China Product Quality: It’s Getting Better All the Time

International Manufacturing Lawyers to protect your manufacturing molds

A domestic U.S. products liability lawyer friend of mine sent me an article essentially saying Chinese factories (1) do not care about quality, (2) try to get away with whatever they can because they are run by evil people (3) are getting worse, and (3) companies that get their products manufactured by Chinese factories are stupid.

I am over-simplifying the article, but not by much.

I am not going to link over to that article in deference to the person who wrote it (who I know personally), but as you have probably guessed by now, I am going to skewer it. I think it bears mentioning that, as far as I know, the person who wrote that article has not done any China business for years.

I am going to leave the big issues raised by such claims (racism, ethnocentrism, etc.) to others, and just attack it for being wrong.

Though one story does not a rebuttal make, this one story is so apropos, I am going to lead with it.

I met with a client all afternoon on Friday. He is from China, but moved to the US maybe 20 years ago for graduate school. He eventually formed a now thriving construction parts business. We talked about his history of getting parts from China and he talked about how it took him two years of his training factories in China before he had product he could sell in the US and the EU. He said it took him another couple years before he had factories that understood how US and EU quality definitions are so different from China. We talked about how in China if you make a $300 part badly, you just reduce the price to $150 and sell it, whereas in the US or the EU, that bad quality part cannot be sold at any price because nobody will accept it. Nobody. My client talked of how his Chinese factories simply could not grasp this at first, but he now has around ten factories who have consistently been churning out excellent parts for him for years.

Did these ten factories start out evil and then become moral? I don’t think so. What happened is the US company taught them how to make quality parts, taught them the long term value of making quality parts, and then, literally showed them the long term value of increasing their purchases and forming a partnership.

This story is actually fairly typical. I must hear at least a story a month from clients who tell me of crippling quality problems their first few years in China, but of how for the last few years, things have been going smoothly. Sometimes this is because they stuck with their initial factory and worked out all the kinks and sometimes it is because they moved on to a better factory and worked out the kinks.

Manufacturers, what are you seeing out there? Is China product quality improving, declining, or staying the same? And, more controversially, in your experience (and be honest here), whose fault is it when product quality is bad, the Chinese factory or the foreign company for failing to be clear on how things need to be?