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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Making the jump from China traveler to China expat is still a common occurrence, despite the reported decline in the traditional expat packages in Tier-1 cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong. Living and working an a foreign country is a complicated process, within both the new country as well as your home country. Expats in China are subject to a dizzying array of considerations.
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.