Responsibility and Mass Production Mistakes

  • Solving production mistakes in a solution-oriented manner are signs of a solid vendor.

Production mistakes cut a project to the quick. Not only is the actual product now “not right” but there’s other aspects to sort out. Handling it all cross-culturally and from abroad makes it all the more touchy.

Finding out how production errors happen

“I don’t care how it happened, just fix it!”

This is a common exclamation that an exasperated buyer may send to their vendor.

It’s true that in the heat of the battle, you may think you don’t have time to hear how this happened or how it happened isn’t important. In a rapid-fire mindset, perhaps you think only the solution is important. If timing is a super important factor, this may have a hint of truth.

Before you start making solution-oriented changes, find out HOW this problem happened.

  • If you don’t know what production process or failure caused the problem, the perceived solution may lead to a worse problem. Knowing how it happened helps you know how to choose the right solution.
  • In hearing the “how” of the problem, you may realize, as the buyer there is something else you need to offer. Perhaps further specs or additional advice that’s all another piece of the puzzle to help plug the gap. Factory did _ because they didn’t know _.
  • It will help you avoid the problem for future orders. I’ve seen cases where problems happened and the buyer didn’t seem to absorb that some of their buying methods lead to dangerous routes. They didn’t internalize the issue, the process repeated itself.
  • How about the “why” it happened. In my opinion, this is something you can focus on after the heat of battle. It’s similar to the admission of error; not that important. You want to learn how the process failed and I chose my word carefully above.

    The how is more process-oriented.

    Knowing process-oriented reasons lead to process-oriented solutions.

    Process-oriented solutions cover the gambit of communication, to inquiry, to sampling, to in-order control to production processes.

    Finding out how an error happened inside of these realms (communication, RFQ, sample, mass production), gives clarity on how to avoid errors…still inside of these realms.

    A buyer doesn’t fix who their supplier is, but has the ability to guide their supplier in what they do.

    Buyers can guide themselves in what they do. Remember, production errors aren’t always the supplier’s fault.

    Confession in Production Mistakes

    Assuming the production mistakes were the vendor’s fault, Western buyers tend to overly focus on the “admission of responsibility” side of things whenever production errors creep into the picture. What I mean is simply the China vendor admitting their mistake.

    Here’s what you won’t hear:  “We dropped the ball and we’re going to do what it takes to get it right”.

    Focus more on correction, not confession. I realize it irritates the buyer to no ends whenever someone won’t fess up. But think about it. That’s not what’s important here. What’s important to your production is getting it right.

    Side note: In the Western world it’s sort of a bridge builder to admit whenever you make a mistake. But when dealing with Chinese vendors, their admission of an error or lack thereof, in my seasoned opinion, isn’t an indicator of a good supplier or not.

    I’ve seen suppliers not admit error and fix the problem.

    I’ve seen suppliers admit production mistakes freely and do nothing to fix the issue!

    The goal in fixing production mistakes isn’t a contrite attitude but a willingness from the vendor to correct.

    This take shape in various forms.

  • Reproducing. If the order has to be scrapped and a new order taking place.
  • Adding more pieces to the current production, if there are sufficient good pieces in the order. Accurately extracting the erroneous pieces.
  • This could take the form of a discount. If your selling lower-market items and a discount is sufficient enough, then go for this solution.
  •  In a following post, will address further aspects of  production errors; approach, how to avoid.

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    • I had fun reading this article. So very true. The supplier knows the game — some customers burn them badly after they confess, so after that they never ever confess.
      In short: play the ‘5 whys’, not the ‘5 whos’.

      • Buyers should learn that professionalism not only helps before and during establishing the relationship but also (as hard as it may be) after errors are found. The more “bananas” the buyer goes, regardless of how justified, the less and less likely the supplier will help work things out. Even a good supplier can have issues; the key is if the problem can be worked out and good traction found moving forward. You definitely know what I mean. Thks Renaud.