Abandon just-in-time manufacturing to save the audio industry?


One of the most colorful people I’ve ever met in the audiophile field is Craig Pease. He was the pioneer of the audiophile who saw the market for high-end desktop audio at a time when computer screens were a few feet thick. It was a very, very long time ago. His brand, Evett & Shaw, was about the most extreme I’ve ever come across in that every part had to be the best known to man. Elan rectangular desktop speakers were handcrafted in Salt Lake City, Utah, with sides that included exotic woods, colored “polymers” (like Spinal Tap’s label), or even organic stone. . The “pedestals” on which the small speakers rested were often thin, hand-cut pieces of polished real stone, like samples you might find in a kitchen design shop. Speaker stands put Goldmund cones to shame. But get this…the speakers were actually packed in a Zero Halliburton metal suitcase that you could use later for your next Miami Vice drug deals. That was a lot of insight, creativity, performance, and value for a $2,200-per-pair desktop speaker — especially in those days.

evett&shaw elan watch

There was, however, a problem with Evett & Shaw and in particular their increasingly popular Elan loudspeakers. They were a bit difficult to build. It’s not that the Utah team couldn’t build them the way they could and often did to bespoke specs. The problem was to have all the 120+ parts on hand to be able to finish the speakers. Simply put, more than 20 years before today Supply chain issues inspired by COVID-19 – these speakers were often a nut out of stock or a resistor (or something) short of being able to ship. Think of the image of last fall with all those GM cars sitting in a parking lot in Michigan waiting for microchips. It was Evett & Shaw in the early 2000s but with colorful speakers like a “Blueberry iMac” instead of electric cars but the problem remains the same.

imac blueberry

5-Porsche911-993-C2-1995In the 1990s, every business school was enthusiastically promoting the concept of JIT (aka: just-in-time) manufacturing. A prime example of this in practice is how Porsche transformed its entire business in the mid-1990s, from delivering one of the most faulty cars rolling off the production line to one of the brands of most reliable cars in the world today. Porsche achieved this with the help of two “retired” Japanese automaker CEOs showing them how to use more modern manufacturing techniques and JIT manufacturing to build a better car. What no one saw coming is when demand increases, as it does in the age of COVID, there could be severe shortages of the parts needed to make an end product. . Just as it can sometimes be difficult to find toilet paper, Clorox wipes or formula. The internal parts needed to make AV components can also be scarce.

Every business that builds a physical product aims to be as efficient as possible and just-in-time manufacturing meets that never-ending goal, but there are times when having finished inventory is just more important than pinching a dime on costs. pieces. There’s a recent COVID-era success story in the performance-value speaker business from a company that acted on its hunch that more people might want their speakers and subwoofers thanks to COVID so let them take care of the inventory. With transducers from China, like most everything we consume in our economy today, it takes months to manufacture, ship, and organize inventory to be able to fulfill orders under the best circumstances. The management of this AV company decided to stock up and stock up, and what a great idea that was. While other companies are cleaning up products for sale, they’re full of speakers and subs that can be shipped now for your newly built AV cavern. And they make a lot of money now.

The audio industry needs changes

Maybe it’s time to reconsider how high-end audio products are built, manufactured, packaged and sold?

Is it time to simplify audiophile products? Is it time to order enough parts to be closer to manufacturing inventory so we can always make more products? Is it time to use more and more domestically sourced products, ranging from parts to cabinets to shipping boxes, packaging, and more? ?

It’s very difficult to be in business when you have nothing to sell.

6. Harbor

From the balcony of my house you can see at least a dozen container ships floating in the Pacific Ocean awaiting unloading at the Port of Los Angeles or Long Beach – where 40% of all cargo arrives for consumption in this country. A lot of hype has been made about saving in ports and rightly so. There are real issues with the way truckers get paid for their time, so many have taken their chance to be part of “The Great Resignation” leaving countless $100,000-a-year jobs open for those looking. a new career. The biggest problem is that the economy has changed dramatically globally. Economists suggest we have moved from a 70-30 split between “services” and “products” to more of a 50-50 balance. In the most basic assessment, there is more pressure on the ports today because there is a much greater volume of products coming into the country for us to purchase. You don’t have to dig too deep into our lives to see how we’ve all changed our spending habits. For me, I try to play the top 100 golf courses in America (Golf Magazine 2013-14 list). I have 73/100 and 19 of the top 20 so far but I haven’t played a new Top 100 in over 18 months. Hell, I haven’t flown in over 23 months when I used to fly 12-15 times a year. I also don’t go to NHL hockey games anymore. I don’t really eat out unless it’s out and even that’s rare. The money I used to spend on services and experiences is now invested more in, for example, kitchen appliances, a new “used” car, etc. Tangible objects. I bet the same goes for you too.

There’s always room for a better audiophile experience, but it’s hard without some really fantastic audiovisual equipment. Much of the best audiophile gear is made here in the USA, but it’s nearly impossible to make said products without parts/chips/etc. made in China. If you don’t have a good supply of it on hand, then good luck to you earning a living or running and/or growing your business.

If the goal is to find and cultivate a new generation of audiophiles younger than Gen-X over 45s (like me), then seeing huge increases in the price of gear is a recipe for success. ‘failure. Econ 101 teaches us that if supply is low, prices are going to be high. Take a look at used car prices for a modern example. Imagine a world where more audiophile components are made domestically, but there’s enough supply to fuel the younger generation’s love of music (and hopefully better audio playback equipment). It would be a very happy place.

uncomfortable posts on Mar 29, 2022 4:16 a.m.

Most of the best audiophile gear is made here in the USA, but it’s nearly impossible to make these products without parts/chips/etc. which are all made in China. If you don’t have a good supply of it on hand, then good luck to you earning a living or running and/or growing your business.

There’s always room for a better audiophile experience, but it’s hard without some really fantastic audiovisual equipment. How will the industry overcome these supply chain issues? Is it time to abandon the just-in-time manufacturing model?


Read: JIT manufacturing and the post-COVID audio industry


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