China Quality Concerns: Are US Importers at Fault?

When it comes to insuring product safety and quality from global sourcing efforts, whose responsibility is it? The suppliers? An importer or trading company? A procurement organization? CNN recently featured a story that suggested "as many more U.S. companies outsource their production base to China, their poor oversight there is exposing American consumers to greater safety risks." The article goes on to target US companies -- especially toy companies -- for poor supplier oversight and performance management. And of course it does not fail to beat up on the Chinese, either (CNN would not be CNN if it did not get across a left-leaning protectionist slant). But the piece does have some advice which passes the populist drivel test.

One expert who is quoted suggests that putting pressure on the Chinese to improve quality by investigating other low cost regions is a logical answer: "does it make sense for U.S. companies to look at other locations? Yes ... If I was sourcing heavily in China, I would be exploring alternatives like Vietnam and Cambodia [to put pressure on the Chinese]," one expert is quoted as saying. To this I would add the importance of working with Chinese suppliers to better understand their production and sourcing processes -- and to offer assistance and guidance where necessary. As I've harped on many times on this blog in the past, the Chinese are often very open to supplier development initiatives. But it's up to procurement and operations organizations to take the initiative before they're hit with quality or safety issues -- not after the fact.

Jason Busch

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