How did some of the world’s most beloved brands like Groupon, Uber, and Google fail in China? Although blame can’t be attributed to any single factor, one of the biggest mistakes US companies make in China is operating with a belief that success can be achieved single-handedly, without the expertise and counsel of local partners. Without a clear understanding of how to do business in China, Foreign companies tend fall into the trap of naïve assuming that with a few adjustments the same market entry methods used to launch in other can also be applied to China. What most fail to grasp is the nature of the Chinese market is fundamentally different in comparison to other countries, especially the United States. Attempting to set up shop without the counsel of a local partner is often a costly lesson that can jeopardize a brand’s entire existence.
As the second part of our two-part blog series on branding in China, here are some of the biggest ways US companies have flopped in the middle kingdom because they either did not partner effectively with a local agent or worse yet, didn’t seek any help at all.
1. No management localization strategy
An unknowingly fatal mistake made by foreign company executives is ignoring the strategic business recommendations and overall market insights of China country heads. Sometimes the slip even comes from foreign executives hiring the wrong country heads in the first place. In a nation with fundamentally different market drivers, Chinese managers are far more attuned to local conditions and their advice should be taken seriously. For example, when eBay entered China a US senior leader naively ignored the advice of local employees to run servers out of China and then switched hosting to America. The result was as soon as the company switched to US servers, traffic dropped 50% due to slow access speeds and the company never recovered.
2. Inability to navigate and manage distribution networks in China
American firms are largely unfamiliar with the nuances of distribution in China. Missteps are commonplace and can cause additional costs or time delays for that don’t effectively partner with local experts. In general, Chinese distribution companies lack the capabilities of world-class logistics and supply chain companies in the United States. Their weakest points appear in the areas inventory management, lead-time planning, distribution network optimization, and demand forecasting.
A common mistake US companies make is assuming that Chinese distribution partners have advanced knowledge of downstream supply chain management, including the ability to forecast accurately. This means foreign companies that sell in China must invest a substantial amount of capital and time to transfer knowledge of product movement requirements and performance strategy expectations to achieve KPI goals.
China has a fractured and inefficient distribution system filled with redundancies. It’s possible for as many as five tiers to exist at a given level of distribution within a single distribution network. As one can imagine, this results in lower profit margins at every level throughout the supply chain – from the manufacturer to the retailer. According to the China Business Review, “Chinese suppliers hold a large amount of inventory and restock only about three times a year on average, compared with suppliers in Europe, Japan, South Korea, and the United States, who tend to restock about 10 times a year.” The result means significantly longer lead times in China compared to countries, with advanced distribution network systems.
3. Products not reaching customers fast enough
Few US businesses seeking market presence in China grasp the depth and vastness of the China’s economic landscape. Most US companies launch in the proven metropolises – Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. In reality, these major cities represent only a small portion of the entire Chinese population. Opportunities to capture potential customers in rising cities, such as provincial capitals, are not being realized by US businesses. While domestic companies are swiftly advancing towards these key areas of economic development, US businesses are failing to reach the customers of smaller cities fast enough.
Building business alliances through local partnerships in China is the most advantageous way to not only gain an insider’s perspective of China’s business environment, but to also ease navigation through Chinese language, bureaucracy, and sophisticated social structure. Unlike the west, where business partnerships tend to be contractual in nature, In China, all business transactions are based on relationships and trust. Local partners are an indispensable asset and critical component to every foreign business’ success story.
There is one reason and one reason only that decision makers elect to have products manufactured in China and that is cost savings. Assuming that manufactured costs are lower in China due to labor savings, there are many other cost levers to consider when manufacturing offshore in China. Here are the top five:
1. Freight Costs
Freight and logistics should not exceed 10-12% of your total cost of goods. In other words, if you ship a 40 foot container to the U.S. this will cost on average $5,000 including import fees, duties, tax and drayage (overland transportation to/from a shipping port). So if you can’t move approximately $50,000 of product, that should already be 20-30% below existing manufactured cost, you need to re-evaluate whether it makes sense.
2. Carrying Cost of Capital
Cash is king in any business. It is critical to produce inventory that will move once it gets to the U.S. otherwise each month that inventory is tying up capital and not producing top line sales revenue, you are eating into your cashflow.
