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The Real Cost of (Not) Doing Business in China?

 

As the #1 manufacturer in the world China now produces nearly $2.5 trillion of goods.  While this is around 28% greater than the U.S., manufacturing makes up an astounding 30.5% of China’s GDP vs. 12.3% for the U.S.  One thing experts acknowledge is at $2 trillion in manufactured output the U.S. produces more with less labor.  It also indicates that low value added jobs with less profit margin have gone and remain overseas.  So what does that mean for us?  It means that China is still the factory to the world and if operations decision makers haven’t developed a competent model to outsource redundant, high labor and low value add processes, they are tempting fate.  There is a cost to and not to doing business in China. and the time has come for most organizations to analyze synergistic offshore-onshore manufacturing & distribution strategies.

Assume for a moment that you are the SVP of Operations for a U.S. firm in Des Moines that manufactures some sort of metal and plastic assembly.  Sales have been flat and finally in that Monday morning meeting the inevitable question arises.  “What are we doing about China?” your boss asks.  You have a solid team of purchasing professionals, none of which can point to Hong Kong on a map.  However, through the internet one of your go-getters, Bill, has begun to put a spreadsheet together of die cast and injection molding companies in the Guangdong Province, which he’s researched as being a hotbed for these industries.  Since Guangzhou is a FTZ (Free Trade Zone) Bill with his Operations Management degree, has identified this as the logical place to start.  He’s shared a couple of months of emails with “agents” posing as direct factory managers and is ready to take his associates to China.  Just say the word.

Assuming that Bill and the others now have passports and visas in hand, they begin booking flights, hotels, trains, and ferries to venture out into the Middle Kingdom.  In all they’ll be gone for just under three weeks.  Since this is the company’s first sojourn to Asia, you’ll undoubtedly accompany them on this exciting new foray into the land of the dragon along with your Ops VP.  Now you and your four valuable employees will be out of pocket the majority of a month leaving yours and their day to day responsibilities to others or to simply take a break from existing projects.  How much time and capital do you think this will require?  You may be surprised.

The following lists conservatively typical expenses by line item for a 2 ½ week trip to China.¹  Remember, you’ll require a full 24 hour day of travel to and from and a day of recovery once you’ve arrived.

Cost analysis of doing business in china

The good news is there are competent firms in place to assist in your project management initiatives.  In a poll on Linked In, 150 Supply Chain professionals weighed in with their response to the question, What is the best way to manufacture outsourcing in China?” (See diagram below). 57% of respondents chose “Establish a trusted partner in China.”  Perhaps a good portion of the voters had already been through the trial and error process.  Or it could be that those who have succeeded in tandem with a firm watching out for their best interests can easily quantify the decision to engage a reputable partner for monitoring manufacturing, quality control, packaging, labeling and logistics.

what is the best way to conduct manufacturing outsourcing to china

In his article  http://baysourceglobal.com/10-tips-to-better-china-sourcing/ William Atkinson of Purchasing Magazine explains that regardless of their China story, those who have enjoyed a successful relationship with China have done so through proper guidance and preparation.  In this critical juncture of global commerce, fluctuating currencies, and competitive pressure, it is imperative to select a reliable partner whom you can trust, knows the local governments and regulations, has engineers on staff who understand your products and who can help you gain a foothold in this valuable region of the world.

¹Airfares, four star accommodations and RMB exchange rates as of September, 2014

Baysource Global President, David Alexander can be reached at david.alexander@baysourceglobal.net

What’s Next for Manufacturing in China?

What is something you can think of that can’t successfully be outsourced in China?

Think long and hard about this. Resist the temptation to veer toward intangibles or time sensitive services with obvious geographical barriers such as a haircut or plumbing repair. What product theoretically cannot be manufactured in China? How about a portrait? I have an acquaintance that has connected with amazingly talented artists who will take a family photo and reproduce a framed, hand painted, oil on canvas likeness taken from a photograph.

It will have the same level of detail and quality as those done by artists in the U.S. costing a minimum of $1200-$2500 just for the painting itself. This does not include the frame which can be another $350-$500. The exact quality portrait from China can be delivered to your doorsteps for $450 or about a quarter or less that which someone would expect to pay here. Why is this?

