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. 

From open to close, the team handles factories.  Via QQ chat windows, fax, email and telephone, they’re checking, inquiring, negotiating, solving and fixing.  All in the Chinese language….

We also frequently visit the factories.  JLmade’s factories benefit from dealing with us in the same country, many times in the same province and speaking the same language, this helps IMMENSELY in quality control.

You see...this is how the Chinese mind works.  Chinese people want to know you’re human before they’re willing to help

The Chinese think that Westerners are overtly professional and straight-edged. This makes them clam up and attempt to be just as hard-nosed. 

This is one of the reasons that communication can get weird - One of the reasons some things that should be easy, seem to be impossible- One of the reasons you’re dealing with your supplier sometimes and they seem “not get” a certain point. Cultural differences can mess up an order…

We establish relationships, trust, banter…whatever, human to human, same language, same culture. 

We also have to bust our butts to control quality, improve designs and proactively put out blazing forest fires before they even happen.  But it makes a world of difference when the supplier is more than a supplier.  It’s a makes a world of difference when the people at the factory are not just treated like a “production tool”.    

Relationships are important
everywhere - perhaps more so "out East"
Believe it or not, our factories will prioritize our cases above other cases and will be more vigilant on our quality, simply because we’ve established a connection with them.  Our business may only be a small percentage of their business; but they take it seriously.

Dealing with it from abroad?  Be sure to visit your suppliers.  And I’m not talking about a quickie trip into the nearest International Hub city in a 5-star hotel.  I’m not talking about passing through a trade fair booth and just shaking their hand.  Come here when you can spend some real time, visit the production facilities and watch processes, make a connection with the people…even pick up a few tabs at the restaurant.  It may seem like that’s a waste of time during the trip but when you return, you’ll know you’ve got someone on the ground with whom you made a connection. 

Also, when you deal with the supplier on email;  lighten up a bit.  Remember, you’re hoping to establish a mutually beneficial connection.  If they’re a new supplier, they don’t “know you from Adam”, they’re not impressed by who you say you are and they don’t owe you anything.  It never hurts to err on the side of being respectful and polite.      

Perhaps I’m complicating something that is simple?

Perhaps handling offshore orders are not as difficult as I seem to make it?

But I do know, the more we can connect with our suppliers and establish more than a “supplier-buyer” relationship, then we’ve got more folks looking out for our best interest, not just fulfilling an order.

Let me know what you think;  leave a comment, critique, argument, or praise.

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