Monday, June 13, 2011

A Lot Like Dining Out

(Thanks for stopping by this post.  After you read this, do me a favor and stop by the new house: Hope to see you there and remember to leave a comment so I know who is reading!  Much love - Jacob) 

This weekend we went to a restaurant that serves “Western Cuisine”.   I mentioned in a post from last year, that I seldom like to go to the so-called Western places in China.  I wasn’t surprised during this outing…the same ol’ same ol’ rang true. 

But one thing that stood out, is that, especially in the promotional product and branded merchandise realms, managing and supervising production from factories is a lot like dining out in China.

Now the following list purposefully does a comparison to the “Western Restaurant” experience in China, not the Chinese restaurant experience. 


Because in standard restaurants in China the dishes are typically 1 way, there is no choice, there is no point where decisions, options and free-thinking are involved.  There is no “have it your way” mentality.

The Western restaurants, although more like Chinese restaurants that serve restaurant food, they try to, hope to, uphold the same kind of ambience as a good restaurant in the West. 

Consistency:  We just went to this place two weeks ago.  We go back this weekend, order the same dishes and there are noticeable differences.  The ingredients, the consistency, the taste…all different. 

In manufacturing, the same will happen with your order.  Regardless if it is the 3rd or 4th time you’ve ordered the same product, without the proper control there will be glaring differences.  The differences could be results of multiple factors:  changed material vendors, different guy mixing the paint, the old production line boss moved to a different facility, etc…  Regardless of the reason something is going to be different. 

What You Requested vs. What you Got:  Although you specifically request something and the gal taking your order confirms it back and writes it down, it comes out different.

The same happens during the order process from sampling to the end of mass production.  This is more prevalent when there is more “guess work” involved.  And in China, “guess work” can mean something as limited as choosing between two options, it doesn’t have to be broad.  Hold the nasty comments;  you come live in China for a bit and then let me know if you think I’m “over generalizing”.  We know what kind of system is in this place and it’s not one that’s nurtured free thinking over the past decades.  The folks are used to routines, rote memorization, repetitive actions, rinse and repeat…  

So any crucial point that requires making a decision, or changing from the norm, be extra cautious.  Be alert with your factory and learn what I call the “points of no return”.  Have them show you proof of certain implementations before each further step or let them know you will not accept what they produce.

Cucumbers Seem to be Reasonably Priced
Remember the rule of “lasting first impressions”.  If it was what you asked for the 1st time or if it is the way they’ve always done it, then chances are any personalized requests will be overlooked.

Overuse of the Cheap Material:  I could tell they were saving cost because the Mediterranean Salad was more like a Cucumber-terranean Salad.  Obviously cuccs are cheaper than the other veggies in the salad and especially cheaper than the cheese.  Heavy on the cuccs, light on everything else. 

Your production facility will give you same kind of “switch-a-roo”.  If something or a part or a process is expensive, no problem, spend less time on that and give ‘em more of the cheap stuff.  

Also if you think you successfully negotiated prices at the beginning, this will be even more prevalent.  

Reaction:  And your production facility will be no different than the waitress once you inform them of a problem.  They will at first giggle nervously, and say sorry and they’re main goal is not quickly making it right, but they are deep down hoping you’ll shut-up about the issue, take it as it is and go away.  Remember, when dealing with China, nothing, never, no way is EVER anybody's fault.    

Informing your factory about issues that have already been done is futile and you’ll be wasting your breath.  Instead control up front, make things as clear as possible from the beginning and monitor processes along the way.  

In the restaurant it’s a bit harder..I should have gone back in the kitchen with the waitress.

Before you place your order with your factory;  anything that requires “guess work” anything that is “off the beaten path”, especially aspects that are theme/branding specific; be extra careful to get documentation of the process.  Best case is to visit.  If you cannot visit, get visuals and physical samples of each point in the process.

Because, just like the Western restaurants in China, the factory’s main goal, is getting one customer in and out so the next one can come.  Detail, quality, service and exactness are all secondary if on their radar at all.  

Home Cookin' Like This, Why Go Out?
Want to avoid the headaches?  Don't eat out...stay home.  How about with your offshore production?  You cannot just "stay home"...the competition will pass you by.  My recommendation; buy a bottle of aspirin and learn how to control your production.  

Bon appétit. 

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