You have to be here: China sourcing and quality control

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In the latest of their TrendWatcher series, the Institute for Corporate Productivity last week produced a piece entitled China's Quality Squeeze, which incorporates a range of statistics, notably:
  • 70% of product recalls in 2007 involved Chinese goods, a scenario which has been greatly helped by the
  • 30% annual increase of Chinese imports to the U.S. from 2001 to 2005, so that today
  • 40% of all U.S. consumer imports come from China.
This despite the range of well-publicized China supply-chain quality lapses and gaffes of 2007, which have, however, not significantly dampened foreign firms' confidence in continuing to source from China. Instead, the strategic impact of the recent wave of quality concerns in China is inducing companies to inject more stringent quality control measures in their dealings with Chinese suppliers. Even so, the TrendWatcher piece continues, in its examination of best practices and risk factors for sourcing goods from China, a Quality Executive Board (QEB) survey found satisfaction with Chinese imports confined to a relatively small segment of companies that have developed long-range supply chain strategies that employ diligent pre-contract vetting and costly onsite visits.

In outlining how sub-quality products can reach the international marketplace, contract manufacturer Mike Bellamy at Smart China Sourcing recently pointed to how bad things can happen when a certain set of factors overlap. The fast growth of China's production base in recent years has given rise to a rapidly changing environment with a wide range of manufacturers of various quality standards. And as today's communication technology facilitates increasing numbers of first-time foreign buyers to suffer from a lack of experience in sourcing from China, an uninformed choice may lie at the root of product quality problems. (See also Sebastian Bretau at China Success Stories on how product inspection, auditing and testing can be used to spot potential issues before shipping, rather than upon delivery).

In a familiar refrain recurringly echoed by Silk Road International's David Dayton, Bellamy writes
The single most critical action you can take to ensure a successful sourcing program is to visit your selected factory.
In fact, in Dayton's experience, the money saved from not coming to China multiple times will be lost in missed delivery dates or quality problems. Yet simply making it to China is not enough, because without painstaking diligence on your part, you're not going to get what you asked for. In Dayton's list of rules for international purchase managers, this diligence includes, among other things:
  • personally speaking Chinese (I suspect, the first problem)
  • personally and physically having samples tested and confirming they match production, and
  • never getting angry in the midst of problems (the challenge is to get your supplier to like you).
And if you do make it to your Chinese factory, Dayton advises, beware if their answer to all your questions is 'no problem, of course we can do that,' because then you are simply not going to get what you asked for.

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chris said:

One big problem is communication. Most chinese will say yes to most of your question even they 're not 100% sure what exactly you talkin about. You may feel lost sth called face if they admit they don't understand. So misunderstanding starts from the begining. That's why sometimes you asked for red pens, and they produce pink pens. Things happen for reasons.

Bruce from

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