Clients come to us with needs. Some of them know exactly what they need (such and such service) and how to get the most of our work. But most of them don’t, and instead they communicate their challenges.
As we recognized that fact, we have strived to offer full solutions to our clients needs, rather than an a-la-carte assortment of services. They might still look like a collection of individual services on our website, but we try to focus on our clients’ needs as much as our internal capabilities.
We collected a few examples to drive this point home.
Product quality inspections as solutions
In our view, there are 2 ways to conduct a product inspection.
- Check the product quality, provide the report, and move on to the next job (99% of QC inspection providers do this).
- Do all of the above, but follow up when issues are found. This can be suggestions to improve quality based on the facts found in the inspection and/or an engineer’s analysis on where the root cause of any quality issues lies (1% of QC inspection providers do this).
As an importer, you’ve got a big problem if defects are found, certainly if they’re severe. So isn’t a QC inspection service provider leaving you high-and-dry if they simply provide a report showing what the problems are without helping you devise a roadmap to solve them?
Here’s what we do to add value in this case…
At Sofeast, we aim to be in the 1% and will typically add value by doing the following to help you solve the QC issues we find by offering the experience that we have on our staff:
- Armed with the inspection report, we can put you in touch with a project manager to discuss your quality situation and provide you with an experienced eye’s feedback. They’ll be looking to alert you to the real issues and to put your mind at ease about smaller points that probably aren’t serious enough to worry about. Ultimately, they’re there to help you get the most out of the report and suggest what the most effective action might be based on their experience in similar cases they’ve dealt with in the past.
- After the inspection, we send an experienced engineer to your supplier’s facility to examine the causes of the quality issues.
We regularly conduct 8D sessions to pinpoint issues and clarify them for clients, and, in terms of value, approximately one or two man-days of an engineer’s time provides a large ROI if recurring quality issues are fixed by the supplier now and in the future.
Second-party factory audits as solutions
Factory auditors can often be accused of simply verifying that a standard is being complied with by providing a list of points that do not comply.
While understanding the status of the systems being audited is helpful for the client, wouldn’t it be great if the auditor could somehow help to improve them, too?
For second-party factory audits (for the client, using their own checklist), the auditor can add value without causing conflicts of interest. Here’s an example:
- Instead of focussing on all problems (non-conformities or NCs) that they find, how about pinpointing just a few of the most common ones and then providing some feedback about how to stop the causes of each issue?
(Note: We don’t do this systematically at Sofeast, but we are more than happy to do it when a client specifically requests it.)
Some of the businesses being audited have no experience in improving the systems where they have problems, so a well-timed suggestion from an auditor can give them a tangible way to drive improvement.
This doesn’t mean that an auditor’s role changes to becoming some kind of consultant, however, they add a lot of extra value to your factory audit if they’re able to provide a suggestion to your supplier, such as: “I have seen other companies avoid or reduce this issue by doing XYZ,” which they can then explore and work on.
Learn a lot more about 2nd party factory quality audits in this episode of the podcast
Project management for new product development as a solution
A new product development project is fraught with dangers.
- Are you experienced in planning the new product project from start to finish?
- Is the design actually realistic technically and financially?
- Is your supply chain manageable and sustainable?
- Is your supplier truly capable of manufacturing the product to the correct specifications?
- Do YOU have the knowledge you need to understand and manage every phase of the project, from R&D to tooling and pre-production, through to mass production and fulfillment?
- Can you manage the project from your country when production is in, say, China?
Of course, most importers who are launching a new product have gaps in their knowledge and experience. For instance, you may not be an industrial design expert; and that’s fine.
In this position, bringing in a local project manager who can fill in some of the gaps in your knowledge and provide ‘boots on the ground,’ makes absolute sense and is worth paying for.
But it’s amazing how many service providers sell the service of a project manager without explaining how valuable this really is (if they’re good). If clients don’t understand the capabilities of their project manager, they won’t see the value in paying for them, potentially muddling along and getting into trouble down the line.
Here’s what we do to add value in this case…
Our in-house R&D team have decades of experience working on products of all kinds (predominantly mechanical and electronic, but not limited to them), so we will be keeping DFM (Design For Manufacturing) in mind throughout your product development process in order to assure that you end up with a very ‘manufacturable’ product which you can get to market quickly.
That’s why we show why a good local project manager can help you enormously and add a lot of value:
- They will explain issues and suggest workarounds that your supplier can’t or won’t be able to.
- They are backed by colleagues who specialize in material & process engineering, procurement, logistics, and more, meaning that you have a broad range of experience to help handle every phase of your new product development and launch project.
- They work to a proven framework which makes planning the project a lot more efficient than making it up as you go along.
- They have access to Sofeast’s mature network of service providers that we’ve built up over more than a decade, such as trusted testing labs, component suppliers, designers, and more.
- Your PM is supported by foreign top management who help devise the best possible plan from the start and can step in to aid them where specific expertise is required.
If your PM isn’t providing the above, then maybe you’ll be paying a low fee, but are they really contributing the support that you need, or are they just sending some messages now and again?
Does this make sense? Does your provider simply offer services, or do they go further and provide a solution which offers lasting value? Let us know about your experiences, please.
This FREE eBook starts from the beginning, discussing whether you need to hire a sourcing agent, and follows the sourcing process right through to developing a trusted supplier’s quality and productivity.
There are 15 chapters over 80+ pages to explore, providing exhaustive guidance on the entire sourcing and supplier development process from start to finish, including:
- Identifying suppliers,
- Quality inspections,
- Developing Chinese suppliers,
- Improving factory quality and productivity,
- and much more…
Just hit the button below to request your free copy: