Many manufacturing problems tend to be because both the buyer and the supplier talk past one another.

Taken from Wikipedia

Talking past each other is an English phrase describing the situation where two or more people talk about different subjects, while believing that they are talking about the same thing.

Neither side is clear on what’s being said.

They both agree.

There seems to be affirmation.

Both sides have a sense of fulfillment once messages are sent and quotations change hands.

Even once money changes hands, everyone feels a sense of pride and achievement.

But when problems sneak into the scene, everyone is bewildered.

How could these things happen?

Because both sides were talking past one another.

Whenever this happens, you may coast on success for a little bit. Eventually though you’ll come to a halt.

Breakdowns in communication are sneaky things. They don’t manifest in the immediate.

They wait until everything seems to be going well and then WHAM-O.

Problems come out.

Many times this plays out in a wooden literalism.

Client gives a design as a parameter of what they need.

In the client’s mind, “of course make necessary changes to get it production ready. This is simply a parameter”.

Factory takes it literally and says “no problem.”

The sample comes back and the item looks flat weird because the factory took everything literally.

They didn’t make the design more efficient or production ready.

In other words, the factory left aside what they can do and possibly do well.

Or, if the factory doesn’t make it weird or odd, then it’s costly.

The buyer wonders, “why the heck is it so expensive?”

Because to make the design verbatim is very costly.

This happens from supplier trying to literally obey the letters of the law.

Or in this case, letter of the design.

Sometimes the supplier receives a design and they’ve done something similar before. All they have to do is pitch the possibility to the client and then client would readily accept.

It’s available, it’s more efficient, it would work…

But the supplier doesn’t want to pitch it.

They think the client asked for “x” therefore they must have “x”.

Sometimes you just need good ol’ plan talk…

One of the problems with international business, it’s done online and via electronic communication. Therefore it’s done more matter-of-factly and neglects human interaction.

Client did indeed ask for “x”. But client didn’t say:

  • what have you made before?
  • show us something similar, we’re open to ideas.
  • use your best expertise to make this more production ready from your stand point.

Moving forward in your business in 2019, especially your import business, try less rigidity.

Don’t be afraid to dig in a wee bit longer to make sure both sides, not only understand the words, or the picture, but the spirit.

When your supplier is trying to clarity a process, don’t try to rush them through it.

Even if it’s hard to listen to. Learn key words, learn their sense of importance behind their words. If it’s important to your vendor, it should be important to you. Avoid thinking everything has a nefarious reason behind it.

You’ll be glad you did and it’ll show in your cost, quality and efficiency.