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WSJ Article on Mattel’s Case

August 6th, 2007

The Wall Street Journal article, “Toy Recall Shows Challenge China Poses to Partners” (08/03/07) touches on several points raised in the quality fade article.

“Public-health experts say Chinese manufacturers repeatedly revert to lead paint regardless of the rules because it is cheap and readily available, and helps factories meet relentless pressure to contain costs.”

The important suggestion here is that suppliers willfully engage in quality fade. I am not sure that I agree that the only cause is economic pressure, though. Certainly fifteen-year contract with Mattel is a nice bit of business. If they are like most suppliers, they paid off their capital and equipment a long time ago.

“Sometimes, toys that have passed inspection more than once are later found to contain excessive levels of lead paint — a sign Chinese companies may have been able to game the safety inspections.”

Ah, what a lovely bit. The paper is supporting the idea that suppliers may circumvent third-party testing. This is quite a turnabout from earlier calls for ‘more testing’.

“From the size of the recall, we’re not talking about accidental use of paints,” says Paul Mushak, a toxicologist at PB Associates, a Durham, N.C., risk-assessment firm specializing in toxic metals. “We’re talking about something that’s been a conventional practice.”

The problems are systemic? You don’t say…

Mattel won’t publicly name the manufacturer until the El Segundo, Calif., company completes an investigation of how the toys were tainted.

I noted a big problem for suppliers is that they don’t tend to share information, even when it’s in their best interest to do so. This was also briefly mentioned in my previous post in which I mentioned a case in Australia.

Here is the link to the WSJ article [reg req'd]. So, does quality fade affect the little guy? In light of this major case with Mattel, it would seem that the big buyer is affected by it also.

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