When you work with manufacturers who actually manufacture overseas, you are fortunate to experience perspective. It’s easy to draw conclusions from think tanks, management consultants and not-for-profit white papers about shifts in global manufacturing trends, but the reality is that funded article was drafted with a preconceived notion in mind.
I just finished speaking with one of our engineers who spent three months living and working near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He lived and worked not as an expatriate or as the visiting dignitary from the corporate office, but as an engineering manager in a three-complex, 500+-person factory.
Here are the three biggest pitfalls that await an unsuspecting company in their first foray into manufacturing in Vietnam, or Asia in general:
1. The Cultural Difference
It is very big and very real. Obviously, you say. But the differences in communication style, time to commute, decision-making framework and skills, authority position, work/life balance, priorities, family importance, male/female societal roles, work expectations, and on and on, are massive....not insurmountable to overcome, but these factors and hundreds of others take time to understand and integrate into a successful business partnership.
2. The Language
Captain Obvious strikes again. But stay with me to the end – you’ll see it’s worth it. Learning any new language is a challenge – sorry, Rosetta Stone, but it’s true. Learning a language well enough to communicate business and engineering specific details that do not get lost in a native language to Asia can be brutally challenging. Sure, there are translators and options, but let’s acknowledge that the idioms and colloquialisms native to your first language will be different in any other culture.
3. Product Application
No matter how detailed the drawing package or clearly written the manufacturing work/assembly/process instructions are, unless you can clearly demonstrate the application (and thus importance) of your product to the manufacturing partner who will make it, you are setting yourself up for trouble. If you write a paper and omit the conclusion, your audience is lost. I’m telling you, I hear this story all the time.
If you cannot MAKE time to educate the actual manufacturer, there will be issues, and the factory will not be able to understand why you are unhappy. Play detective or reporter and make sure you’ve covered these key questions:
- What is it?
- What is it used for?
- Who uses it, and why?
Even if your component, sub-assembly or product is not ultimately sold in the country of manufacture, the manufacturer will have a much better understanding of the technical aspects of the drawing package and bill of materials.
By conveying the subtleties of the product, you will have educated the manufacturer and thus shortened the learning curve to making your product the best it can be.
By the way, the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City isn’t as bad as the rumors; it’s worse. Check out this YouTube video.
Exploring the advantages to manufacturing overseas with the right partner? It’s not so scary.