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How a purchasing office in China should be organized

by Renaud Anjoran

From my observations, procurement offices and trading companies that are based in China tend to make the same mistakes. In this article I will explain how they should be organized.

The traditional organization


  • Some purchasers face the suppliers;
  • Some English-speaking salespeople face customers (or their head office).

Apart from a few managers, no one knows the buying AND the selling price. It is the whole point of cutting the organization in two.

Downsides of the traditional organization

  • The organization is composed of specialists, each group working in its own functional siloes. It means communication is difficult.
  • Nobody who is responsible for a supplier’s overall behavior (reliable quality, respect of timing, no last-minute price increases…).
  • The purchasers’ work is insufficiently supervised, and kickbacks are common.

A better buying organization


  • A team of 1-3 merchandiser (the word means different things in different industries, but bear with me) manages some orders.
  • A few inspectors work ONLY on that team’s orders.
  • Merchandisers spend 1-2 days a week in factories, together with inspectors.

Advantages of this organization

  • The team leader has ownership over the supplier’s relationship, and is more likely to exert  pressure when necessary.
  • When an inspector reports that the factory is rushing production, and when the customer is flexible with dates, the team leader can decide to ask the supplier to proceed at a normal pace and to ensure quality is satisfactory.
  • Communication is much easier and faster.
  • Every decision is taken in a more open manner, and kickbacks become less common.
  • The staff is more flexible. Merchandisers can help check quality when too many shipments are ready at once and inspectors can’t follow that schedule.
  • Hopefully these small teams can self-manage after some time, rather than constantly asking the boss for small decisions.

Note that an even better organization would gather these merchandisers and inspectors with designers and engineers. I wrote why a few months ago.

Renaud Anjoran is the founder of Sofeast Quality Control and helps importers to improve and secure their product quality in China. He writes advice for importers on the Quality Inspection blog. He lives full time in Shenzhen, China. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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