The Dream of Simple Pump's Founder -- Manufacturing the Pump in Developing Nations
Simple Pump's founder, Greg Burns, sold Simple Pump to pursue a dream. His goal: Bring Simple Pump CNC machining to Africa. So, he packed up two large CNC machining tables and went there. These were so large that the two machines filled a standard-size shipping container.
When he got to Africa, he encountered all the usual problems of corruption. Undeterred, he opened a manufacturing facility using the equipment that had just arrived. However, he was never able to get the shop to our high standards of commercial-quality production because of the low quality of electric power.
The grid went down frequently. So he bought a number of generators to address short outages. The part that could not be overcome was how "dirty" the power was when it was working. The frequency of the power delivered was so variable that an untrained ear could hear the motors that drove the cutting tools revving up and down with its fluctuations. To put it mildly, this is not a recipe for precision machining.
Many of the Simple Pump’s advantages lie in its precision manufacture. Lighter weight, high efficiency, dramatic reliability, easy of installation, ease of use and ease of maintenance all come from precision machining. Without such machining, anything produced is no longer a Simple Pump; it’s merely a crude imitation, probably with similar reliability problems to the incumbents.
After spending a considerable time attempting to make his enterprise work, and investigating whether moving it elsewhere made sense, he concluded that the only way he could meet his own production standards was to build a power plant himself. He actually considered this, but, after much research, decided the project was impractical.
Precision Manufacturing Generates Few Jobs
There have been some improvements in the quality of power generation and distribution in Africa since Greg's attempts. In a couple of countries, the reality of clean power generation and distribution in Africa is apparently in place.
However, there is another fundamental issue. The bad news, from the perspective of creating jobs, is that, in order to achieve this the quality of work, machines perform most of it.
There are relatively few people involved with the work at Simple Pump, or for that matter, at our suppliers. All of the manufacturing is done by specialized firms throughout the U.S. West, with the most critical (and expensive) CNC machining performed at a supplier whose work is highly specialized. Their work couldn't be of a higher level. Theirs is an aerospace-class plant, creating high-end parts for jet engines, US Navy submarines, the NEWT deep-sea diving suit, and the space-roving Canadarm.
So manufacturing Simple Pumps does not generate much demand for labor -- and the demand that is required must be very highly skilled. This makes the current obstruction of “must be manufactured locally” doubly illogical.