With the rise of globalisation, our world has become more interconnected than ever. Rapidly emerging technologies have reshaped the way companies do business. Over the years, manufacturing has shifted to overseas locations with a reduced cost of materials and labour. This allows your company to allocate more resources towards creating value elsewhere, such as design.
However, outsourcing can be a complicated path to negotiate. Here’s why good communications are essential to outsource your manufacturing needs successfully.
Setting detailed specifications
All the effort you invest in product design won’t matter if the specifications aren’t being met. Mistakes in this area can be costly, indeed. Fortunately, having clear communications from the outset will go a long way towards avoiding such pitfalls.
To convey your product specifications, send concise and straightforward emails to candidate suppliers. This is especially important in your first-time dealings with offshore partners; you can’t assume that you are engaging with someone who speaks fluent English. Many partners will be using translation apps to communicate with you.
If you aren’t sure that a message was clearly communicated via email, or if you need a more urgent response, talk to your supplier over the phone. 93% of nonverbal cues are lost when conversing via email only. While a phone call still doesn’t replace a face to face meeting, it’s a huge step up in effective two-way communication at a minimal cost.
You’re probably familiar with the children’s game of telephone. The challenge – and fun – of the game comes from miscommunications that can arise from small misconceptions, listening errors, and misalignment in the use of language. And the principle extends to businesses and large organisations as well – the more people are involved, the higher the chances of miscommunication.
A clear flow of communication must be streamlined. When it comes to outsourcing, it’s in the interest of efficiency and clarity to cut as many go-betweens as possible and ideally utilise one contact with fluency in both English and the local language. For instance, a sourcing agent from China working for a UK company will serve as your go-to contact for all matters involving your supplier, ensuring that your message is translated once and disseminated uniformly among the offshore workers.
As your business process evolves and your relationship with your supplier grows, consider doing a Gemba walk. Take time to make a planned visit to the production site, and put a face and personality to your name while getting to know firsthand the why’s and how’s of your supplier’s operations – it will help you to better understand and identify areas for improvement.
Feedback and quality
As you shift your factory operations to overseas locations, you’ll be well aware of the increased difficulty involved in getting the right feedback and maintaining quality. This is crucial in gaining a competitive edge and responding quickly to market trends and customer preferences.
Just as with your product specifications, it pays to have a detailed quality control (QC) checklist and criteria for evaluation. Make sure to send your QC checklist in advance to your chosen supplier and product inspector, and set aside time for discussion.
Offshore factories and third party inspectors often have their internal checklist, which can confuse. Everyone involved must be aligned on the definitions of criteria and what constitutes a pass or fail. Finally, see to it that feedback is shared with your supplier so that you can identify the next steps to take in improving the process.
Good communications are vital to any organisation, but especially when you’re dealing with partners from across the globe. Keep an eye on your communication channels, and you’ll be able to translate your product vision to a successful reality.