Over on MFGx -- an online manufacturing community built around MFG.com -- I've been having an insightful discussion with another member about the China quality debate and controversy of late. The discussion began by community member and MFG.com employee AJ Sweatt bringing up the recalls and quality concerns over "Toothpaste. Tires. Toys. Food." And asking if "there's a concerted campaign behind all this? Is it just the media doing its job? Is it coincidence? And if it is a concerted campaign, who's behind it? Unions? The government?"
I responded that I was "not sure if it is unions, specifically, or aspiring Whitehouse aspirants (I don't think HIllary or any of the GOP candidates are strong anti-china, so it must be others), but something is definitely up." But more important, "the timing of these issues, the whole VAT rebate elimination (for goods coming from China, paid to Chinese firms), and the new Chinese export tariffs all are coming at once." Given this, "I'm guessing that there's a large PR and lobbying war going on at the moment so some candidates can claim victory next year in how they saved American jobs. I find that scary thinking, personally. The biggest loser in this anti-China trade rhetoric will be us."
The power of communities like MFGx to debate topics should not be understated. While MFGx is manufacturing centric, I'm hoping that other procurement and supply chain sites in the future -- which are different or broader in scope and industry -- begin to get traction. Unfortunately, though, procurement and supply chain practitioners are notoriously difficult to drag into discussion and debate. Consider that Supply and Demand Chain Executive has had a community / forum section for months, but with virtually no participation. Or look at the minimal number of comments on my blog given the size of its actual readers (if it were a tech geek blog, I'd wager we’d see 3x to 5x the participation on Spend Matters).
What's the issue? I’d say that most practitioners, in general, are notoriously tight lipped on strategy and are more comfortable with one way -- versus bi-directional -- discussions and content. Unfortunately, I'm coming to believe that it's going to take a generational leap for online communities and Wiki-type tools to really take off. But when the Facebook generation moves up the ladder in procurement organizations in a few years time, watch out. Learning, debate and community will never be the same again. And you can bet Spend Matters will be there to participate at every step in the process.