Amongst our clients and potential clients, we always find cases of companies that prefer not to be associated with products that are imported from China, as if disclosing this information is a negative factor. It is very intriguing, especially when we consider that a substantial amount of the products we have in our homes, in our offices and that we see selling in stores and on the Internet in 2020, are of Asian origin.
China is one of the UK’s largest trading partners. In 2018, China was the UK’s sixth largest export market and fourth largest source of imports according to the House of Commons Library. Figures are clear: two years ago, UK exports to China were worth £22.6 billion; imports from China were £44.7 billion.
The UK’s products largest import from China was telecoms equipment, valued at £6 billion, representing 15% of all UK goods. This product category is closely followed by miscellaneous manufactured articles (a category that includes plastic articles, toys, games, etc.) that represent 11% of all goods imports.
Other import items from China are office equipment, valued at £4 billion (10% of all goods imports) and electrical machinery and equipment, valued at £4 billion (9% of all goods imports). China accounted for 6.6% of UK imports in 2018.
But the UK-China trade relationship has not always been the same. With the turn of the century, growth was very prominent. In 1999 China was the UK’s 26th largest export market and 15th largest source of imports.
Successful manufacturing in China
Before proceeding any further, it is important to note that manufacturing in China does not mean compromising on quality. In 2016, the Chinese Government launched the Made in China 2025 Plan, a strategy to boost and restructure its industry by promoting the quality and efficiency of its production. The main objective of the plan is to banish the concept “made in China” from that of “low quality”, although interestingly many people still perceive it this way.
As with any purchase anywhere in the world, you have to know how to choose a supplier, in this case, a manufacturer. For this reason, it is important to have a sound understanding of the uniqueness of the Chinese economy and industrial operation to ensure that our products really meet the desired requirements. This is something that is not easy for a foreigner who is not used to negotiating with this Asian country.
Beyond selecting the right supplier, it is extremely important to be very clear about the design of the product we want to manufacture, including the raw material, as well as any details (colors, variables, accessories, measurements, etc.). The more details of our requirements, the less the margin of error.
Controlling production and monitoring
This is not something that only happens when we import from Asian countries: control and supervision is essential if we want optimal results. However, it is true that if we choose to manufacture our products in China, something important changes; communication, defined not only by language, but by the peculiarity of Asian culture and its way of negotiating.
This is where the notorious role of the purchasing consultant comes in. This professional not only negotiates good prices and quality, but he/she mediates with suppliers and tracks orders.
Close control of production allows us to overcome all types of problems, from design incidents or finishes to unforeseen quality standards. These logically change from the country of origin to the country of destination.
And that’s not all. We are not simply talking about the production process, but also about the transportation of goods. Importing from distant countries without considered provision can lead to a stock break, and consequent losses.
It is important to be clear that importing carries a series of associated risks that can be largely minimized if we choose to hire a purchasing agent or a sourcing company. Experience in purchasing management is essential to avoid the majority of problems and, most importantly, to understand how to manage them well.
This is not something that we (only) say: the manufacture and importation of products from China can be very profitable, but it is not easy. Having the professional services of a partner specialized in international purchasing will guarantee that the process is successful.
After more than 15 years of importing from China to different European countries, here at S3 Group we know that in order to manufacture products in China and for everything to turn out well, the role of a purchasing consultant is key. It does not matter if we are going to buy the most imported products from China or any other products but what is really important is to have experience and a sourcing strategy that ensures the smooth success of the importation process.