Treading on the Chinese Minefield
As a business owner, I think responsibility for the quality issues mentioned in "The China Code" (Aug./Sept. 2007) cannot be completely placed on China. U.S. manufacturers have an equal role to play. They should put foolproof quality tests in place, either in China or the U.S.
My company sources forgings and castings for oil-field equipment manufacturers from India. We create a foolproof quality plan for each order and ensure that the manufacturers send us signed test certificates. We individually check every sourced part before it leaves India. Even though we have known these manufacturers for years, we both agree quality has to be double-checked.
Analytika Forging & Castings
To those who want to manufacture in China: Think twice. Consider the reputation you will develop from marketing such products. Explore manufacturers from the U.S. or elsewhere in North America and think about long-term effects and the hassles and legal problems that are discussed in the article. Think about those people who won't be getting jobs because your product is being made in China.
And to those who buy all these very affordable items that are made in China: Consider the risks involved with dangerous products. Think about purchasing quality that will be around a lot longer than the immediate gratification of a "good deal." Also consider the people that are or could be out of jobs because of the imported stuff that is overtaking your country.
As an entrepreneur, I have personally shipped $7 million worth of goods from China to the U.S. in the past two years. My partners are in the U.S., but I am in China. Why? After living on the front lines, I can tell you that it is a battle, and not one sparked by the media or Western government. It is one to educate a developing country's entrepreneurs.
There is only one way to protect your interests, and that is to be present to represent your company and use the same quality systems and tools you would use in the U.S. Know your business and product better than the supplier, and help them implement the proper procedures at their facility as well as their sub-suppliers' facilities. That means personally visiting—often and sometimes unannounced.
The old adage "Let the buyer beware" applies here. When U.S. or European Union companies contract for too low a price and get inferior products, they are getting what they paid for. Overseas manufacturers have to make a profit to stay in business, too. When the contractor accepts products from an emerging market, the contractor is aware there is an increased likelihood of substandard/outsourced production and must take appropriate testing/verification procedures. This is part of overall quality maintenance and part of the cost of doing business overseas.
The situation described in "The China Code" is bad, but not 100% China's fault. Foreign companies that want to do business with China should learn about Chinese thinking, and the Chinese way of doing things, to avoid this kind of surprise.
I thought "Make Some Noise" (Aug./Sept. 2007) was a great article.
It's always good to see case studies about how new media are helping businesses interact with customers. As you can imagine, interaction is the gold mine of marketing. I hope more small businesses take this to heart.
Overland Park, Kan.