When it comes to choosing the right manufacturer for a new product, many companies think of Asia first. And with good reason – Asia-based manufacturing can be remarkably cost-effective and strategically smart.
There are several important points to keep in mind when looking to source from Asia. Not being aware of the challenges inherent to a long-distance, cross-cultural business relationship of this nature can result in disappointing outcomes for all parties involved. For over 25 years, our company has regularly helped businesses dealing with negative situations of this kind. We’ve worked with manufacturers based in Asia for so long that we know exactly where troubles can lie, and how to avoid them. Here are three of the biggest things you need to know if you’re planning on sourcing from Asia.
- A consistent physical presence on the ground is essential. Many people assume that a few visits to their manufacturing partner in Asia will be enough to set up and maintain a solid working relationship. It won’t be and here’s why. We are used to structures that keep us organized and advance processes and they aren’t. For example, most Western companies have regularly scheduled business meetings to assign and delegate tasks. But in Asia, it typically takes personal relationships and regular interactions between partners for things to stay on track, instead, and so in order to have a successful experience, a consistent, on-the-ground presence is vital. Maintaining a strong working relationship with Asian-based manufacturers requires a much larger investment of time and resources than most companies anticipate.
- When it comes to communication, trust but verify. It’s not difficult to find an Asian manufacturer who speaks English – even one who speaks English very well. Because of that, many companies handle their communication with their Asian manufacturing partner in the same way they would an American partner. Don’t. Because languages contain many nuances and references that are perfectly clear to a native speaker – they could have a different interpretation by the non-native speaker. Take the time to review each party’s “next steps” to be sure what was said is what was heard and everyone is on the same page with the same expectations.
- Make sure the manufacturer you choose is a fit for your product. Another common problem is one that can happen regardless if your partner is overseas or not – but it is much tougher to solve if they aren’t nearby, and that is a mismatch. Make sure the manufacturer has experience making the products you need. Challenges will arise and maybe even changes will be required based on new regulations or necessary design modifications – it is vital that your manufacturer have the talent and the context for manufacturing a product that is as similar to yours as possible. Even if they have the capability to manufacture your product, experience is the real key to success, so do your homework and find out what other products they have manufactured and how satisfied their client companies were before settling on a choice.
By keeping these three points in mind as you begin a relationship with a manufacturer in Asia, you’ll have a much better chance of long-term success. From quality to delivery schedules, these tips will make sure everything stays on track as expected.
Mark Dohnalek is President & CEO of Pivot International, a world leader in global product development, engineering & manufacturing. Kansas-based, Pivot International operates overseas locations including Asia in both China and Manila. For more info visit: www.pivotint.com