Celebrating 40 years of China Sourcing: Lessons learned

The China supply chain has evolved a lot since we got started 40 years ago. During those 40 years, we, at CPG, have learned many lessons that have helped us build our business, establish our knowledge base and create a name for ourselves as specialists in China sourcing management. I wanted to share with you some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned over time: 

Communication:

“The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”~ George Bernard Shaw

Never underestimate the importance of Communication: it is EVERYTHING. With good communication at every step of the supply chain, success is much easier. Clear communication makes it possible to have good, repeatable results and this is more important than excellence in language. English does not have to be your first language to communicate well. In addition to this, engagement is also key – clear communication must flow both ways for success.  Bad communications, on the other hand, is often the cause of many supply chain problems.

Preparation:

“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.”Robert H. Schuller

Preparation is necessary when it comes to managing the supply chain – in terms of contracts, inspections, delivery, etc. If issues arise, what determines their impact on your supply chain is how you prepare for and react to them. Preparing for problems usually helps you avoid them altogether.  If they still occur, you already have a system in place to minimize the damage. And if they don’t occur, good preparation creates the opportunity for your supply chain to exceed original expectations.

Procedures:

“I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not. Mine had me trained in two days.”~ Bill Dana

A procedure is the step-by-step written description of an activity done well.  Done properly, it is the ever-improving accumulation of wisdom of a team of specialists. These are vital for ensuring repeatable success. With clear procedures, training and management is made even easier.

Attention to detail:

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.”Charles R. Swindoll

“The devil is in the details” so attention to detail is vital. Leave no stone unturned. The more details you specify about your products, the better your results and the more likely you will end up with a product that conforms to your requirements and that you will receive on time.  How you communicate these details is important and many procedures are designed to address them.

Assumptions:

“The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable” Stephen Covey.

Always verify your assumptions. In the late 1970s, a lot of the things we assumed could not be done turned out to be feasible (we were pioneers in some of them) and, conversely, things we thought could be done turned out to be impossible. To this day we frequently come across experienced importers who assume the price they have is the best price, the factory they know is the only capable factory, etc. And they are not always right. The big difference between today and 40 years ago is that it is much easier to verify assumptions.

Conclusion: There have been enormous changes in China since 1978, but when you look back at the most important lessons learned over those 40 years, you find that they were valid then and are still valid now.

What lessons have you found most valuable in your experience with China sourcing? How has it changed the way you manage your supply chain? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

 

By Jocelyn Trigueros

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