3. Warehouse Space
Every square foot of a warehouse used to store products has a fixed cost. Unless you have excess space available, you need to be certain you are allotting this valuable real-estate to products that are generating revenue. Otherwise the savings will be offset by the additional cost of warehouse space.
4. Due Diligence
For items #2 and #3 it is imperative that analysis be given to not only finished goods but also raw material and components. Often overlooked is the advantage of using China to absorb the financial burden of not only managing but paying for commodity purchases, raw material, components and works in progress. Every month of financial responsibility taken on by your China producer is a month of cashflow freed up for your business.
5. Start-up Costs
Your China factory will absorb many intangibles associated with start-up costs including learning curve, purchasing coordination, and in many cases tooling not to mention infrastructure such as plant, property and equipment.
Quality, consistency and timing should only be the “cost of admission” and no sacrifices should be made in these areas.
Interested in learning more? You can right here.
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.
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.
In his article https://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 email@example.com
Many companies go it alone when embarking on an outsourcing project for the first time. Commonly, purchasing personnel will rely on web and email correspondence when initiating a sourcing project in China. Small and mid-sized businesses do not necessarily have the resources or personnel required to successfully launch a manufacturing outsourcing project in China.
Commonly, people will seek out a “sourcing agent” or other types of representative in China to act on their behalf. Baysource is different in that our team has been working with a select group of factories for over a decade and with that comes the required credibility to negotiate price, terms, and ensure products are manufactured to our customers’ specifications and expectations. Baysource doesn’t “sell” anything. What we do is get our clients exponentially closer to their project goals accomplishing in one month what would usually take a company one year.
We have all heard about or seen the Tip of the Iceberg illustration, illustrating what makes up Cost of Goods. When one considers the costs of overseas sourcing, often enough he/she does not place enough value in what goes into overseas sourcing. The expenses of travel, shipping back and forth of samples, and of course employees’ time out of the office are huge components to take into account. But what is the cost of failure? Out of spec product? What is the true cost of not having your product available for months at a time?
This is where having an organization such as Baysource, acting on your behalf and with only your interests in mind pays off in spades. Few companies will work on a no-obligation basis such as Baysource, side by side with your key decision makers, to help you accomplish your goals.
In our 4 part series dedicated to new product developers, innovators and inventors, we explore the 8 top considerations when developing a new product. Whether a seasoned marketing professional or first timer, these eight critical components include aspects related to product design, positioning, manufacturing, distribution and financing.
What You’ll Need to Start: Ample Capital
Beyond personal savings, innovators look to family and friends, explore small business loans and even tap into retirement accounts to raise money for their startup products. The initial outlay of inventory capital—that which could be tied up for months is often the greatest obstacle to overcome. Minimum order requirements (MOQs) by factories usually cause a lump in the throat for the first time product developer. Even if you have the greatest gadget in the world, how do you plan on financing that first big P.O.? You’ve likely invested significantly to develop your innovation—a figure that has hopefully been taken into consideration for ROI and overall budget. While established corporations have ample cash flow for typical starting inventories, this may be the greatest initial hurdle for those new to the process.
Inventory Financing / Purchase Order Funding / Factoring
There are a half dozen inventory financing groups (IFGs) in the U.S. who provide bridge capital, purchasing and taking title to inventory which goes to a third party distribution warehouse. You then pay the IFG as for the cost of goods plus any in and out fees required by the warehouse as you sell merchandise. Purchase order financing is a new twist on Factoring, an older practice in which small businesses sell invoices at a discount for faster recovery of cash, providing the factoring company with a substantial fee. The caveat is that the invoices must be to reputable clients, i.e. Walmart to be considered.
These can be good options that allow you to purchase greater quantities thus commanding volume discounts. Another benefit is that you don’t have to give up equity to outside investors. Many times the factories’ terms require money down at the time of placing the purchase order. IFGs make it possible to abide by these terms. These companies will want to know:
- Your sales and marketing strategy (refer to Part I of the series) and about your team
- The quality of the products produced
- Your margins
- Inventory turns
- Your credit worthiness and track record
Personal guarantees and background checks are almost always standard protocol which usually means demonstrating some form of net worth whether savings, retirement funds, property, creditworthiness and no criminal records. They may also not take a chance on a new client—one who has no real balance sheet to speak of. Another downside is that these lenders charge interest rates that can be as high as 40% annually. Lastly, there is always a time requirement (term) for making good on these loans which are usually around 60 days. If you are unsuccessful in meeting your sales plan, stiff penalties may be imposed.
