You and your provider.
The goal was clear. You had to make a purchase in China or Asia and try to avoid this situation.
But maybe you couldn’t make it and you have worked with a provider who simply wasn’t giving the best of him, or you haven’t been able to make both your goals meet for a win/win situation.
You felt communication was “void”, as if there was no common ground whatsoever between you two despite working towards the same objective.
Your provider was giving you many excuses to explain quality problems in the product or the delay in delivery.
If you have already been in any of these situations when importing from China or from another manufacturing country in Asia, you probably would have loved to know, in that exact moment, how to avoid it.
The perfect provider.
No relationship with a provider is perfect, and there will always be some issues in your path. Negative situations that arise from the very dynamic of the job and the managing. The important aspect in these cases is how the provider manages problems and what solutions he can offer.
My motto is: “the best provider is that who hasn’t worked with us yet”.
¡This is obviously sarcastic! I must point out that producing clothing and accessories in China and the rest of Asia for so many years, we know, we work with and we’ve established relationships with excellent providers.
I simply try to “state” with one general sentence a feeling that often creeps up on those of us who work every day, side by side, with our providers noticing their strengths, but also their shortcomings and weaknesses.
Naturally, the right way to do it is to make them understand that we share the same goal; that there’s much more that unites us than what separates us from that objective; we must be as fair and as impartial as possible, assessing each provider equally and thoroughly.
Nevertheless, if you have already come across problems repeatedly, you might want or have to be more cautious. You should look out for the following signs that reveal a potentially bad provider.
His version of the story changes constantly and the provider always has a handy excuse.
First it was a problem with the quality of the raw material. Now it’s a misunderstanding with the woven fabric provider. Yesterday, the delay in production was due to power cuts scheduled by the government. The next piece of news is that production is halted because the workers are feeling sick due to of the extreme heat that results from the scheduled power cuts. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!
In fact, all of these examples might be real, but you wouldn’t be mistaken to be a little skeptical about them, since they all happen to the same provider repeatedly and it directly impacts your productions.
It’s time for a thorough control!
Your provider is never wrong, and they never admit to be mistaken.
He might tell you that the lower and lower product quality you have noticed in the last five orders “is simply a product of your imagination” or that your quality inspectors have been too severe in those cases. It is possible that he will ask you to ignore the fact that your most important clients have been increasingly returning the products. He might tell you there must be a mistake in your data because the quality is still the same.
All these are attempts to duck their responsibility and blame someone else.
A decrease in product quality is the direct responsibility of the provider when all other variables have not changed.
Avoid working with a provider who won’t take responsibility.
Another telltale sign is when your provider –deliberately—organizes or confirms inspections based on false information.
A common example of false information appears when you have scheduled an inspection for a certain date and when the quality controller arrives to the factory, the product isn’t ready for inspection.
The provider confirmed the inspection knowing that the product wouldn’t be ready for it.
This is generally done in an attempt to avoid the inspection process and it’s a clear warning sign that shows that the order must be inspected, without fail, prior to its shipping.
If this happens repeatedly, you are taking a big risk buying in China and the rest of Asia.
The provider or the factory let you know that the inspection company didn’t do their job right: however, they are unable to provide specific details to explain what that really means.
Reporting the incompetence of inspectors or questioning their honesty is a common practice among the providers. In most cases you will realize this coincides with an inspection report that presents a long list of quality problems.
The one thing that is more frustrating than a negative inspection report is hearing that the inspector didn’t know what he was doing or that he asked for money in exchange for a positive inspection for the factory.
If the factory doesn’t provide much detail, then they are likely trying to divert your attention away from the real problem: the quality is unacceptable.
Naturally, this is solved with a second quality inspection.
If these examples remind you of one of your current providers, then you should start to protect yourself by visiting the factory regularly and personally. This will allow you to see things by yourself and to assess the situation.
It will be harder for your provider to lie to you if you are directly involved in the matter or if you pay them regular visits.
And don’t forget that there are many good providers you could work with, experienced and with an excellent reputation. They are out there! We just have to look for them, contact them, evaluate them and integrate them into our company.
Until next time!