Sunday, October 3, 2010

NPR Morning Edition

I am often asked to comment about the price differential between the cost of materials and products in the US vs China. The “china Price” is a hot topic of conversation. But when NPR called me, I was truly thrilled to give an interview. I have been member of NPR for years. I respect NPR’s approach to programming and enjoy the feature clips. What a great opportunity! The link to the audio story is here
NPR reporter, Adam Davidson called me early on Thursday morning and asked me several questions about the cost differential on Chinese-made products if the RMB was allowed to freely float against the dollar. One of the examples I used was of the industrial springs I helped a client source in Shenzhen. That was the anecdote he chose for the story.
Since my book, 42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China, was published, it has done very well on . My publisher also sent out a press release to TV and radio stations and over time, I have been interviewed on several radio stations. I was also interviewed for CCTV (China’s CNN). But NPR was the best of all. My 15 seconds of fame!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quality Fade in China

Quality Fade, the process of quality degradation over time, is the single biggest issue in low cost manufacturing countries. It happens frequently in China where manufacturing processes are immature and competitive pricing drives the profits to extremely low levels. It also happens in Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and other low-cost countries.

You have probably noticed quality fade, but didn’t know what to call it, or understand how it happened. Maybe you noticed a plastic shampoo bottle that seemed too thin. Maybe that hand-held electronic game you put in your son’s Christmas stocking stopped working after a few days. Maybe the zipper in your pants broke after a few zips.

Quality fade is a particular problem for products coming from China, where nearly 40%of the world’s production now takes place. This startling fact about the tremendous volume of goods produced in China is evidenced at the drug store, department store, big box retailer and the grocery store. The ubiquitous “Made in China” label can be found everywhere. These products are initially equal or superior in quality to Western-made goods, but over time, quality begins to fade. Sometimes poor quality is just an inconvenience and sometimes it is downright dangerous.

Products manufactured or assembled in low cost countries, aren’t designed to break or poison anybody. In fact, typically when a new contract is signed and specs are given for initial production at a new supplier, importers of Chinese goods are thrilled. The vendor’s service levels are outstanding, the quality is above expectations and the future looks bright. Customers are pleased with the price of initial production, and they assume that it will last. New importers feel like they’ve hit a home run with low-cost country sourcing.

Don’t be fooled! The initial production runs are often not sustainable. Over time, degradation in quality is likely. For example, the label on your product becomes 10 percent smaller, your 100 ml product may actually be 99 ml, non-toxic paint you specify for toys may become fast-drying lead paint, the 5/8 inch seam may become 3/8 inch.

You may think you have negotiated a spectacular deal, but when negotiating in China, you may not have all the facts.