In just the past few years companies like Kickstarter have created tech based forums which bring creative projects to life and are open to investment by the general public. To date, over five million people have pledged over $800 million and funded more than 50,000 projects to date on Kickstarter in categories such as films, music and the arts, video games and inventions.
Crowdfunding is catching on and becoming more accepted as a means of raising capital. Investors do so at their own risk and there is little to no governance or regulation meaning no reporting or other administrative overhead. Crowdfunding is really an eco-system for philanthropy and those playing in this space have an entrepreneurial spirit. Mostly, investors do not generally require any form of equity or preferred stock so your ownership is not diluted. On April 12, 2013 the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business) Act, was signed into law and is designed to increase job creation and economic growth. The good news is that it eases fundraising regulations imposed by the SEC enabling more entrepreneurs to raise capital.
Because blocks of investments can be minimal—as low as $1,000 or less, investors may be less motivated to provide insight or contribute to the long term success of a project.
Seed Capital / Angel Investors
The difference between Seed Capital and Venture Capital is that Seed money comes from individuals vs. institutional investors. Most angel (seed) investors have a wider appetite for risk and a savvy track record for assisting startups with building their businesses. These professionals are also versed in providing feedback on pro-formas (financial targets for top line revenues and margins; cash flow models and debt. Generally seed investors are less hands on in the day to day running of the business once they have a sound idea of your business plan. Seed investments are less administratively complex with less formal corporate contracts and governance.
Seed capital usually comes at a cost—Equity. There is risk on both sides. The investor may never recover their investment or you may give away too much ownership. Usually the latter results because it is just so tempting for the inventor to commence their dream.
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
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
Nobody has an ugly baby. The same goes for new product developers. Whether an independent entrepreneur or seasoned marketing team, once a new product concept is developed and months, even years in some cases are invested, our babies become prettier every day. The same unconditional love and support that builds as our children mature and develop transfers into the professional mindset of innovators.
Calling All Product Developers
Creating a viable and robust market for a new product takes enormous resource, planning and resolve. The sheer capital to unveil and furthermore generate brand equity is often the most overlooked aspect of getting a product to market. Take the Segway for instance. This emission free, efficient mode of personal transportation has been around for over a decade. With some quick, simple training even children can master riding this marvel. Reaching top speeds of 12.5 mph it has a range of up to 24 miles on a single charge. Still commercial acceptance has been scant. Why wouldn’t every warehouse and airport have a fleet of them?
Recently two Swedish designers have developed an entirely new concept for biking safety in the form of the Hovding, an airbag which deploys vies-a- vie algorithmic intelligence protecting riders from head trauma in the event of a fall or crash. This revolutionary “bike helmet” is worn around riders’ necks and actually becomes a stylized accessory. At $520 prospects for commercial distribution of any scale in the next five years may be slim. However according to Forbes writer Jeremy Bogaisky this startup has already taken in $13 million in venture capital. He cites bicycle industry analyst Gary Coffrin who gives a great summation stating “The adaptation curve for such a unique product at this price point is not likely to be rapid.”
Taking the tech factor down a notch, in my own gym sits a clever form of a door stop called “James the Doorman.” I would imagine the designers, Black+Bum had their “Eureka” design moment and the wheels started spinning. Honestly I have never seen such a cool variety of a door stop and without knowing much about how they developed this unique version of an age old application, I can’t comment on what lengths they went to in commercializing their product. I do know that the one in my club is the only that I have ever seen.
Every week we hear from inventors and product developers who have put great thought into products which offer unique solutions to every day needs. Often though there are many missing pieces to their overall strategies. Below are the Top 8 Hurdles to Successful New Product Launches. In the coming months, I will be writing a series which individually expands on each of these, why they are often overlooked and how they are important for taking new products to market.
1. Product Development Costs
Most inventors underestimate the cost for designing a manufacturing ready product. Tools and molds can easily run into the five to six figure range and can dwarf first year profits. Developing engineering drawings—those that translate into production and material specifications require time and money.
2. Distribution Channels
Some products are ideal for Big Box retail but unless you know how to navigate this space, most category managers are not going to take a chance with a single line item vendor. It creates additional administrative work for the system, and most inventors don’t have the capital to market their products. Specialty and on-line retailers generally are better proving grounds for a products’ acceptance but you still have to generate interest and traffic. Oh, and did you get a UPC code yet?
