In part one of this mini-series about quality control services in China provided by small QC teams, I talked about a meeting I had with a large and reputable engineering company based in the US about their search for a provider of quality control services in China.
I talked about how they shared with me that their quality control service provider has a two people QC team in China and how the reports they issue don’t always match the quality of the bulk they receive.
In that post I talked about what training this kind of teams should receive, but don’t always get, and how that could contribute to the gap between the reports and the quality of the goods.
MISTAKE #2: THE SERVICE COMPANY DOES NOT SUPPORT THE ENGINEERS.
When I asked who is supporting the engineers in China, the answer I got was that they do not need support. “We interviewed the Engineers, and as they repeatedly said they have extensive industry knowledge and are familiar with the product”.
When an Engineer is working in a factory representing a client, they need much more than technical skills to get the job done. They need good communication skills and sometimes negotiation skills.
When engineers run into problems, they often need the support and cooperation of the factory as they are working to solve the problems.
Solving the problems may require assistance with checking a bigger batch of goods. This assistance may include carrying more boxes to the inspection area, moving heavy tooling from one injection machine to another, asking the mold shop rush a change to one of the inserts so that a sample can be sent on time, and more.
Providing the support may cause inconvenience to the factory that could be busy with a bigger order.
Many times the engineers can solve these issues with the factory. But sometimes they can’t because the factory is not motivated to help.
If in those cases the management of the services provider does not contact the factory management and express their concern about the lack of cooperation, the effect of the engineers’ presence in the factory is eroded. They receive less respect from the people in the factory in all levels and their work becomes much more difficult and frustrating.
Sometimes if the engineers feel that their management is not only not supporting them, but also ignoring them, they ask for support from the factory management. The problem is that in return for the factory’s top management support, they have to start giving more weight to the factory’s best interests and not the customers.
MISTAKE #3: MISMANAGEMENT THAT CREATES WORK OVERLOAD
Time management is a big challenge for QC engineers who work alone in China.
Sometimes the distance between factories is quite big and requires hours of traveling.
It is very frustrating to arrive in a factory after an hour or so of traveling only to find out that the goods are not ready for inspection, there is no injection machine available or there are no operators available to assist in the quality inspection process.
To minimize this kind of events the engineers need to keep in touch with the supplier on a regular basis. They need updated information from the supplier when the goods will be ready for inspection and whether or not workers will be available to help them. This could become a substantial additional workload.
On top of that, teams that provide quality control services in China such as the one I am talking about may find themselves also helping their client push and motivate the factories to manufacture and ship according to the schedule agreed.
If we are talking about a company that ships a few shipments every month, that may be doable.
But for companies that ship few shipments every week, this could be more than the engineers can handle.
Being engineers and not project managers, they provide this help without proper procedures and with very little time left for this task.
To perform this task well, the service supplier must have a good information management system and a working environment that put emphasis on communication (for example an office).
Vendor management is very time-consuming, even when you do it from an office. It is even more time consuming when you are doing it while sitting on a bus with an unstable internet connection and one cell phone to work with.
The QC engineers I am talking about don’t have much choice. They have to follow up the orders progress and help the factories communicate with the client in the US otherwise, they won’t be able to do their job.
I know of cases where the staff overseas, not being able to communicate effectively with the factory, put pressure on the QC engineers to help them solve supply chain and logistics related issues.
In these cases, the QC engineers are not sure how to prioritize their tasks.
Sometimes they give priority to tasks according to the amount of pressure they receive from different people in the HQ and not according to the level of importance.
The result is that they don’t always have enough time to do the job they originally were hired to do – quality control.
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If you would like to share with us your experience managing a small quality control team in China or would like to know more about this subject, please contact us. We’d love to talk to you about your projects in China.