China Sourcing: Culture, Knowledge, & Details

Why is it so important to have a great China sourcing team? Because great sourcing is all about details. And details have a lot to do with culture and local knowledge.

Your China team can help ensure that everyone in your Western office is on the same wavelength as your factories. This is especially important when ensuring your product specifications are understood and negotiating contracts and pricing. Clear communication is the cornerstone of a good China supply chain. And the best communication is when your messages – delivered in English – come out of the mouths of your China employees – in Chinese.

China’s culture and customs are unique and special. Language can be both a barrier and a springboard. For example, language is a barrier when the original message is misunderstood. On the other hand, language is a springboard when you outdo the competition in making yourself clear to your suppliers.

In addition to language, there are numerous customs that your China sourcing team could help you navigate, such as:
– Punctuality: Being on time is very important; being late is considered rude.
– Exchanging business cards: Use two hands and make sure the card is facing up.

These are small things, but details matter. Then there are bigger issues.

How can you tell if agents are misrepresenting themselves as being factory owners or managers when they are in fact middlemen? While it might be easy to trick a foreigner, it is challenging to fool locals. Your China sourcing team can help you avoid these pitfalls.

Another challenge is translation: If a translator is from the side of your potential business partner, their interpretation can be completely different than if the translator is from your side. Much can be “lost in translation,” and your interests will not be fully represented. Your China team can prevent this, too. In addition, being native Chinese speakers, they can better negotiate pricing, benchmark competitive factories, ensure your supplier is not sub-contracting, monitor your quality process, a fully optimize your China buying program. 

Quality is always a big concern. You must be vigilant to ensure your goods meet your highest expectations. And the best way to do that is to be on-site, boots on the ground. That way, you can keep control of the quality before it becomes a problem. Your China team will constantly watch and monitor the quality during the production process and ensure nothing leaves the factory without inspection.

These are just some benefits of having an experienced and professional China supply chain management team. Have you experienced any issues that were heightened by not having your own China sourcing team? We would love to hear from you and help.

By Susan Timpe

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in April 2017.

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