3. Inventory Capital
Minimum order requirements (MOQs) by factories usually cause a lump in the throat. Even if you have the greatest gadget in the world, how do you plan on financing that first big order?
4. Educating the Masses
How will you announce the arrival of your new product to the world? Magazines? PR campaign? Put an ad in the paper? Direct Response Television (DRTV) is a great but often expensive form of advertising and one of the best ways to demonstrate a new application or use as well as building brand equity. It’s great to have a video on your web site but again, how will you drive viewers and a following?
5. Price vs. Value
In the initial phase of your product’s life-cycle there will likely not be the scale (volume) to drive down production cost. Unless you can convince consumers they should pay a premium retail price, break-even may be longer off than you expect. Plus, buyers will tell you whether your SRP (Suggested Retail Price) is in line with their category.
6. Regulatory and Testing Requirements
With your product in the public domain, most retailers will require some sort of regulatory or product safety testing and compliance with groups such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and others. Depending on what industry you are in, your item may require testing and certification by default. To you this means additional time, red tape and money.
7. Patent and Intellectual Property Protection
This is perhaps the most critical and misunderstood area of product development. In many cases developers could have saved themselves months of work simply by doing some basic research and analysis. The United States Patent and Trademark Office site has become more navigable and efficient thanks to improvements in their search functions. There are three ways to begin your inquiry using key words, designs or a combination to see if someone else has registered a similar product. Even if they have you may be able to make some functional changes to distinguish yours but again, many underestimate the time and capital required to protect the investment of your innovation.
8. Aftermarket Sales and Support
Now that you’ve got a patent pending, finalized your business plan, raised early stage capital, have product on the warehouse shelf and are starting to generate traction don’t forget the basic administrative requirements. If you hit the lotto and are selling to Wal Mart, using retail link is a requirement. This entails sending a staff member for training and ultimately using their on line tool daily or weekly. Is someone manning the phones for product questions and concerns? How robust is your web site? Oh, we haven’t even discussed how much this will cost to build.
While these hurdles aren’t surmountable, it is critical to factor in all the critical and time consuming elements of bringing a product to life. Even this list is not comprehensive enough to account for the unexpected turns in the pathway to new product development. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
David Alexander is president of Baysource Global and has a decade of experience with new product development and contract manufacturing.
In the world of business, financial objectives have traditionally prevailed over the values of social responsibility and ethical behavior. As the global business landscape continues to flatten in an increasingly competitive economy, companies have to find ways to reduce costs and uncertainty more than ever. Supply chains are the low hanging fruit for finding new buckets of savings.
For much of the last 20 years U.S. firms have followed the trend to low cost country sources for labor savings offered through outsourcing. Technology and globalization have made manufacturing parts in one nation, assembling them in another, and selling them in a third a reality. Although controversial at times, outsourcing has proven itself to be expedient and highly profitable.
Without proper due diligence there can be a dark side to outsourcing. Throughout the years a series of highly publicized public relation nightmares regarding child labor violations and reprehensible working conditions at Asian factories have impacted companies such as Nike and Apple. If not managed carefully, manufacturing overseas can cause serious damage to brand reputation. Consequently, this can have devastating effects on the bottom line for businesses who’ve either shrugged a cold shoulder at or simply overlooked the social welfare aspect of global manufacturing. In a world that’s outsourcing more than ever, the idea of social responsibility has become inextricably linked to a company’s identity.
Consumers and the businesses that ultimately serve them through the B2B framework can no longer simply assume that products are being safely manufactured by highly skilled, adult workers in favorable work conditions. Nor can we afford to assume that all foreign workers are recipients of the same high standard of worker’s rights, as seen here in the United States and Europe. With social media, and the general transparency that the internet brings, today’s highly informed consumers are holding businesses to a much higher standard when it comes to manufacturing responsibly.
Outsourcing affords small and medium sized businesses the opportunity to compete in the same marketplace as their giant, corporate counterparts. Socially responsible outsourcing must be approached cautiously with a partner you can trust. Having a reliable overseas partner that can provide your business with a factory social-audit check allows your business to mitigate the risk of destroying the good-will and reputation that your product or brand has built up through the years. Businesses considering moving their manufacturing operations abroad need to consider how to manufacture overseas without risking the reputation of their brand.
