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Delivering Quality

Enquiries about quality control make up a fair share of the conversations that I have these days, and for good reason; it is one of the most frustrating and misunderstood aspects of sourcing products in Asia.

Unfortunately, a good amount of these conversations start with a question of what legal recourse a person might have against a supplier, now that a container of defective goods has already arrived to a warehouse in the USA (or worse, sent directly to Amazon!).  When it comes to quality control, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I’ve been sourcing and manufacturing products in China for over two decades now, and in that time I’ve progressed through all of the stages from Anger to Resentment to Acceptance, and finally ended up with a program that works to get consistent output, at least for me.  It’s this Quality Program that I spend a lot of time teaching.  In this post I outline the fundamentals of the program that I use to manage production quality.

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Import, Duties, and VAT Tax

With all the recent talk about tariffs and trade wars between the US, China, and others, it’s a good time to have an introduction to the process and costs that go along with global trade.
In episode 1 we will focus on sourcing goods in China and importing them into the United States, which by far makes up the majority of the questions that I get asked about Asian sourcing.
There are two major topics to cover, export and import.  In this case, we will be exporting our goods out of China and importing those goods into America.
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Keeping your Intellectual Property Secure in China

China gets a bad reputation for their treatment of intellectual property. The reality is that all multinational firms should pay attention to protecting their intellectual property both at home and abroad. While the lessons in this post are written with China in mind, we believe they are applicable anywhere.

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Recent Articles


The Power of Asynchronous Communication

One of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned in working in a global business is the power of being able to work asynchronously. Despite having the tools to do so, most workplaces depend upon immediacy of communication to get things done. How many times have you answered the phone to hear a colleague on the other end asking “hey, did you read my email?”.

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Traveling to Southern China

I’ve found myself making a few “How to get to Southern China” guides recently, so I thought it would be best to get all of this information in one place.

First and foremost, if this is your first trip to China (or you just need a refresher), I recommend you head over to the China Basics page for some background, as well as this page for some details.

Ok, so assuming you have a visa, global mobile phone plan, and an airline ticket in hand, lets talk about what happens when you hit the ground.

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Any Idiot Can Make A Plan

A man famous to all of us around him for his razor-sharp wit, my father often uses his humor as a vehicle for imparting business knowledge.

“Any idiot can make plan” he said “it’s the good managers that know what to do when things don’t go according to plan”

It was good advice that has since driven a lot of the work that I’ve done throughout my career.

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Standing out in a crowd

I grew up in an Italian-American family, surrounded by people that were the first or second generation of their families born in the United States. My parents, themselves the first generation in our family, always felt a strong connection to the community of Italians in New York City and I have fond memories of big dinners and after dinner walks around Little Italy and Arthur Ave. But I never felt a connection to the community the way that my parents, aunts, and uncles did.

It wasn’t until a recent hike with a good friend of mine that I gained some insight into why I’ve felt this way: I like being the outsider in a group.

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Home for the Holidays

A side effect of being in the manufacturing industry is that we spend our time thinking about seasons and holidays far earlier than most people. In the retail world, July through October mark the busiest days of the Christmas season; Spring fashion occupies most of our January, and by May we are getting serious about back-to-school shopping.

It’s probably because of this date shift that the past few weeks have felt decidedly un-Christmasy; We loaded the last of the holiday-season shipping containers in Shanghai more than a month ago, so surely the holidays have come and gone by now?

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How our “Just Ship The Sh*t” mentality took down the internet 

You’ve worked hard to bring your vision for a “smart” device to life, working through development, prototypes, and one too many late-night calls with China.  But now your devices are part of the worlds largest sleeper cell, lying in wait to take down the internet on the whim of whatever rogue operator has the most money to pay.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a few days ago, a calculated attack, orchestrated using compromised thermostats, surveillance cameras, and dvd players took down thousands of websites for a few hours.

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Death and (Expat) Taxes

On your hundred-and-eighty-third day in China during any calendar year, you cross the line from “business traveler” to “part year tax resident’. If you have a resident permit, receive salary payments in Chinese Renminbi, or if you happen to have an ownership stake in the parent company of a China subsidiary, you most likely become a tax payer in China the moment you set foot on the mainland. Like any tax situation, you may get away with violating the law for a short period of time but heed this advice: Don’t do it! The only things are are assured of are death and taxes, and on death I’m actually not one hundred percent sure.

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Making the Jump – Living in China Full Time

Of the countless things on my to-do list (Wunderlist, in case you were wondering), writing a book to pull together my decade of China manufacturing experience is high on that list.  When the urge hits, most times on a long train ride or in the back of a minivan somewhere in China, i pull out my phone and make notes (Evernote), sometimes short sometimes long, and then later I come back to the random pile of notes and start organizing.

Lately in my editing I’ve been pulling out chapters here and there and thinking that they would make a good article on their own.  The article below is in that category, the start of a series of chapters on the considerations and practical implications of moving to China to live as an expat.

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Design for (Chinese) Manufacturing

China manufacturing offers a world of possibility that is unmatched, still, anywhere else in the world. In China, almost everything is built to order, which means that there are near endless opportunities to tweak the product before it is made.  In order to leverage this amazing capability that China brings to the table, it is critical to change your mentality about how you design and build your products.

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Bad China Days

Sometimes, living in China sucks.  We’re not supposed to say that, but it’s true.  Our friends, family, and colleagues see the glamorous side of the life that we lead, the travel to exotic places, the sights where we take the obligatory photos, our posts about the food and the constant rain of new experiences.  We should love it, at least that is the feeling we get from the relatively constant guilt trip that people in our lives send our way.

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