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Author Topic: So why are there no good electronics shops?  (Read 4848 times)
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nr Bundaberg, Australia
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So the massive road train trucks going by was a bit far fetched then
Not necessarily, they get to some pretty out of the way places. I've seen 4-trailer road trains in the middle of nowhere.

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or perhaps your life style made you miss it !
That may be part of it smiley

Actually now that I think about it the missus and I both we lost a lot in our superannuation, so I guess we weren't totally unscathed.
 
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I think there isn't sufficient opportunity to grow up  electronics shops that's why there is no good electronics shops.
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Peoples Republic of Cantabrigia
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Actually, due to all the regulation here, the difference is more than a few dollars. If an iPad 2 were made in America, it would cost $1,144.02 USD, instead of $400 USD.

Do you have a source for that quote? The only reason I ask is that I work in the manufacturing sector. True, a lot of appliances and so on have wandered offshore for a variety of reasons but I see no good reason why Apple could not replicate the same assembly lines it had in the US to make its computers way back when.

Consider this: On a typical US appliance, US labor, depreciation, regulations, etc. typically make up less than 15-20% of the COGS. That's my experience based on hundreds of teardowns, across a wide swath of appliances. I've visited many US manufacturers competing successfully with Chinese-made goods, even in commodity markets. It can be done. But the big temptation is to 'throw the problem over the wall', design the thing, market it, etc. but let someone else deal with making it. Fewer headaches, fewer on-book assets, etc. I get it, but certainly not a 'must'. And Apple has the scale to make any hard tooling worthwhile, if they wanted to.

Plus, a big danger IMO is no longer being at the cutting edge of what's possible - and hence losing sight of innovations in manufacturing, design and so on, because someone else is doing that for you. Once you lose sight of what things 'should' cost, the probability of negotiating with a reasonable chance of getting a good deal diminishes accordingly. Apple has done a remarkable job of bringing in outside experts, acquiring the companies, etc. to help them overcome these issues, and one can also argue the other side, i.e. it's easier to abandon old manufacturing techniques, etc. when one does not own assets that are going to turn into sunk costs.

The regulation boogeyman is trotted out repeatedly when it comes to explaining why manufacturing of electronics has moved to Asia. However, I believe the real answer is that the workers over there tolerate working conditions that are not acceptable in the US. Allowed, but not acceptable. Hiring and firing of vast numbers over 'here' is simply not as possible / easy /etc. as it is over 'there'. The US government also does not subsidize to the same extent as local, state, and federal agencies do in China, for example.

The other issue is that the sources for all the chips, components, etc. have moved over there long ago. So, the US no longer features a local infrastructure for many of the parts inside an iPad, just as the shoe industry, for example. That in itself makes local manufacturing (or assembly) more difficult because shipping the components separately from China vs. a single finished assembly is fraught with supply-chain issues. Plus, iPads and so on are so dense in terms of value vs. volume that air-shipping the stuff is the preferred method. Plus, it helps that the Chinese are willing to work for 1/10th the wages of a typical US worker.

The US could adopt some of the protectionist policies like Brazil and force local assembly of phones, iPads, etc. but ultimately, if you look at what the Chinese gain from the sale of an iPad vs. the profit that Apple reaps in selling them, I'd wager that Apple and it's shareholders is getting a pretty darn good deal. As supply chains consolidate and the Foxconns of the world attempt to reap higher margins, you may see manufacturing returning to companies like Apple. The companies that I see succeeding best producing in high-cost labor markets the world over are the ones that mass-customize locally to suit the tastes of the end-consumer.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 08:47:09 am by Constantin » Logged

Maine
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Here is one of many: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/05/how-much-would-the-ipad-2-cost-if-it-were-made-in-the-us-about-1-140/238508/

Although that cites a price of $729 (probably the pre-iPad 3 price). I grabbed the $400 price from the Apple Store when I made that post. Apple's refusal to lower their 38% - 55% profit margin has a lot to do with it, i'd imagine.

