What does sourcing and purchasing from China look like during the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions, lack of components, and logistics crisis? For some companies, it looks like business as usual.

It is still necessary to do background checks and verify the capabilities of suppliers so that you know who you are dealing with and that you are cooperating with a company that can meet your requirements.

The easiest way to prevent receiving bad products and losing the payment is to check the products before the payment and while the products are still at the factory. It is difficult, if not impossible, to complain after the payment is made and the products have travelled 1.5 months to their destination.

There are specific and concrete actions that can be taken to mitigate the risk of receiving bad deliveries from China:

Recognizing the way that worked in the past is not good enough at the moment is a good start. It is better to improve sourcing processes before something very expensive problem happens. You or somebody on behalf of you need to actively dig out potential problems before they become actual problems.

You need to do quality control when the products are still at the factory. If you cannot do it with your employees you need to buy such service from a professional company operating inside of Mainland China.

You need to be very clear with communications and tell the supplier exactly what do you want. Often it is not enough to explain the specifications and other requirements by email to the factory salesperson in English. It is better to go to the factory and talk face-to-face with the production manager, perhaps even in the Chinese language. Do not assume anything, clarify, and ask for proof.

The companies that have enough good stock available for sales at the target market have a competitive edge over those who do not have stock. The time to make sure your supply chain works is now. Do not wait when it is “just in time”. There are many uncertainties at the moment and you need to reserve enough time for everything.

How to do all this if it is impossible to travel to China? The solution is obvious: ask for help from somebody who is in China. During the pandemic, our company has been helping more and more overseas companies with their sourcing and purchasing operations in China. It is easy to travel inside the country and go to see yourself and not only rely on emails. The Chinese factories also appreciate that somebody is visiting them as the factories do not like uncertainties either.

It is not only once or twice that many overseas companies have contacted us and said “We have a big problem!” The next day when I flew to visit the factory, the problem was found and solved very easily. Communication is the key and when there is distance, time difference, language problems, cultural differences etc. between things get unnecessary difficult.