Today felt like the Chinese version of planes, trains and automobiles. We covered over 350 kilometers today (mostly on back roads) traveling to a remote manufacturing facility. But even after a tiring day on the road -- and on multiple ferries -- China leaves me feeling exhilarated. There's something about the energy here that is missing in other places -- even other developing economies like India. People here move with a purpose, whether it's on the shop floor or crossing the street. And I've even come to appreciate the pushing and shoving that is necessary to move around.
The highlight of today was visiting a highly automated textile facility which my wife's firm is bringing onboard in an initial source program for a US-based client. Everything about the plant tour, discussions, and negotiation exceeded expectations. It took a while to get to the facility, but it was worth it. After driving down rural roads for hours, it's shocking to enter a plant with production equipment and processes that make it look like a Western operation. But despite the progress that suppliers are making here to leverage advanced manufacturing technology and processes -- not just inexpensive labor -- there's a creative, proactive approach to problem solving that is still missing here. Over drinks tonight, before dinner with another supplier and the CEO of a 3PL provider, we chatted about the willingness of Chinese suppliers to learn and listen. There's a thirst here for knowledge, but there's an irony that comes with this hunger: few suppliers will proactively volunteer creative ideas to solve problems. For example, we had to suggest a different packaging option today to maximize container volume for a shipment (which was blatantly obvious, but the supplier did not volunteer it). This is a subject that I'll continue to explore in future posts, but I need to sign off for the evening. Just as China is exhilarating, it's also exhausting.