If you said labor cost you are only partly correct. There are many more factors that play into “the China price” for which Westerners have had an insatiable appetite since the Wal Mart effect took hold in the early nineties. Yet now writers, politicians and economists say the tide is turning. Many assert that currency fluctuation, labor shortages near China’s coastlines, and a rising middle class, are quickly narrowing the cost gap between China and the West. They might be forgetting one thing though according to Mike Bellamy, author of The Essential Guide to China Sourcing , “there is no Next China.”

Rising Labor Costs in China

 

rising labor costs china

In a Roya Wolverson interview published in Time, May 16, 2011, Pin Li, President of the Wanxiang America Corporation stated that “rising labor costs in China will only cause inflation and not necessarily jobs returning to the U.S.” He further explained that what this means is “instead of paying $1 for latex gloves the price may rise to $2 and will still represent the lowest cost available in the world.”

In other words, assuming material costs are consistent globally, even doubling or tripling the average monthly wage of Chinese factory employees still does not bring total cost of goods in line with U.S. workers.

In a recent conversation, Bellamy, Chairman of the Advisory Board for China Sourcing Information Center begins to make the “No Next China” case with the notion that China’s economy is still vastly lopsided in its dependence on exporting. The Chinese and its neveaux riche’ have created the world’s second largest economy that many predict will be bigger than the U.S. within the next decade. The only fuel to keep this burning is the demand for cheap(er) exports. A growing middle class also means bolstered domestic consumption, particularly as brands become more prevalent with Chinese consumers. But to sustain economic growth, exports have to remain a big chunk of the equation.

A Shift By Coastal Manufacturing Regions

The question may not be so much about “Made in China” as it is “What will be Made in China?” Sure there is great capacity and infrastructure in coastal regions but there may be a shift developing with the evolution of improved skill sets and wage increases. Dr. Eric Thun , lecturer in Chinese Business Studies at the University of Oxford China Center, says “pushing manufacturing into high value-added activity is very much what the government wants. This kind of cost pressure stimulates upgrading.”

Bellamy adds, “because China’s economy is still heavily export dependent at present, over the past years there have been concerns about the China government promoting the interior too fast at the expense of the coast. This could have major side effects on the much needed revenue stream gained by supplying product to overseas buyers. But, as April data demonstrates to policy makers, the development of the interior is not having a major impact on exports. “

The Role Of Appreciation In Chinese Currency To U.S. Job Creation

Since June, 2010 when currency truly began floating, the RMB has appreciated 6% against the US dollar. Depending on whom you talk to however, the RMB is still undervalued by as much as 25%. Add to this CPI inflation and productivity growth rates (Chinese worker productivity is growing faster than U.S.) and the RMB will continue to be undervalued for five years or more.

Pin Li argues that “currency can help but it also can hurt. Structural issues are more fundamental for the U.S. and China. This is more of a political question than any economist can even measure. Politically we have to pretend it’s an issue. But the reality is that jobs from China won’t come to the U.S. They’ll go to Mexico, Korea, and Indonesia. And that means the imports that came from China will now cost more which also doesn’t solve the deficit issue.”

Bellamy claims “we can expect that the US government will probably use the April export record to put pressure on China to allow their currency to appreciate. The China government has a plan in place for a slow but steady increase as opposed to a dramatic adjustment as desired by the US. Don’t expect China to change their plan just because of this April data and any related pressure from the USA.”

China as a Market

Li’s passive reference to the deficit is interesting and should not go unnoticed. While many grip about jobs, only a small percentage of Western companies have invested in growing market share in China.

In an October 6, 2010 Bloomberg Press report it was estimated that China market was valued at $150 billion in potential goods and services or a top ten global opportunity for U.S. companies. “U.S. companies have experienced tremendous commercial success in China’s market and the prospects for future growth are significant,” said Erin Ennis, vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

Beijing has a $145 billion trade surplus with the U.S., more than its deficit with the next seven- largest partners combined. But is this solely due to undervalued currency and cheap labor? Could it be more the apathetic or myopic strategies of only selling into North American and European markets and not breaking from traditional business models?

Pin Li makes a bold statement when he asserts, “Firms’ access to Chinese should be their more of a concern than an unbalanced currency.”

