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In the last post, I talked about the advantages and disadvantages of working with a China manufacturing agent and what kind of organizations may benefit from it.
If you didn’t read that post, I strongly suggest you read it first. This post will make more sense after you read it. Here is the link to the previous post:
In this post, I will talk about the issues to consider when you choose a China manufacturing agent to work with.
It goes without saying, that when you are doing business in China, you need to deal with many aspects. You need to deal with the technical side of the product, the logistics (storing and transporting the product), the quality control, production progress and much more.
There are plenty of wonderful companies that will give you excellent advice and take very good care of you with regards to those aspects.
I am writing this post assuming you already know all this.
In this post I will focus on the soft skill set and experience you should look for in a China manufacturing agent management.
Without that skill set and experience, the agent’s management will have very difficult time bringing value using the technical skills they have.
A good manufacturing agent must have excellent communication skills. The people who are responsible for your product must be able to communicate well with both your company and your Chinese vendors.
The first issue you want to look at is the agent’s location.
The closer the people who manage your project to you, the easier the communication will be. When both of you work in the same time zone it is easier to find a time during the day to speak and a face to face meetings are easier to arrange.
On the other hand, an agent that is close to you is far from the factories, and all the advantages I just spoke about become the disadvantages of the communication between the agent and the Chinese suppliers.
In addition, if the people that run the manufacturing agency are close to you, but in terms of experience and culture background are far from the Chinese suppliers, then that together with the physical distance will create a communication barrier.
I personally know some people who are doing business in China, who lived here for many years, went back home and brought with them a wealth of information they transfer to their customers. I will talk about agencies that are not based in China in another post.
Some of the important advantages of a China-based agency management is that they have the ability to arrive at the location where your project is being processed fairly quickly and to communicate effectively with your Chinese suppliers in their own language and throughout their entire business day.
This means a lot for two reasons.
Can your agent communicate with your supplier?
One – Effective communication with your agent doesn’t mean much if you cannot take the results of that communication and put them into action.
Sometimes, executing decisions is a much more complicated task than making the decisions themselves.
That’s because you may need to communicate it to multiple people in the vendor’s organization, realign the supply chain, discuss with different departments how they are going to coordinate their actions so that the decision will be executed in the best way,
and all this requires a very high level of communication efficiency, and … time.
So when the agent’s management has more time during the business day to talk to multiple people in your vendor’s organization and when they are able to arrive in the office of the vendor to have meetings with all the departments involved, that alone can save weeks in project processing time.
Can your agent execute your decisions?
Two – Many times the implementation of a decision depends a lot on the constraints and situation in the site.
And I don’t mean only the physical constraints. I am also talking about the people who work for your vendor and are processing your project.
Understanding their personalities, their relationships and the inner politics inside the vendor’s organization can make a huge difference.
You cannot learn these by visiting your vendor 3 or 4 times a year for very task focused meetings. These are things you learn only after you earned peoples trust.
An agents management that has the ability to learn these things can bring enormous value to its customers, because if you understand who are the “doers” and who really has the power to move things within your vendors organization, you will certainly do things differently and you will certainly get much better results.
So, if your project is such that your vendors involvement in processing your project is high, and most of the details of the project have been communicated to your agent already, a production order for examples, then you are probably better off with a China-based agent.