Order Control’s Unintended Results

Common-sense balance is critical in your supplier communication and order control.

It’s possible to OVEREMPHASIZE control points with your China supplier and cause unintended results.

This is one of those intangibles in China manufacturing that you cannot quite put your finger on. Nevertheless, it creeps up in your order control and results in bad production and bad merchandise.

With a constant barrage of emotional-filled emails, skype calls, an overload of repetitious detail to sift through and unprofessional threats, buyers can be overbearing in giving feedback to their Chinese supplier.

This approach leads to unintended consequences in order control and the project going from OK to bad. Or even, bad to worse.

Under-Focusing on other Key Areas: Overemphasis and making as-big-a-deal as possible about one area of concern may very likely achieve your requests with the factory.

At the same time, it’s very likely the factory under-focuses on other areas of importance.

Sure they got the color right…but now the size is not according to confirmed specifications.

You go back to the factory and tell them they made another huge mistake. The factory replies (folks, I’ve seen it)..the factory replies and says, “But you didn’t tell us that was important”.

Then you bang your head on a wall.

This is the factory showing their dissatisfaction because you took it upon yourself, in a way that wasn’t effective, to be master controller of a certain aspect of the project. The factory morphs in to what I call “do whatever you say mode”. They turn off whatever form of freethinking and management they were putting on to the project.

It’s also very possible the factory well knows what areas to control. But if there is aspect of the order in which you didn’t communicate and that aspect of order control goes wrong the factory will hold that against you.

It’s like once a problem surfaces, they will say, “You communicated about everything else, where were you on this one? Not our fault…”

The reality is that the factory got distracted and they will use your own communication as the point of blame.

Be mindful that too much emphasis can be distracting and derail smooth production

Be mindful that too much emphasis can be distracting and derail smooth production

Other Key Areas Not as Important: The factory may actually think that the other areas you didn’t mention are not that important. If you heavily control individual or specific aspects, then by default, the other aspects lose importance.

For example, a factory pressured on delivery time will think that quality cannot be of top importance.

Factories, especially in the low-cost realm, are not great at keeping a broad, general control in mind. Once you start getting them nervous over a certain aspect, they will legitimately think, although legitimately wrong, that this aspect is the only aspect of importance. It’s not difficult to plant the wrong seed into the supplier’s mind.

Think of it like this – A factory only has a certain amount of space in their mind for your project. If you fill it with repetition and overemphasis, then general control points are going to be pushed out.

The Key: The proper balance is consistent spotlighting of control points, not OVER spotlighting in a haphazard overbearing fashion.

From abroad, it is impossible to control everything via email. There is a general knowledge and control that you must defer to the factory. If the order is to be a success, the factory has to take charge of this general control. You cannot tell them everything. You may tell them 999 points of importance, but there may be 50 more you left out.

When you do give lists of order control points to your factory, have some specifics and some general points. But always make sure you tell them, they know and you know that they know, that all other aspects of control are as equally as important. Inform the supplier you are leaving them in charge for general control. This empowers them.

If a form of micro order control is still necessary, do so silently, via general communication (photos, reports and documents) without necessarily letting on what you are doing. Lest I be misunderstood, be specific, be exact, but keep perspective. It’s not crying wolf and going crazy, it’s calmly tendering the flock, if you will.

Never let your supplier know that you are nervous. This makes the supplier nervous.

A nervous supplier in China is a supplier that likely makes errors in order control.

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  • Good points, Jacob. It is a tough balance between general statement and micro-management of QC.

    In case of doubt, I tend to go for micro-management, though. Unless the supplier has proven it has a QC mind and real quality focus. You can see that at how they react when there is a quality problem during previous projects.

    If the supplier tells you -“You communicated about everything else, where were you on this one? Not our fault…” – it seems to me that they are not quality focus and looking for excuses instead of solving problems. And my bet is that they would have found another excuse if you had communicated about it.

    Our approach to try to limit this issues:
    1. Set our own QC plan but keep it for us first
    2. Discuss with the supplier to confirm what QC they do themselves and see some records. We incorporate this in our QC plan
    3. Reconfirm the overall requirement and specification, including a list of all related standards. Some golden sample if relevant.
    4. Then we share our plan and discuss whether they can add items in their process or not (for instance material lab test or some performance tests).

    It is not foolproof but what we certainly gain in the process is a deep understanding of how quality conscious the supplier is. When we start point 2 and they gaze at us wondering what we are talking about, we know it is time to walk away, cancel the order and obviously not wire the down payment monies.

    • Thanks for sharing these points, Etienne. It’s a good approach, like you said to first view the suppliers’ planned implementations.

      The balance lies when you get in to lower cost industries and even lower cost markets; with lower-cost production, the ability to walk away from every poor quality factory starts decreasing because options are limited and there is not a large selection of conscientious factories. As from my understanding of your business in more industrial and heavy-duty production, I understand you have to walk away from the “gazers” who are clueless about certain QC methods.

      I always appreciate your comments.

      • You are right. I mostly comment from the perspective of more complex goods where the supplier should have enough margin to make things the right way. This is because I believe that this is where the future lays for China sourcing. And I may be wrong.

        It is clear that the situation is different in very low cost goods. Purchaser may indeed come to a position where they have not many option left indeed. And this is a tough situation to manage indeed.