The Next 5 Years

China remains a factory to the world. Government subsidized infrastructure has ensured overcapacity of manufacturing availability. One needs to simply travel from town to town; cranes as far as the eye can see. Staggering development continues in all sectors such as transportation, industrial, housing, recreation, hospitals, shopping centers, and resorts. Innovation and branding are now woven into the next generation’s mindset with Beijing’s full support. There is no next China. Whether as adversary, trading partner, or ally the future will depend on setting priorities and building mutual trust.

David Alexander is President of BaySource Global www.baysourceglobal.com

China News

Each day we read and hear more and more about the co-mingling of China and the U.S. as these two interdependent nations refine their geopolitical position with each other and the rest of the world.  China is a vast nation teeming with industrious minded entreprenuers who are seeking their fortune much in the same way as U.S. pioneers in the early 1900s.  Our countries are indissolubly linked from an economic standpoint and nothing on the horizon seems to contradict this long term description of our relationship.  China, while still “factory to the world,” will forge ahead in Western style to build consumer brands, capitalize on the meteoric rise of a middle class market, and play a vital role in world financial markets.  It is a story that will be amazing to see unfold and in no way does the ending have to be a negative one as both nations continue to innovate and lever their strengths and resources. 

If you or your colleagues and associates have the need for a competent and experienced partner to manage your company’s China business, we want to be just that.  We have a China staff of over 30 who have working knowledge of hundreds of industries and disciplines.  Our specialties are complex manufacturing assignments, supply chain management, fulfillment and distribution in China, greenfielding, and highly competent project management.  We are integrity driven, quality focused and have an ardent desire to see our clients succeed in every undertaking. 

Thank you for allowing us to continue to reach out to you with newsletters and emails.  Should your business plans include any aspect of dealing with China, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.  

China to continue RMB exchange rate reform Chinese President Hu Jintao reiterated on May 24th that China will continue to steadily advance the reform of the formation mechanism of the RMB exchange rate under the principle of independent decision-making, controllability and gradual progress. Hu made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the second round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing. 

Hu said China will continue to pursue a win-win strategy of opening up. The country would expand market access in keeping with established international economic and trading rules, support the improvement of international trading and financial systems, and askance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. 

On China’s effort to accelerate the transformation of its economic development pattern, he said, “We will make great effort to expand domestic demand and increase household consumption, vigorously promote sounds and balanced growth of external trade, and reject protectionism in all manifestations.” 

China’s trade back into surplus After a US$7.2bn deficit in March, China’s trade retuned to surplus in April but shrank 87% from a year earlier due to faster growth in imports. The trade surplus stood at US$1.68bn in April, according to the General Administration of Customs. Exports rose 30.5% you to US$119.92bn in April, while imports surged 49.7% to US$118.24bn.

Harley Sales Up Harley Davidson Inc has reported that sales in China doubled last year, according to Rodney Copes, VP of international sales. Since it entered China in 2005, Harley has developed four dealers nationwide – one in Shanghai – and plans to open four new dealerships this year in Wenzhou, Xiamen, Dalian and Chengdu. 

Foreign Investment Reflecting the determination of China’s central government to attract additional foreign investment-and to direct that capital towards industries and regions that serve the government’s broader social and economic goals-the State Council issued Several Opinions on Further Utilizing Foreign Capital (Foreign Capital Utilization Opinions) on April 6, 2010. The Foreign Capital Utilization Opinions set priorities that encourage foreign investment in research and development centers, high-end manufacturing, high and new technology, alternative energy, and other environmentally friendly industries while discouraging investment within industries that consume large amounts of energy, pollute the environment, or are already over capacity in China. 

Shanghai Pudong – new policy on JVs On 13th April 2010, The Shanghai Pudong People’s Government issued the Tentative Measures On Setting Up A Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture (“EJV”) and Cooperative Joint Venture (“CJV”) In Pudong (“Tentative Measures”). The Tentative Measures have been introduced to allow domestic natural persons to establish EJVs and CJVs in the Pudong New Area. The Tentative Measures came into effect on 1 May 2010 for a trial period of 2 years. 

The Chinese laws on joint ventures, which were initially issued in 1979 and 1988 respectively, do not allow domestic natural persons to set up EJVs or CJVs with foreign companies or individuals. Such restrictions do not conform to the principle of “national treatment” and so have been seen as being an obstacle to domestic individuals hoping to cooperate with foreign entities and/or individuals. As the Chinese people are becoming more prosperous, pressure has increased to abolish the existing restriction. 

