My editor and colleague Lisa Reisman once wrote, “Somebody once told me the best items to source from China ought to fit in shoe boxes. Whoever thought [granting the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge contract to Chinese suppliers] would save California money had a screw loose.”
Turns out, the screws that are loose – or, in this week’s case, cracked – come not from China, but from our backyard.
The quote from Lisa I just cited comes from her July 19, 2011, article, “Made In America: Buying Criteria for Infrastructure Projects,” and in it, she outlines the key considerations in sourcing mega infrastructure projects:
- Materials (the obvious place most organizations will examine)
- Labor costs — let’s not just look at a wage comparison chart, but rather factoring in the cost of quality (QA trips to China ought to be part of the equation)
- Contract administration costs
- Project management costs (particularly in light of potential delays)
- Inspection costs — both US QA personnel and also third-party inspectors
- Freight/logistics costs
- Inventory carry and finance
- Carbon footprint as measured in output of emissions associated with the movement of the materials (raw materials and otherwise), transportation costs (fuel, pollution costs)
- Sustainability use of recycled materials for the production of steel (China mostly uses blast furnaces as opposed to electric arc furnaces)
Lisa sums up by writing, “Undoubtedly, other major domestic infrastructure projects will come to fruition soon. Hopefully, state procurement offices will do a better job sourcing those projects than Caltrans did.”
Evidently, Caltrans – the California Department of Transportation – and the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, both responsible for the Bay Bridge project, will now have to dig into line items #1 and #5 above.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “at least 30 of the giant bolts that hold together the new, $6.4 billion eastern span of the Bay Bridge have snapped,” and “as a result, Caltrans is considering replacing all 288 of the bolts on the new bridge before it opens” after Labor Day this year.
The hitch is that the 17-foot-long steel bolts (rods) were made in the US.
(MetalMiner has attempted to contact Caltrans for a list of suppliers, but so far, no response. According to the Sacramento Bee, the shear keys, “units that allow controlled lateral movement of the bridge in the event of a large quake,” are what the rods held together. Korean firm Hochang Machinery Industries made the shear keys, but according to the Bee, Caltrans “has not yet identified the U.S. supplier.” Hmm. Not so sure about that…)