Although it may seem that the financial benefits of working with suppliers in China might be waning, the reality is that China is the third largest trade partner of the United States, behind its North American partners, Canada and Mexico. And if the flow of funds and the seventy-four billion dollars that United States companies have sent to China are any indication, your small business will likely offshore some of its manufacturing at some point. There are seventy-four billion reasons why China is a leading trade partner for businesses of all sizes, but particularly for small businesses.
The China Advantage: Strong U.S. Dollar, Scalability
According to Entrepreneur magazine, if your company needs a quick turnaround, high output, low costs and the ability to scale quickly and seamlessly, then you can’t ignore China’s allure. Particularly if you have a small business and need the flexibility to ramp up production at a moment’s notice, China makes sense as it accounts for an astonishing one-fifth of the world’s manufacturing output.
As far as costs go, despite Chinese wages soaring in recent years and reports that the manufacturing advantages no longer exist, the reality is that the US dollar is nearly seven times more powerful than the Chinese Yuan.
China: It’s Not Just for T-shirts Anymore
Companies large and small maintain ongoing trade relationships with China. Whether aerospace powerhouse Boeing, electronics maker Dell, heavy equipment maker Caterpillar, or food maker Kraft Foods, China offers a tremendous opportunity to increase margins and boost bottom-line profitability figures–and that includes your small business. What’s more, the short list above demonstrates just how broad in scope that Chinese advantage can be, and it isn’t limited purely to cheap t-shirts and knock-off sunglasses. In fact, it’s quite the contrary, with all of the nation’s largest and highest-revenue companies relying on China to bump revenues.
Made In China Gets ‘Cool’
When it comes to dealing with any non-domestic supplier, there are risks that business owners need to be aware of. This is particularly true with China where there have been plenty of reports about issues like poor quality. While quality control certainly seems to be an area that most businesses contend with, in some cases, these instances are often not as dire as originally reported. In fact, ‘Made in China’ has recently become something of a ‘cool’ thing because quality is now viewed as improved to the point where the country’s leading manufacturers are sought-after for their good reputation and supply chain expertise.
Navigating Chinese Language Barriers and Payment Systems
While quality uncertainties are one area that businesses should be prepared to manage (as with any offshoring relationship), the real obstacles are the language barrier and geographic distance between a manufacturing facility in China and your domestic office. While transportation costs are currently low due to lower energy prices, businesses should plan ahead for when those costs increase. There is also the issue of getting payments to your suppliers in China—a process that can lack transparency and get bogged down in bureaucracy.
Resources for Finding Your Chinese Supplier
Finding a supplier in China is often the first step in establishing a long-term relationship with one of the thousands of businesses looking to help you manage your supply chain needs in a cost-sensitive manner. Since so many companies have already built relationships with China, the resources available to find, work with, and manage those arrangements have grown substantially. Here are five great starting points that will help you find a supplier in China:
- Alibaba.com – arguably the world’s largest business-to-business (B2B) portal
- China Sources – another popular website that arranges connections between businesses as well as Chinese manufacturers and suppliers
- HKDC.com – this site offers an extensive directory of suppliers in China with over one million listings and offers other services like business matching.
- Smart China Sourcing.com – lists 80 sourcing experts and is ISO9000 certified.
- Made-in-China.com – a leading B2B portal that offers access to sourcing experts and claims quality products and companies.