August 2008

Points on China

It is difficult not to agree with most of Jim Pinto's comments on China in "China targets the Achilles' heel of Capitalism" in the April InTech. Basically, the weak joint is the West's desire for high profit returns in short timescales.

Before we get too despondent, it is worth listing just a few of China's own Achilles' heels, for it has enough of them to equip an average sized football team.

  • Lack of effective IPR protection that results in the production of poor quality cloned products and often downright dangerous fakes
  • Growing economic, political, and health disparities between the 'haves' and 'have nots'
  • Accelerating destruction of their environment
  • Woeful health and safety at work
  • Growing reports of corruption
  • Growing reliance on imported raw materials

Chinese workers have put on hold many of the freedoms and benefits workers in the West take for granted. They have swapped them for rapidly improving economic prospects (albeit from an extremely low starting point). Once life in China gets 'comfortable' for many Chinese workers, watch out!

But, I still agree with everything Jim wrote!

Tom S. Nobes, Process Instruments, Capability Leader

'Write on'

I enjoy reading Hans D. Baumann's articles in InTech. The May article on top-heavy management was as you put it "right on."

I can only say "write on!"

Needless to say, it is refreshing to read non technical views from a respected technical master.

It has been along time since I have seen Baumann, and I am happy to see he remains active in the Industry.

Tom McNichol, Global Sales Solutions

Automotive bureaucracy

Dear Hans Baumann,

I just read your opinion piece in the May InTech.

The slow slide of the U.S. automotive industry is, I believe, in part due to many of the factors which you site. It is also the result of insular thinking on the part of the auto industry about what automobile buyers want. For example, if you drive north on Interstate 75 out of Detroit, the number of foreign designed cars is minimal. If one takes the same trip north on Interstate 87, the mix of foreign designed and Detroit designed cars is considerably greater.

My point is Detroit and the local automotive bureaucracy do not design automobiles that appeal to the broad spectrum of U.S. buyers. … The result of management sitting in their offices and not knowing what is going on.

My rant.

Richard Weissbrod


You are certainly correct; there were also marketing errors. We see this now-too many large cars! Thanks for your comments.

H.D. Baumann

Fort McMurray praise

Good oil sands article (June InTech)!

Having spent 10 months (including a mild winter where it didn't get below a "balmy" -35°C) from July 2005 to April 2006 in Fort McMurray, I can attest to the fact that the oil sands technology is indeed profitable when the price of oil is at the $70 mark.

Equally impressive to the technology is the logistics and infrastructure in Fort McMurray to house, feed, and transport the workforce. The daily bus service between sites and Fort McMurray is amazing, not to mention the speeds at which the traffic speeds along.

Keep up the good work.

Brad S. Carlberg, P.E.

Boeing beaten fair and square?

Let me take a moment to comment on your article, "Boeing refuses to move on … hearings begin in Congress," in the June InTech Government News department. It is interesting to note the article is in lock step with the prevailing attitude of portraying Boeing as the "ugly American" complaining when it was beaten fair and square.

Now, I am certainly not an expert in this bidding competition for the aerial refueling tankers, which are to replace KC-135s, but I have Air Force contacts who are quite knowledgeable about Air Force tankers and mid-air refueling operations. There are those at the working level who fly the KC-135 missions regularly and manage the operations in combat situations who are of the opinion that the Northrop Grumman KC-45A tanker is simply too big to do the job. Now that is the rub with Boeing because for some inexplicable reason the contract award seems to have been made on the "bigger is better" basis.

As you stated, Boeing is protesting the Air Force was inconsistent in the way it assessed the bids. It is my understanding Boeing bid an airframe to replace the KC-135, just what the Air Force appears to have requested and what they need. Somehow, the contract was awarded for a plane larger than our current KC-10s, which are themselves too big to effectively take on the mission of the smaller KC-135s. Boeing could have bid a larger aircraft, but the Air Force was seeking a KC-135 replacement. That seems to be the thrust of their protest.

As far as "them dadgum furriners" you mentioned, I work with them on another multibillion dollar government contract, and they are very good at selling a "pig in a poke." It seems they may be into that mode on this contract. Why else is it necessary for the Senate Armed Services Committee to approve "$893.4 million in research and development funding for the Northrop tanker." I thought their tanker was supposed to be superior; now we learn it's a developmental aircraft. Wow!

Terry Bowers, P.E., ISA Senior Member