Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Importing Electronic Message Centers from China

- Mike Prongue   

If you’ve been involved in the Electronic Message Center (EMC) industry for any length of time, chances are you probably have strong opinions regarding the pros and cons of importing EMCs from China. Whether your believe importing EMCs from China is an excellent possible way to compete because of the low factory pricing, or you believe the general quality and technology of Chinese product is still evolving and you wouldn’t do it for any reason… well, it doesn’t matter for this discussion.

Let’s suspend the debate for a few minutes and insert the old adage “it is what it is.” Whatever it is, good, bad or ugly there are definite realities associated with importing, particularly from China.
  •  Is importing really what you want to do? This means- does your company want to consume the real extra man hours of payroll, have the international business skills and finally have the eternal on-going, daily patience,  to buy direct from a Chinese manufacturer or would you rather do what your business does best and just focus on SELLING EMC displays? 
  • How do you select a Chinese partner to do business with? There are literally hundreds  of “professional leading suppliers” waiting for you. How do you select the right one, check them out, explore their reputation, and their ability to respond to your requests. It’s challenging enough to select a partner in North America, let alone a company 9,000 miles away.
  •  Are you aware of the 12-13 hour time difference and are you prepared to wait a day for almost any question, order, request or emergency? They are asleep when you are awake and this impractical issue reduces service to your customer dramatically.
  • How do you handle parts warranty claims? It costs almost as much to ship a power supply, an LED module, or a controller card back to China in an expedite mode as the part is worth. If they have a three year parts warranty, that is really YOUR warranty obligation.
  • Can you and your customer wait 12-14 weeks for delivery? Sure, they can make it in two weeks but that is only the start. You have Chinese government quality inspections, shipping to port, loading of the transport vessel, 14 days across the Pacific, offloading in some port (Long Beach for example), custom holds, transfers, lost containers, strikes and of course, sometimes a week to get it trucked across the country. Then you must set it up in your shop to ensure it works before installing it at the job site.
  • A little secret- they speak Chinese. Many of your contacts speak decent English, but it is a very stilted and difficult communication process.
  • Where is your order? What do you tell your customer? How do you explain why another project is late because one of the many Chinese Holidays, shut the plant down for 10 days?
  •  Is the software and the documentation sufficiently Americanized for your customer to feel good about the purchase? What do those Chinese symbols mean to the Deli owner in Chicago?
The seductive factory-direct pricing may catch your attention. But when you add the stress, the worry, the communication issues, the time delays, promises not kept or even understood… then you may think twice about the real cost of importing direct from China.

The secondary costs of your time and manpower, customer disappointment, delayed delivery, shipping expense, can be expressed in real dollars and you must look at the big picture before getting involved in the Asian theater.

It can be a very frustrating scenario, and as one dealer stated “A very slow boat”.

**Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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