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Hello, I’m Mike Bellamy, founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions and volunteer at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center.
I’ve been living in China full time now for over 12 years, and it is my pleasure to offer in this 2 minute video, some tips about how to manage projects and ensure quality.
Let’s assume you have followed the tips in our previous videos about verifying the suppliers in terms of quality systems. If you have issued a purchase order to a bad supplier because you failed to verify them up front, then no amount of even the world’s best project management or intense quality control is going to be able to make a bad supplier great. So if you find the right supplier early on, you have put yourself on the right path and both project management and QC will be much easier.
In the US and most of the Western countries, when the PO is placed with a domestic supplier we sit back knowing the hard work is done and we just wait for the order to show up on time without a lot of drama.
While China has some amazing pricing, it is not known for excellent quality or short lead times. This means that the placement of the PO is the start of the supplier management process in China, not the end. It is very rare for suppliers, even ones that are as large as 1000 employees to have proper project Managment software which clearly defines and track who is doing what, by when, within their organization. To the contrary, usually there is an account manager or sales person that takes point on walking your project thru all the steps from production to delivery.
Salespeople are good at sales or can speak English, but most aren’t engineers, certified project managers, or even know their way around a production line. So here are some tips to help ensure your product ships out at the agreed time with the agreed quality.
- Pick a factory that is the right size for your order. If you are a small buyer at a large factory, you will find it hard to keep their attention.
- Make sure you communicate with the suppliers on a regular basis. If you aren’t asking for updates, you are unlikely to receive them. Be in contact when there is good news to share so that you don’t become the “headache client” who contacts the factory only when things are bad.
- This may sound obvious, but if you and your supplier don’t have a system for project management then you need to be proactive and create one. For example, a simple excel sheet listing action items, project gates, deadlines, and responsible parties is a huge improvement over trying to manage via email. Have this open project list serve as the agenda for periodic conference calls with your supplier. Once the tasks are mutually agreed, save this document for future reference. Keep a record of each week’s agreed steps.
- Build into your budget the costs of a few international trips to the China factory to keep an eye on things and build a good working relationship with your supplier. If you can’t afford to travel on your own or don’t want to make the trip, and then get an agent to represent you.
- If you only take away one of the tips from my video series, I hope you remember the following:
Link payments to performance.
You are crazy to make the final payment to a supplier without inspecting the goods first with your own eyes or the eyes of a third party that works for you.
See you next time. Wishing you successful China sourcing!