How to improve your Chinese factory's organization?
In the vast majority of cases, importers are not invited by their suppliers to offer suggestions of improvements in their factories. I have heard many buyers explain the benefits of doing something differently, but in the end it NEVER got done.
If you are the largest customer of a factory whose boss genuinely wants to learn and improve his organization, you are really lucky. Developing your supplier will help you get better quality, with less delays, and at a better price. Go ahead!
So, where should you start? It is tempting to modify the layout of a workshop, or to embark everybody on a certain path (such as the Theory of Constraints). This is a mistake.
You will have to get clear results, and fast, before middle managers get discouraged.
The first step should be improving a few key processes (i.e. making them more stable and/or more efficient). Not only is it less invasive to the organization as a whole, but it is the real source of improvements:
Whether in nature or in a human organization, improvement and adaptation seem to take place at the detail or process level.
We can and need to think and plan on higher levels, like about eliminating hunger or developing a profitable small car, but the changes that ultimately lead to improvement or adaptation are often detail changes based on lessons learned in processes.
(Extract from Toyota Kata, by Mike Rother)
After you have improved most processes, and the managers are excited to do more changes, you can modify the layout of the operators and their machines, to reduced work-in-process. You can also set up some systematic QC checks (for example on incoming components). And the list goes on.