For many years companies around the world have been turning to China in an effort to cut production costs. By keeping overhead low, you can sell your product at a lower cost to the consumer while increasing your margins, thus generating repeat business, a high rate of customer satisfaction, and a better bottom line. However, many have fell victim to various quality control issues when switching to a lower cost supplier.
So, how does a company protect itself when switching to a new supplier? Here are a few steps you can take:
Spend a Little More
This is not always the easiest thing to do, but spending a bit of time at your new supplier is a good way to see the day-to-day operations and get a true feel for what is going on. If possible, asking questions (via a competent translator) to factory supervisors (middle management) is a good way to get straight, honest answers. They tend to be more inclined to share information that is helpful and not surrounded by “sales talk”. Also buying from the cheapest supplier can be risky. Understanding why one factory is the cheaper than others will help prevent problems down the road. Are they cheaper because they have a competitive advantage (i.e. they are buying raw materials at a low cost because of their volume) or because they are using inferior raw materials? These answers can sometimes be hard to find, but spending the time to investigate will save a lot of headaches down the road.
With the Internet one can get a lot of preliminary info when going down the path of looking for new suppliers. “Googling” should never replace sitting down face-to-face with a potential new supplier, but it is a good start to make a short list. Enough can’t be said about using your instincts when choosing your new suppliers. If a supplier is saying or showing you all the right things, but something does not add up to you, then it is best to follow your instincts and keep looking for a supplier that is a good fit for you.
Another option is to find a project management company that has spent a lot of time and energy vetting suppliers. These project management companies are usually China based and have “tribal knowledge” that will shorten your learning curve and mitigate risk.
Establish Quality Control
It is important to set and establish the quality standards before a Product Order is placed, deposits are paid, or shipments are made. This might sound like common sense, but in the rush to realize savings we have seen both big and small companies sometimes overlook this in one way or another. So making sure that you and the factory have a clear understanding of the quality level that is expected and can be delivered must be determined at the very beginning. Also, establishing a relationship with manufacturers that allow your company’s representatives to inspect and thoroughly test the products before leaving the factory is critical. This applies to both first time and repeat business partners. This kind of accountability ensures that you are getting what you pay for while at the same time providing motivation necessary for continued quality.
With some effort and research, you can greatly improve the quality of your Chinese imports without breaking the bank. By taking the time to investigate products, you will ensure that your customers receive the quality they have come to expect from you.