I don't see American workers ever working in the conditions that we see in China, and thats a bad thing. People over here have this idea that they should get paid for doing a crappy job, simply because their job is "hard".
« Last Edit: September 09, 2012, 03:12:51 pm by wizdum » Logged

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That the article is fundamentally flawed in it's assumptions is unfortunate.

What the Chinese do is to substitute labor for capital. Humans are wonderful in terms of how adaptable they are. Plus, we're talking contract manufacturers who are notoriously resistant re: making investments on behalf if fickle clients.

However in the US, labor is substituted with hard tooling, especially at iPad manufacturing volumes. Us mfg labor per the BLS is only $16/hr and $24 with bennies.
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SE USA
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what does this have to do with the topic at hand?
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I apologize for the tangent but the issue had to do with the physical infrastructure of hardware supplies and assembly having moved to China and hence there being no viable infrastructure in the US to supply budding electronic wunderkinds.  Along with the assertion that US-made iPads have to cost multiples of what they cost being made in China.

I do think that we are at a disadvantage in the US re: a good electronic component supply base. However, I'll also assert that part of the problem is the lack of demand - ie if rat shack and similar companies can't make money stocking 15 cent regulators and selling them for $2, then it's only logical for them to stick to selling cell phones, toys, etc.

IMO the problem is deeper, ie no or little positive reinforcement for kids to have a good role model re the benefits of science and engineering. In most schools, the geeks are marginalized, not put on a pedestal like jocks. Until that changes, I imagine you'll continue to see a drought in the engineering fields.  That, and the discrepancy in pay re: finance-related work vs. engineering.
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Maine
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I apologize for the tangent but the issue had to do with the physical infrastructure of hardware supplies and assembly having moved to China and hence there being no viable infrastructure in the US to supply budding electronic wunderkinds.  Along with the assertion that US-made iPads have to cost multiples of what they cost being made in China.

I do think that we are at a disadvantage in the US re: a good electronic component supply base. However, I'll also assert that part of the problem is the lack of demand - ie if rat shack and similar companies can't make money stocking 15 cent regulators and selling them for $2, then it's only logical for them to stick to selling cell phones, toys, etc.

IMO the problem is deeper, ie no or little positive reinforcement for kids to have a good role model re the benefits of science and engineering. In most schools, the geeks are marginalized, not put on a pedestal like jocks. Until that changes, I imagine you'll continue to see a drought in the engineering fields.  That, and the discrepancy in pay re: finance-related work vs. engineering.

So, to bring this back around, there are few electronic shops because there are few people that would actually be interested in purchasing from them. Everyone here likes online stores like Digikey (they can compete better on price), but to a student, or someone new to hardware, that can be a little overwhelming. If you try to look up "5v linear regulator" on digikey, you get over 22,000 results.
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Online stores certainly have their appeal in terms of selection, cost, and ease of getting components reliably. However, just as displacing the local butcher, baker, etc. losing the independents has side effects. For one, I expect it's harder now for small hardware companies to break into distribution than before. Then, there are the fickle vagaries of what the supermarkets of chip happiness may or may not stock.

Take the MAX3280 - a great little SOT23 package that allows you to receive RS485 signals. One day Digikey carries it, the next time I tried to order it, it was out of stock, just like some Atmega chips. Yes, there are alternatives to Digikey (Mouser, Allied, and Newark come to mind) but they're limited.

Then, there is the loss of the local 'watering hole' where fellow enthusiasts can meet. I guess Maker Faires, Artists Asylums, etc. make up a bit for all that, but most of us congregate here for a reason.
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I never really considered things like Constantin explains.
As far as I can see he has a point that there is a relation between the "culture" (in casu geeks/nerds not being popular/well paid) versus "electronic shops disappearing".
Imagine following situation
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Son: mom I want to be a electronics guy.
Mon: No, you won't.
Son: Mom I like electronics, why would I not do electronics?
Mon: If you want to earn your living you'd better become a banker.

