Zen and the art of offshore manufacturing

Many company representatives find themselves more than a little taken aback the first time they visit their proposed / current offshore manufacturer.

I have heard the following statement repeatedly in my experience working as a facilitator for the transfer of manufacturing "This is nothing like we expected"

We often develop a set of presumptions about the environment and the technology from talking to other companies who have been manufacturing with a certain company for years and from the advice from local factories advising that a certain process would not be practical due to the expense and time needed to complete based on their local experience.

I recently had a customer who had determined his molding for plastic components should be done with a certain type of plastic using a certain method of manufacture. His advice from a local expert was this would be the most cost effective method. When I introduced him to the factory owner, the first question that arose was "The finish will not be good if we manufacture this way and the material will be brittle.  Why do you want to manufacture this way?" The factory proceeded to show the customer samples made with a different technology and using a different plastic. The end result was going to be significantly cleaner , stronger and have much better fine detail. The mold cost was only incrementally more expensive but the customer could see the benefit of adding a little more NRE cost to get a much higher quality product.

The customer knew what he wanted but over time had been dissuaded by local experts that the cost would be exorbitant so he had settled for less as a standard for what he was going to produce and sell. In Zen terms "His cup was too full" (he had filled his head with so much information about how things were going to be done that he had no room for new ideas - at least until he was asked why by another expert).

"Sticking to your guns" is a good practice to have when it comes to quality objectives, but only when the alternative will result in a quality reduction. When you are so set in the technology and practice to be used that you are forcing the manufacturer to produce a lower quality or unsustainable product using outdated or inefficient methods you are doing little for your product and company except displaying stubbornness. Know enough to understand how it could be done and what are the industry standards, but sometimes it pays to ask the manufacturer how they would suggest it be done and to take the advice on board if it elicits improvements in the end product. 

Brian Le Mon

Brian Le Mon

Principal at EQP Optimsation Solutions

A lot of pondering and analysis of my work history brought me to the realisation that, in essence, the key to building and running a sustainable business can be distilled down into 3 main factors: EFFICIENCY, QUALITY and PROFITABILITY. As a result EQP Optimisation Solutions was born. Contact me directly on 0433 687 545 for a confidential discussion to discuss business mentoring or consulting solutions and how we can EQUIP your business for a profitable and sustainable future.

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