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Outsourcing manufacturing work to China is a cost saving but often not a hassle-free undertaking, especially if your company does not have a liaison in place. This liaison must understand the manufacturing practices, expectations, culture, and pricing in China and how they differ from those in the United States and be able to effectively communicate that information to the U.S. office.
Creative Mailbox & Sign Designs is a manufacturer of mailboxes and signs that does $8 million a year in revenues and employs 65 personnel. It has three lines of business. The Residential line manufactures mailboxes and street signs for master plan communities; the Commercial lines does signage for office buildings; and the Department of Transportation line takes care of Department of Transportation signage for interstate and other highways.
It sounds like a simple enough business--design a sign, send the design to China, and have them make it and send it back in quantity. Jamie Harden, CEO of Creative Mailbox & Sign Designs, says it's not that easy. "We had a relationship with a stamped aluminum outsourcer and manufacturer in China. We found quality inconsistency issues, poor communication, and lack of connectivity into their Asian organization," he says.
Harden might convey specs and other data and instructions to the U.S. liaison but had no direct communication with the Chinese portion of the business. The result was miscommunication and mistakes, which cut into Creative Signs' margins and held up manufacturing schedules. "We felt like we were buying a product instead of being in a situation where we could go through a more collaborative design process. It was not a real partnership," says Harden. "No pun intended, but we often felt like something was lost in translation," he adds. As a result, the company sought an outsourcing partner elsewhere--someone already familiar with China and its business culture.
Source: Outsourcing Journal
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