The Scandic Sourcing blog interviews Fredrik Sundström, Scandic Sourcings project manager for inspections and quality control. Fredrik, who previously worked with factory establishments in the steel industry in northern China has 7 years of Sourcing experience in China.
How do you build a strong relationship with your suppliers in China?
Meeting them in person is key to building a good relationship with your suppliers. When you visit the factory in person, you send signals to the factory management that you take the project seriously. Then you can handle all communications directly rather than via time consuming emailing back and forth. Then, of course, your order volumes and how frequently you purchase plays a part in your relationship with your suppliers.
How can you make sure to get the quality you want in China?
The most important is to be on-site in China and visit your suppliers yourself or through intermediaries. Once you are visiting the factory, it is important that you talk to the right people, people directly involved with the production. The CEO of the company doesn’t usually have the same insight into the details of the project as an engineer or technician and the former is also keen to make promises which you might have to take with a grain of salt.
Read More: Scandic Sourcing's Quality Control
If you want to avoid going over deadline it is also important to be on site to project manage and continuously follow the production so that you can avoid any potential issues before it goes too far.
You also have to be cautious about communication and language – often the English speaking sales staff has limited knowledge about the actual production and might say that everything is fine without actually knowing about what is going on. The most productive communication happens with the plant’s engineers and technicians – discussing the specifics of the project step by step; this is where speaking Chinese comes in handy. Those discussions can then be the starting point for raising specific issues when you discuss the project with the CEO and factory management. This way you can also avoid vague and general language when you are discussing the project which is important – specificity is the key!
How do avoid unreliable suppliers?
Before choosing suppliers, it is important to perform a careful due diligence – meaning an audit of the supplier/s you want to work with. This audit, which involves going through the supplier’s finances, work history and reputation, is arguably the most important step in your work with Chinese suppliers, as it serves to weed out the unreliable players before even getting involved with them. It is important to emphasize the value of doing a careful supplier search and supplier evaluation.
Read More: Find a supplier in China
The next step is to visit the factories in person, and merely by judging by the first impression – the condition of a factory, and meeting with the factory management, you tend to get a lot of information about the quality of the supplier. Once in the factory, you’d prefer to find an even production output – you don’t want an empty factory, but not one that looks overly busy either. A supplier rarely says no to a new order even though they already have a full schedule which can cause trouble with keeping your deadline.
After finding a good supplier you can have a test order made to get samples, and if the samples are of sufficient quality you can commission a smaller production order – and once that is of the right quality you can make the amount you intended originally. With such an order sequence you can usually avoid major quality issues affecting your general production. It is of course an advantage if you do not rush this process. The best thing is to bring your own sample to the supplier first to make sure you get exactly what you want – the more specific you are the better!