It is difficult enough to find a suitable supplier but when you are doing it from overseas it is more challenging and the risk of finding an unsuitable one is even greater. Like searching for gold, looking for that perfect production partner can prove elusive and even after hundreds of emails the project still seem to be slipping away. Contact persons constantly change, prices increase, discussions end up in “take it or leave it” and with samples take too long opportunities get lost. Sourcing websites as well as the companies that advertise on them are perfecting the language and look of sophistication to attract business. Look carefully behind the facade and make sure that the reality is something you can work with and is willing to invest in.
Gekko is contacted by an investment company to do a pre-shipment inspection for a new high profile product launch as the trial order is in a factory warehouse ready to ship. After protests from the “factory”, it is made clear to them from the client side that no balance payment will be issued for the goods unless an quality inspection takes place. The Gekko QC team will be allowed in but, the argument goes, as no standards were agreed during the order process the basic industrial standard protocol and checklist to be used is not accepted. The client agrees as at least the inspection is a start.
The first ever visit to this supplier, by anyone involved in the project, is when our quality controllers arrive for the inspection. The factory as we had already gathered from research before the visit is a minor assembly outfit with a handful of workers and no actual production processes anywhere in sight, all components come from uninspected and low budget subcontractors. The various ISO certifications and management systems originally advertised and duly sent over in email copies to calm the buyer seems in genuine need of further investigation.
The inspection fails on a number of points and due to involvement of tightly squeezed subcontractors rework is a challenge to the supplier but it happens and the first shipment is eventually on its way.The Gekko team work with the supplier and buyer to salvage as much as possible of the trial shipment but due to the lack of standards the buyer compromises quite generously in favour of the supplier and the first lot leaves after a re-inspection confirms no substandard products had made their way into the lot to boost quantity.
Task list – secure current set up:
Detailed plans for correction and prevention are set up with the supplier in cooperation with the client for the next lot and incoming parts inspections were made to ensure they were fit for assembly.
The supplier was given a period to adjust and to comply with standards to continue on as a manufacturer of the product but the subcontractor chain was to compromised to reach the necessary level of product.
Task list – secure future growth:
Working on a worst case scenario – that the original supplier would not work out – a project was set up for the client to source for more suitable manufacturing partners based on the prognosis of future quantity as well as the better understanding of quality parameters.
Request for quotations were sent out to a list of potential suppliers with a majority of production processes in-house. Through meetings and interviews a list of finalists were visited for checking of management systems and compliance and one manufacturer was selected and another put on a wish list for when the customer had enough quantity and styles to approach this major world-class manufacturer.
The sourcing work resulted in a trial order and manufacturing moved to a more steady and suitable sized actual factory.
Cooperation with the new manufacturing group with strong management systems enabled the client to cooperate with them for R&D for new products as well as being able to concentrate with confidence on marketing and less on quality assurance.