The usual way to circumvent the restrictions is for a Chinese natural person to set up a limited liability company (normally a one-person company), and to use the new company as a vehicle to partner foreign parties. However this route is very inconvenient and the issue of the “invisible investor” has led to many disputes between contracting parties. 

Foreign investors have encountered difficulties when trying to partner with a Chinese citizen they trust. There has been rapid growth int he need for cooperation between individuals from SMEs and foreign individuals in high-tech and creative industries. As the officials from Pudong said, “We have changed because such change is required.” 

Highest Level of Confidence  Chinese consumer confidence rose int he first quarter of the year to the highest level since 2007 as people became more optimistic over their future, a survey by Nielson Co and the National Bureau of Statistics. The Consumer Confidence Index in China climbed to a three-year high, bolstered by better employment prospects. However, people’s willingness to spend fell slightly due to soaring asset prices.

World Expo Opens  Shanghai kicked off the 2010 World Expo with an extravagant opening ceremony and fireworks show. The two-hour performance at the new US$270m Expo Culture Centre ended with a spectacular outdoor multimedia show punctuated by a parade of hundreds of national flags carried by boats along the city’s Huangpu River. The city has spent US$45bn, more than Beijing spent not he 2008 Olympics, to put on what it says will be the biggest Expo ever.

 

David Alexander is President of BaySource Global, a U.S. based manufacturing and project management firm with offices in Shenzhen and Shanghai. www.baysourceglobal.com

Positive Outcomes to Outsourcing in China

The common stereotype associated with outsourcing to China is that it means lost jobs.  However, several companies are finding that it makes sense to evaluate asset reallocation in terms of plants, property, equipment and labor.  The following was published in the Portland Business Journal and illustrates how one company actually used strategic sourcing to lower cost and increase market share.  The result:  more factory jobs for one town.

Tualatin firm finds that outsourcing leads to growthThe Portland Business Journal – Sean MeyersSpecial to the Business JournalFinally, a story about outsourcing to China that even a labor official might love. In the late 1990s, Sure Power Inc., a longtime Tualatin designer and manufacturer of vehicle electronics, was feeling heat from customers and pressure from the market to simultaneously reduce product price and dramatically increase quality.

 

Like many other U.S. manufacturers caught in a similar bind, Sure Power turned to China. That’s nothing new, but the results of the effort might surprise some opponents of outsourcing. “I can’t attribute a single layoff to outsourcing to China,” says Steve Scheidler, Sure Power president. “In fact, the result has been just the opposite.” Local employment has increased 53 percent to about 160 and taxes paid to the state of Oregon have increased by 204 percent, not counting additional income taxes paid by the new employees. Sales are up 188 percent. Why? Outsourcing portions of manufacturing have freed up more of the company’s 115,000 square feet for research and development, he says. That has made the Tualatin location more competitive by making new products easier to build. Outsourcing has improved cash flow and allowed Sure Power to better manage resources. “The purpose in going to China was not to shutter our factory. Our customers were compelling us to get aggressive on price and design,” Scheidler adds. “It’s allowed us to compete and gain business we may not otherwise have received [and] gives our customers a perceived best-cost opportunity even if that savings is not real or is insignificant.” Going global may be the most important decision in the 47-year history of the company. “When you step back and take a look at the globe, doing business in another country today is not that much more complicated than doing business in an adjacent county,” he says. “Really, what’s the sense in building an expensive new factory when there’s so much factory capacity already available around the world? I think we need to quit being afraid of outsourcing. The U.S. is the No. 1 economy in the world for a reason. We might take a hit, but we bounce back.” Sure Power produces about 1 million parts annually, mostly for use on heavy truck, military, bus, marine and other nonpassenger vehicles. His father, Ralph, started the company by inventing a “battery isolator” that prevents the direct current electrical systems in boats and recreational vehicles from discharging when not in use. The product is still widely used today. Next stop? Outsourcing projects to Eastern Europe, but it’s still in the early development stages, Scheidler says. “I think it would be a good way to break into the market and get them to buy our products.” Scheidler got the advice he needed to establish a foothold in China from suppliers that made referrals and from other manufacturers “who had already been there, done that.” He says he doesn’t know of any other manufacturers who have increased local employment while outsourcing to China.

