Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

It's all my fault - so they keep telling me
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The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age.

What's going on? How should I know? I only know what I'm told.

While everyone says there's no point in playing the blame game, the only thing everyone agrees on is that it's my fault. No one says this outright but they believe it in the core of their being, especially when they know it's their fault.

We've made progress, incidentally. This is not to say I'll be going ahead with anything. Please don't be beguiled into any sense of optimism. But it's impossible to deny progress has occurred. The Chinese engineers, perhaps as a point of pride, refuse to read Wales's instructions in the zip file (there's some doubt about whether they can even open the zip file) but they have managed to open up the component in question, extract the programming and download it into the new component. That sounds clever to me. I couldn't do it.

Wales continues to point out that the Chinese engineers are merely superior chimpanzees and that their ISO standards involve pushing all the wires and silver bits into a box, then - while screeching at each other - spraying in solder. Eee! Eee! Eee!

China, meanwhile, suggests that Wales supplies them with instructions that - where intelligible - are defective, and that the production process is waiting on components I should have ordered by now, and they are waiting for us to catch up with them.

However, they don't answer specific questions. They just say that two prototypes are ready and are waiting to be couriered. I don't know anything about electronics, but I can recognise a direct question when I see one, and whenever people avoid answering a direct question you know they have something they don't want you to know.

Warren has rallied, now that he has two working prototypes. But he won't guarantee the product. That's a bit unusual, isn't it? He says they have procedures. They have controls. Their failure rate is 0.5 per cent. That's just 50 units out of the first run. But they can't guarantee any above that because of the parts (they are expensive). He reminds me that I was coming to supervise production. It'll be my fault if the things don't work.

Do I say, "I am very pleased you have procedures. I'm sure it's sensible to have controls. I enclose my cheque."

Do I assemble a catalogue of the failures and errors to date, and use my lifelong training in the arts of vitriolic criticism to weaken Warren's confidence, and then demand a pre-production run of 1,000 units on the same terms as for 10,000 units?

En passant, please note how odd this last approach will look to Warren - and deduce from it that no one ever knows what's going on because we only know what we are told.