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"The Tech Rep" by James Michener, Continued

"Where does the tech rep come in? I remember back in the 1950s when we had this foreign field pretty much to ourselves...well, we and the British. Then the smart Japanese began to cut in, but frankly, in those years their product wasn't very substantial-machines didn't stand up; parts were hard to get...and how many workman in Pakistan spoke Japanese?

It was the Germans-the West Germans, that is-and the Swedes and especially the Swiss who changed all this. First of all they made good machines-no better than what we and the British were making, but very good. Where was the difference? They assured any buyer in a backward country, IF THIS MACHINE BREAKS DOWN ON MONDAY-AND MACHINES DO BREAK DOWN, AS YOU KNOW FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE AMERICANS-YOU CABLE US AND WE WILL PUT ONE OF OUR MEN ON AN AIRPLANE WITHIN TWO HOURS AND HE WILL BE WITH YOU TUESDAY NIGHT TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS. And they did it. They showed us a completely new approach to industrial relations. They must have spent a million dollars on air travel, but made ten million from it, because word got around, YOU BUY FROM THE GERMANS AND THEY KEEP THE STUFF RUNING.

The Americans? Well, in those years our boys were pretty high-handed. They had sold a good product, and if it broke down, it was because the gooks didn't know how to handle it. In our own time we'd send somebody out with further explanations. We were very arrogant.

The British? This was sad. They knew that the workmanship in their factories was the best in the world, their business ethics the highest, their field men the most honorable in their representation-so if some bloody idiot in Burma or Pakistan had fouled the works, they could jolly well unfoul them or wait till somebody happened to be coming out from London on a P. and O. steamer. I well remember one English technician with whom I worked on a project in Hyderabad. An Indian workman had found that he could not coax a screw into place with a proper screwdriver, so he was tapping it lightly with a hammer. MY GOD the Englishman cried in disgust as he grabbed the hammer, then brandished it before the startled workman's eyes. DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT THEY CALL THIS? he demanded with icy sarcasm. AN AMERICAN SCREWDRIVER. He then gave the workman a short lecture on the decline of responsible craftsmanship in the world and warned him never to drive a screw into an English machine with a hammer. Only Americans did that. At the hotel, later, he told me with real sorrow of the pain as he watched the steady decline of responsible workmanship. NO WONDER THE BLODDY MACHINE BREAKS DOWN. DRIVING A SCREW WITH A HAMMER.

Meanwhile the Germans, the Swedes and the Swiss were flying in to keep their machinery functioning, and if they found an Indian driving home a screw with a hammer, they suggested to their home office that perhaps this particular screw ought to be replaced with something better, one could fasten with a hammer."

To be continued:

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