China on the agenda for roundtable

18 May 2010
Earlier today I chaired the first roundtable debate in China for SM’s sister magazine CPO Agenda. The 15 of us around the table covered a whole range of topics including the cultural challenges faced by foreign companies, working with local suppliers and ethical sourcing. The purchasing professionals around the table were from the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and of course, China. While there was not consensus on many of the points, there was some general agreement on how to make sourcing work in China. And chief among them was the need for buying organisations to be flexible and open-minded. Things are done differently here, that was agreed, but if you are willing to accept that you may be able to adapt your specification or to be flexible about what head office wants then that may actually help everybody. Nobody is suggesting “down specing” just to keep the suppliers happy, but a reassessment of why the current spec is as it is can be a worthwhile conversation. Also, the much-talked about cultural problems should not be as much of an issue as they are portrayed. If you enter a relationship with mistrust and suspicion that is what you’ll get back summarises the observation. And if you don’t, that will pay huge dividends. They were at odds with the general view we receive in Europe, and it goes to show, I suppose, what buyers always say about China: You have to come here and see it first-hand to know what you’re talking about. The roundtable write-up in association with BrainNet will be in the autumn issue of CPOA.
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