 

What assistance would Scheidler like to see from government agencies for companies that want to outsource? “I’m not the kind of guy who looks to the government for any help,” he says. “I’m not trying to be negative, but my feeling is, ‘Just stay out of the way.'” So far, the government has been doing a pretty good job of that, says David Alexander, president of BaySource, a Tampa Bay, Fla., consulting firm that specializes in manufacturing in China. “The only assistance that I’ve seen provided to U.S. manufacturers that want to set up projects overseas, at any level of government, is by providing general information on trade.” Many small or midsized manufacturers turn to a consultant to speed the process and to reduce setup costs, he says. A company that sends a fact-finding mission to China will spend an absolute minimum of $5,000 per person, with $8,000 to $10,000 being a more realistic figure, he says. Alexander has daily contact with two very large Chinese manufacturing companies that often have the part an American manufacturer needs already sitting on the shelf. If they don’t have it stocked, they can often design and cast a new part and crank up production within a week, he says. That’s an incredible turnaround time compared with a typical American manufacturing environment, says Alexander, who previously ran a U.S. factory that produced a famous brand of hair and beauty products. Outsourcing is helping U.S. manufacturers improve efficiency, quality and profits, and stories like Sure Power’s are not as rare as people think, Alexander says. “We’re not looking to shut down factories. We’re in business to help companies stay in business.” portland@bizjournals.com | 503-274-8733  

China Outsourcing Advice

Linking East and West, BaySource andEastlink Global Ltd represents a “safe pair of hands” for companies looking to do business in Asia today. Focused on innovative new products and manufacturing components, Eastlink Global is committed to building long-term partnerships with industry-leading companies who share our values of integrity, transparency and uncompromising customer service.In Asia today “Everything is possible… yet nothing is easy” however, our on-the-ground team is dedicated to providing the day-to-day execution needed to ensure your company’s success. Our extensive manufacturing networks, design engineering, program management capabilities and robust logistics infrastructure provide the “end-to-end” solution needed to win in today’s fast-paced environment. Partnering with BaySource and Eastlink Global allows you to instantly unlock the opportunities and benefits of working in Asia, optimizing cost savings and mitigating execution risk. Allow us to help navigate your next outsourcing initiative here in Asia.  www.baysourceglobal.com

Outsourcing makes customers nervous. Here’s how you can help reassure them.

Outsourcing makes customers nervous. Here’s how you can help reassure them.

(FORUTNE Small Business) — Dear FSB: My two partners and I own and operate our own factories in China. With the anti-China trend these days, how do we find companies that are looking to go overseas but do not have a trusted partner? We hold ourselves to U.S. and European standards, but we’re still having to search for businesses to whom we can provide our contract manufacturing services.

– Carlos Valdes, World Manufacturing Group, Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Carlos: When putting a Western face on an Eastern service, don’t discount good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.

This can be done at tradeshows, during one-on-one sales calls, or with networking among industry trade groups. Being completely transparent about your business reassures potential clients, so show photographs and encourage visits to your plant even if a client relationship hasn’t been established yet. Be as detailed as you can with information about your years in service, references, number of employees, biographies of the management team, and products currently being rolled out of your plant.

Is sourcing in China worth it?
Most importantly, always be ready to discuss a worst-case scenario and a back-up plan, advises David Alexander, president of BaySource www.baysourceglobal.com , a Tampa, Fla., firm that assists U.S. companies in developing China outsourcing strategies.

Companies don’t budget for failure, and anything you can do to reassure them that you have contingencies covered will help reduce indecision and anxiety. Be honest and realistic about cost projections, production rates and potential issues that may arise. Even if there are negatives, offset them by listing all the world-class quality standards that your plant has met (such as ISO or UL) and offering quality and service guarantees. For example, you could promise that no portion of the manufacturing will be subcontracted, and that all client phone calls will be returned within 24 hours.

“It is paramount to recognize and be able to articulate that the product being provided is actually a service,” Alexander says. “A trusted set of hands mitigates the inherent risk associated with entrusting a project to an unfamiliar source in China.”

Would you trust a plant in China? How do you convince customers your overseas operations are high-quality? Join our discussion.

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