Outsourcing plastic molding in China has become the norm for many European and American plastic processing companies, with good reason. The cost savings can be significant and some customers demand a China presence if you want to do work for them. Moldmakers find themselves in the same situation, sometimes with difficult decisions to make.
Finding a reliable supplier can be a rather daunting process, however. There are so many Chinese molders and mold makers all competing to win clients, how can you know which one to use? Will they perform as promised? What about delivery dates, quality and intellectual property rights?
There are so many questions that must be answered before investing in a project that it simply takes time and patience to come to a viable solution. This brings us to the title of the article: Trust and Verify.
President Ronald Reagan used this phrase so often during his negotiations with the Soviet Union that Mikhail Gorbachev actually complained about it. Trust and verify is a Russian proverb that was also used by Vladimir Lenin.
Once a Chinese supplier has been chosen, it is highly advisable to follow this principle: trust and verify. You certainly need to have a trusting relationship, otherwise you have no relationship at all and cannot do business or anything else. Yet, given the tendency of companies to slack of the minute you are out of sight, you need to verify.
Without coming across as judgmental or condescending, the concept of quality is somewhat foreign to many Chinese companies. The centuries old tradition of European quality standards is new to this part of the world and it takes time and education to effect a lasting change.
Quality materials, proper techniques, documentation and consistent adherence to a set of quality standards takes discipline and time. There is obviously a time to cut corners, but this should be where it makes no difference, not as a standard operating procedure.
A classic example of this is with injection mold components. Experience shows clearly that a production mold has to have quality components made of the right materials, machined in the right way and of the correct hardness. If not, the tool will simply fail in a short time.
For this reason, most companies insist on name-brand components, such as ejector pins, core pins, mold bases, hot runner systems, pressure sensors, and other critical items. Sure, you can save a lot of money up front by using off-brand pieces, but you suffer the consequences in the long run.
It is not enough to take their word for it, you need to verify things. Not only that, but there are companies who make these very components and simply change the name etched on to fit whatever the customer orders. Today it is DME, tomorrow PCS and the next day Progressive.
A word to the wise when it comes to outsourcing plastic molding in China: trust and verify.