Monday, January 31, 2011

Chinese New Year Build-Up

For all practical purposes, it’s here.  The Chinese New Year;  Year of the Tiger is going out with a whimper and Year of the Rabbit is coming in hopping! 

JLmade’s last day at the office was last Friday.  A good portion of our team even cut out before then.  Those last few work days; we were organizing, prioritizing and planning for the post-New Year madness – “battening down the hatches” before the storm of yearly relaxation, you might say.   

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Artwork Hijinks with the Factory

This happens frequently.  In manufacturing branded promo and gift items;  factories have “trouble” in dealing with the artwork. 
Visit When Possible: check Pantone #'s,
films, application
Most folks working in the factories are not proficient in the software.  In general, they are not proficient in computer use.  These areas of lack, without the proper control, reflect in the branding of your item, which can lead to delays, more cost and, worse case, receiving incorrect goods. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Communication Decreases Quality Issues

Your supplier may be helping you "in letter"
but dangerous when not "in spirit"
Working in China with a team that is daily handling factories, it is hard for me to fathom how companies, in different time zones, in a different language, do it from abroad.

JLmade is made up of mostly Chinese teammates. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Before & After Chinese New Year: Manufacturing Talking Pts.

Talking points atmosphere “out East” from JLmade’s perspective; focusing on the promo and retail industries.  

Labor Scarcity / Sourcing / Be Selective in your Projects

Holiday approaching & these folks have more
on their mind than just your low-cost merchandise

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Breakdown on Trade Companies_ the Bad and the Ugly

This is Part II.  Part I covered “the Good”.  Notice these are not blanket statements about trade companies but comparing the Good vs. the Bad and a bit of focus on the ugly.  Because it can get ugly…and ordering offshore isn’t like putting coins into a vending machine, it takes serious effort.  Now to resume our regularly scheduled broadcast… 

Companies will promise the world'll get more than you bargained for
The Bad: Many trade companies are not very specialized in one area.  They fail to maintain strong contacts with their factories.  Your order risks being outsourced every time afresh, to a factory they haven’t dealt with in the past.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Breakdown on Trade Companies_ The Good

Good Trade Companies: Better than Working Factory Direct

Vendors in the overseas promo industry, whether in USA, UK, Australia, S. Africa, when buying from China, they normally buy from a trade company.  Many people label these types of companies as traders, brokers or agents.  Technically there is a difference in the 3 terms and this article is primarily focused on trade companies. 

My weathered opinion is if you are an overseas supplier or distributor in the promo industry and you want a solid China contact, then you need to rely on the trade companies.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Retro Suzhou: Suzhou from the 1980’s

Leeds and I returned to the Jiangsu Province and moved to Suzhou at the end of 2007.  We’ve lived and worked in Suzhou since.  When I first moved to China in 2001, I started out in the Jiangsu Province (Nanjing).  After living in Guangdong’s Province (Dongguan City), for 3 ½ years, we were very happy to return to Jiangsu.

Leeds is originally from Jiangsu, I started out in Jiangsu and our family all lives in Jiangsu (Jiangyan and Hai’an, about 2 hours from Suzhou).  We’re blessed to be back home.

Utilizing the Canals (this photo is not retro but a good opener)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Know What’s Happening with Your Order

Typical Holiday Door Coverings

Chinese New Year:  for all practical purposes it’s here if not knocking on the door. 

We had an order to be rushed out, ahead of schedule because the workers were hurrying to rush home.  I don’t blame them.  The workers in factories, for the most part, work very hard for very low pay.  This is the time of year, they want to kick back, go to their hometown and slip away to a time period that was simpler, easier… They spend time with family, play cards, share memories with loved ones and for 20+ days forget about production lines, money issues and the obstacles they encounter day-to-day. Most of them have the basic goal of providing for their families that are usually in a distant city.    

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Factory Communication 101: Read, Analyze, Feedback

If pics from factory not presentable to your customer (like this one):
instruct factory on what you need to see
I noticed a key cause to a lot of production problems.  It may not be a root cause, but a cause nonetheless.  An avoidable cause at that. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who’s Controlling Your Supplier’s Supplier?

Imagine:  there are a total of 3 suppliers providing input into your offshore project. 

Color Mixing is Sensitive: Good to be on-hand
to assure proper matching
Your supplier is only…let’s say…assembling the item.  He’s buying the material from a material vendor (dyed and specified to pantone color) and print isn’t done in-house.

The delivery time is urgent and quality, of course, is important.  You’ve hashed that out with your supplier, you’ve seen samples, and confirmed them and now ready to go with production.  You feel like your supplier has a clear understanding on the important issues and will tightly control the production time and adhere to delivery requirements.  

Then you hear one of the following phrases or receive an email with one of these phrases…

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bridge Building: Establishing Long-term Relationships with your Supplier

(This was a very popular post this month - do me a favor and visit at the new house: - hope to see you there!)
There's Folks Working Hard on Your Behalf:
Allow Them to Become a Valuable Partner to your Business

Everybody is a supplier to somebody and everybody is a buyer to another.  Seldom does a supplier never purchase something (whether components, machinery, material) and most buyers buy because they then resell. 

Use your communication with your supplier to establish strong bonds. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Inspiration and Motivation is the Key…More so in China?

This morning, Leeds (wife and head honcho at JLmade) took a boot that had a buckle to pop off, to the shoe-repair shop.  When she first took it inside and presented it to the “Master” 师傅, he told her they couldn’t fix it. 
With such a large labor force in China, you interact
with many more people on a daily basis .
 She then explained to him that it only requires a small such-and-such type tool and if he’ll just look at it, then perhaps he can see what the job takes.  The guy then looked at it, spent about 5 to 7 minutes repairing it, now it’s as good as new.  Not only did he fix it, but when she went to pay, she only had 100 bank notes, so he waived the fee and graciously said “next time”. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mullet Fish Soup: Mid-Week Lunch Dish

Normally Head's Intact: Without Head
Chinese May Feel "Cheated"
Leeds and I had mullet soup for lunch today.  中文名是乌鱼汤。  我们平常这样吃一碗汤, 两份菜, 一份肉, 什么的

We normally have a soup everyday along with 2 veggies and a meat.  Our apartment is only about 5 mins from the office so we swing home for lunch.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Due-Diligence: Developing a Product Offshore (Info, Material, Price)

Don't Expect Factory to do Research, Legwork
~ Do in Planning Stages

Here’s a list of basic steps in sourcing a customized item or developing a non-existing product.  This stuff is very basic but easy to overlook and with the frequency I see overseas importers/buyers not do this, you would think it’s rocket science.

 Keep in mind non-existing could mean an item the factory doesn’t currently produce (non-existing to the factory’s capabilities) and for them it will be a first-time run.  Also this could mean tweaking an existing product but requiring quite a bit of change, creativity and design legwork. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dealing with 1st-Time Factories

Remain professional: regardless of what
unforeseen obstacle arises.

Chinese factories are busy.  They have times that are slower than others, but for the most part, their production lines are full year-around.  Next to never are the production lines empty and the workers sitting around hoping to get an order to extinguish the boredom.

On the contrary it has gotten to where it takes substantial effort from the buyers’ side to get a factory to treat them serious.  Unless you have an established working relationship with the factory or unless you’re a very big name, the factory is going to first “feel you out”.   But, in this post-Economic Crisis day and age, even if you are a big name, the factory is still going to work in such a way to determine if you are going to be a valuable customer for them.