Does “Made in China” Really mean its poor quality, or is it part of a bigger manufacturing picture?

Reading through our blog posts, you may realise that we are an advocate for Chinese manufacturing. Does “Made in China” really mean it’s of poor quality or is it part of something bigger?

In our previous blog post:

I Have Manufacturing Problems In China Where To Start?

we started to touch on DMAIC, how we begin to implement it to get to the root cause of issues and ultimately solve them.

We also discussed how being in these manufacturing environments in the past allowed us to hone our skills. We now utilise those skills to advise factories on process and capability improvement.

Made in China

Here at Merchsprout, we always agree on the greatness of manufacturing here in China, not just of the different types of manufacturers, but the variety of quality produced at these factories.

We had a conversation recently about the changes in China over the past ten years since some of our staff have been working as QC and buyers in China.

The change is rapid, lightning quick. Manufacturing techniques not only get refined but the quality improvements put in place have been vast.

The old made in China saying is summed up here by Victoria, one of our Co-Founders:

“When I first moved to China in 2008, the country was pushing to welcome major foreign investments, especially after their joining of WTO back in 2001, this in partnership with the global banking crisis, left China in a position where cheap labour and cheap cash could be monopolised by the foreign consumer. The result: Lots of cheap, poorly made items.”

Over the past few years, we have seen a significant shift in quality coming out of China. That’s not to say that the quality in some areas does not need improvement. But the skills are now there to do just that.

How we help manufacturing facilities in China improve?

As discussed previously, we offer systems and utilise tools to advise clients who have found a product and are looking to China for production solutions, capitalising on quality items that can be produced at great value for money.

Below we discuss some of the manufacturing tools that we use in our day to day business to improve the “Made in China” stigma in the factories we work with.

DMAIC

When a client comes to us to use our experience to get to a solution, it’s usually because of a problem…

Now, I know that sounds utterly simple. But read it back; A client wants a solution to a problem.

How can we find a solution when we don’t even know where or how to start.

We discussed mapping out flow charts here: How to successfully map processes in Chinese Manufacturing.

And we start by doing just that; we work with the Chinese manufacturing teams to map out their process. Then we move on to looking at the factors that influence the processes. We discussed this here: I have manufacturing problems in China; where to start?

And finished the previous blog on DMAIC.

Let’s look at the helpful tool that is DMAIC:

Define

The first step is the define stage. This stage is a description of the problem. The business case of a project is established. The project scope set and an outline of the reasons for the project.

In this stage, it’s about defining the Y in Y=f(X) (we discussed this equation here), where Y is the performance measure to be improved.

When defining the project charter, we look at the statement, the scope of the financial impacts in the team and when we will measure (milestones).

We will also develop the SIPOC diagram. For those looking all confused, SIPOC stands for Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer. It’s a useful scoping tool to understand what processes and stakeholders are involved in a process.

Measure

The purpose of the measure phase is to measure the Y in Y=f(X). This is completed with data. It’s essential here, so let’s make that known: IT’S IMPORTANT TO MEASURE WITH DATA.

Data collection plans are important here; We first need to develop a data collection phase; we then map relevant phases (similar to what we discussed earlier). This will allow you to understand where to collect the data from. You then need to validate these data collection points.

Ask yourself:

  • Are the measurements valid
  • Were they measured or collected correctly?

Remember Rubbish in Rubbish out.

We then measure how big the problem is. We look back at our specifications or targets and measure the Y in Y=f(X).

Analyse

Here is the step where we ask ourselves why?

We list and organise the potential X’s that impact Y. We shortlist and select the X’s and develop data collection points for the X’s.

We use brainstorming as a tool in this section. Ensuring the correct staff members are around you here is vital. An in-depth understanding of the process points that you developed when mapping out the process is crucial.

We then want to organise the X’s, list these out in a cause and effect diagram. Using fishbone diagrams is a good way to visualise the issue.

Shortlist and select the X’s that are most likely.

Develop the data collection plan; at this point, we need to ensure the correct data and the correct amount of data is collected. This will allow us to measure the X’s accurately.

At this point, we can prove the key X’s in Y=f(X). We can use statistics here at this point. Conduct the necessary function tests on X to get to a point where you can validate that they affect the Y.

At the end of the Analyse phase, there is a list of key X’s that were validated by the data to affect Y.

Here it’s essential to use: DATA-DRIVEN ANALYSIS 

Improve

This is the phase where potential solutions for proven key X’s are generated. Solution alternatives are investigated, and the right solutions, implemented.

But before implementing the solutions, remember, map out the improvements. Visualise where you are going to be applying improvements. Conduct FMEA on your improvements and ensure you have mistake proofed your solutions.

Control

This is the phase that you make sure your solutions are controlled and sustainable. The project implementation should be controlled to a point so it does not need constant babysitting, and it can be self-sustaining.

This is the point where a control plan is developed. The control plan tells when to leave the process and when and who should take action if something is outside of the regulation.

I appreciate that the above points do not go into finite detail.

We will publish further posts to describe the individual steps above with examples. In the meantime:

Deal With Quality, Not Just Quantity

The only 100% sure-fire way to ensure you are dealing with quality in Chinese factories is to have someone on the ground, on your side. Batting for your team. A team player who not only knows how to capture and report out but a player that can hold those suppliers to account in the event of quality issues.

Here at Merchsprout, we do just that; we offer you the ability to save time and money by doing the hard work for you. We offer several services that allow you to oversee operations remotely.

If you want to learn more about how we do what we do and the services we offer, have a look here.

Source Chinese Products Without Going China

If you want to get in touch, we are a friendly bunch and honestly, just like hearing from you. Contact us below, or leave a comment.

Dealing Remotely Is Very Much A Possibility, Have The Right Team Members On Your Side

Source Chinese Products Without Going to China is not only a possibility. It’s relatively easy when you have the right team on your side. We are the right team for Sourcing, Auditing and Quality control.

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