I was at a fair where  David Cuartielles spoke. He stated Arduino sold 600.000 arduinos. Mac sold 55milion Ipads in 2 years  time. http://www.asymco.com/2012/02/16/ios-devices-in-2011-vs-macs-sold-it-in-28-years/
This is a huge difference. Moreover the Ipad is about 10 times the price of an arduino and won't last as long.
For me this holds 2 messages:
1) As a shop owner you prefer selling devices to electronic components.
2) There is not enough local electronics turnover to run a electronics shop. (Assume 600 local shops world wide; they sell 1000 each assume a profit of 10 euro each that makes enough to survive at most 5 months)
As there is the alternative of world wide shopping, local shops have gone.

Best regards
Jantje
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Maine
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I never really considered things like Constantin explains.
As far as I can see he has a point that there is a relation between the "culture" (in casu geeks/nerds not being popular/well paid) versus "electronic shops disappearing".
Imagine following situation
Quote
Son: mom I want to be a electronics guy.
Mon: No, you won't.
Son: Mom I like electronics, why would I not do electronics?
Mon: If you want to earn your living you'd better become a banker.


Reminds me of the first lecture my Computer Science professor gave us as incoming Freshmen. "If you want to make money and enjoy your job, go to school for software engineering and teach yourself to be a hardware engineer".
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This concept of lack of locally avalible electronic components is nothing new at all, and has almost nothing to do with China and change of where components are manufactured. I first got interested in electronics in the late 1950s, mostly from reading construction projects in magaizines like Popular Science, Mechanics illastrated, and later popular electronics, amoung others. While I lived in the San Francisco bay area, I was still greater the 20 miles from a major city that might have a store that would carry basic components needed for even simple projects, so basically unavailable source for a 10 year old. Sometimes I found a local TV repair shop that would sell me basic resistors or caps, but that wasn't the business they were in and I think they were just trying to encourage my interest in the subject rather then seeing me as a customer. Anyway I found that mail order catalogs were my best avenue to obtaining the components I needed to do some projects, from such outlets as Allied Radio, Lafayette electronics, etc. But more importantly I found that just studying those catalogs listings I could learn a lot about electronics, the components, their specifications, etc. So mail order to me was more then just where I could get stuff, but also a part of my self education in electronic, which was a big help to this 10 year old that had no friends or family members that shared or knew anything about electronics.

 It's my opinion that there has never been a better time to be a electronic hobbyist as the present in the way of availability of components, information about electronics, and obtaining help for problems or just learning the art and science of electronics.

Politics and the global market has little to do with an individual's interest in electronics and what he/she can accomplish in this field if they set their mind to it.

My whole life adult life employed in the electronics field was much like most pro baseball players might feel, "I can't believe they are paying me to play this game I would play for free".  smiley-grin

Lefty
« Last Edit: September 10, 2012, 11:45:28 am by retrolefty » Logged

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Well said. I'll simply add that my former hometown had a independent electronics store in walking distance. And a felt store, a butcher, several bakeries, a cake store, a store dedicated to umbrellas, another store focusing on gloves, arts supplies stores, a plastics emporium, multiple bookstores, goldsmiths, several supermarkets and department stores, etc. within 1000 yards of my home. I imagine like Harvard square in Cambridge that these specialists are a dying breed even in dense urban centers like Cologne, Germany.

That mail order is a 'necessary evil' for many crafts these days is not surprising. What bothers me, is that while the politicians, etc. do the talking about how we need more engineers, etc. scant little attention is put on what it takes to make the next generation of engineers. Unless you inspire kids to follow into the more difficult footsteps of engineering, you won't restock the ranks of the many inspired by Apollo, etc. to join this profession. Never mind the influence of parents, siblings, friends, and (worst of all) popular media.

Can't say I have seen many inspirational depictions of engineers in the popular media. only 'Apollo 13', "The right stuff', and so on comes to mind. No TV shows other than "how its made" that celebrate hard science or engineering accomplishments regularly.
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No TV shows other than "how its made" that celebrate hard science or engineering accomplishments regularly.

Don't forget Mythbusters. There is real science and engineering going on there.
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A newbie with loads of posts, and still so much to learn !
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Yes,  Mythbusters,   what a hard job those guys have eh?    I bet they dont even take annual leave, or have time off sick !
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With my mobile phone I can call people and talk to them -  how smart can you get ?

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