the design. Possibly a result of recent cutbacks and layoffs by US companies? Letting go old and tenured talent who have an experienced eye for such design? For more on this recall see: http://www.quality-wars.com/2009/07/29/product-recall-of-the-week-bbq-grills-by-fiesta-blue-ember/

  2. admin says:

    August 22nd, 2009 at 12:52 am


    You make a good point on the “old and tenured”. Not to take away anything from those who have 20 years of experience in manufacturing a product, or implementing programs in the US, I wonder how often their experience can actually hinder their work in China?

    I worked with one client to set up a factory, and the person brought over for the work was a god in the company, and in their industry. HE had set up factories in S. America and Europe (successfully), but at times he would miss small things that were “Chinese”. I don’t think anything would have led to a bigger issue, but it makes me wonder…