Ethical businesses have the power to transform their organizations and supply chains into sustainable practices that people can trust. Rather than viewing suppliers as a network that they simply manage they are valued as partners in a powerful brand that generates shareholder value and an long term goodwill. Ethical businesses value transparency, long-term relationships and human rights. A reputable business ensures that products are produced in factories with technically skilled and legal workers that meet both domestic and international safety and work condition standards.
With operations dispersed around the globe, the modern business is a fundamentally different animal from its predecessors. The days of achieving profitability by any means necessary are over. Even as more companies jump onto the social responsibility band-wagon there still remains a perpetuating stigma that businesses who manufacture their products overseas choose profits over values. Globally-minded companies that take an interest in manufacturing abroad should exercise prudence in selecting an over-seas partner that preserves product integrity and social values, in addition to affording clients the ability to capture the cost-savings opportunity out global outsourcing.
Michelle Scheblein is China Business Analyst at BaySource Global. She has a B.A. in international business from the University of South Florida and has resided in China from 2013-2014. She can be reached at Michelle.Scheblein@baysource.net
Last fall I visited a state of the art precision die cast factory in Southern China. By my estimate they do a turnover of ~USD$400MM. This facility had two very sophisticated machines that were designed and manufactured by the Japanese and could essentially be used for highly technical military products although they were simply utilizing these for their advanced automation in making automotive (carburetor) parts. After a long lunch, the owner took us to their R&D building where they had something they wanted us to see. It was…a turkey fryer. That’s right. They had devised a turkey fryer that uses 80% less oil than deep frying. Already they had complete prototypes for cooking French fries.
You may be wondering where this story is headed. I had to admit I was a bit taken back by this “top secret” invention they whetted our curiosity over during our meal. But in their thorough marketing analysis, they had deduced there was no similar Western device yet on the market. It just so happened to be November and thus the American Thanksgiving holiday was just around the corner. This factory had a business plan in place, knew their total market universe in the U.S. of those who deep fried turkeys vs. oven, and even recognized this was a stronger activity in the South. In fact, they had determined that their distribution channel likely needed to begin with HSN or QVC and migrate into traditional retail.
What they didn’t have is a contact in the U.S. to assist with the launch nor did they know anyone who could introduce them into this market. They explained they were missing a key intermediary who could introduce this new product to a leading cookware company, someone familiar with infomercials, or a firm that could handle direct sales and distribution. If so, they believed annualized sales could reach USD$50-100MM. Have you seen this product on the market yet?
Sure there are low value added jobs that have gone offshore. And by the way, we haven’t stopped manufacturing in Central and South America and Eastern Europe. But there is an interdependency between China and the U.S. that can’t be ignored. There is also a huge market in China for our goods and services. Take the story of Dais Analytic whose desalination and wastewater technology will add up to 1,000 jobs in Tampa, FL over the next five years. Just this week, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire unit purchased Burlington Northern Santa Fe which is a huge bet on increased trade with China. And as a growing consumer market, the number of millionaires in China is 825,000 and growing, many under 40 years of age.
If you take this story out of the realm of turkey fryers, the Chinese are innovating every day but will rely on marketing expertise here to be successful. Likewise, there are Western companies who require cutting edge innovation and new product development to maintain and gain market share. Possibly this could lead to Eastern entities establishing beachheads in the U.S. The typical hurdle rates that private equity and investment banking firms require to do deals may be cast aside by Chinese courtiers who seek a foothold in the U.S. to incorporate their intellectual property, low cost labor structure and “can-do” spirit with U.S. brands.
It is truly a global landscape yet we seem to be protectionist by default. If we start embracing opportunities as a global “community” vs. simply a global business landscape, we have the chance to merge our creativity and assets to serve one another.
David Alexander is President of BaySource Global, specializing in project management, supply chain and cross border opportunities with China. www.baysourceglobal.com
- Resource Center
- Beginner’s Guide to Outsource Manufacturing
- The Beginner’s Guide to Doing Business in China
- China Product Sourcing
- China Contract Manufacturing
- China Manufacturing Consultant
- Plastic Manufacturers China
- Pros and Cons of Outsourcing to China
- Shipping from Chinese Manufacturers to Your Market
- Case Studies