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Beware of China factories' pre-Christmas rush

by Renaud Anjoran

A few years ago we published Chinese New Year: how to manage the disruption?, since many quality problems show up in December and January. Basically, manufacturers rush to get the products on a boat before they close, and they don’t pay much attention to any type of detail.

As several clients reminded us recently, the pre-Christmas rush can be just as dangerous. Products typically need to be in stores by November, which means they need to be produced in a period spanning from June to September.

In industries such as toys, electronics, and many other consumer goods, factories have more orders than they can manage. So, what they do? They resort to a combination of the following four solutions:

  • They hire temporary workers and put high pressure on the workforce. Quality is often a secondary priority. Retailers have strict deadlines for getting Christmas products. Delays are always noticed and immediately punished, so shipping fast and getting to the next batch is the most important.
  • The usual sub-suppliers are overloaded and can’t deliver in time, so less reliable sub-suppliers are engaged and the components/materials are not all up to standard.
  • They promise short production cycles but end up shipping the goods later.
  • They subcontract some orders to small workshops with no quality control in place.

So, what should you do about it? Here are a few ideas.

  1. If you have a hard deadline, pushing a factory to rush production can create enormous quality issues that make the products unsellable. So, before pushing suppliers to hurry up, check the production status. Any inspection agency will be happy to do this for you. But the suppliers’ salespeople are busier and less responsive, so you can’t count on them.
  2. If your cash position allows you to order earlier and produce in March and April, consider this option seriously. You get better service, better quality, and probably lower pricing from your suppliers.
  3. Watch quality like a hawk. Don’t base your judgment on past factory performance — it is a special period where systems are overloaded and key people are maxed out.

Do you have other suggestions?

Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on

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