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  1. #1
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    A Brit tries making motorcycles in China....a tail of woe

    Come back? Not for all the scooters in China

    The Chinese way of working has almost defeated one British entrepreneur, writes Malcolm Moore in Wuxi



    Published: 6:57PM GMT 10 Jan 2010
    Comments 48 | Comment on this article

    Workers install the electrics at Bright Mountain Motorcycle factory


    At 8 o'clock in the morning, the Bright Mountain Motorcycle factory in Wuxi, one hour's drive from Shanghai, whirrs into life. But as the production lines start rolling and workers begin bolting together the day's order of motorcycles and scooters, one person is not happy.
    Chris, who asked that we did not use his real name, is a 28-year-old British entrepreneur determined to make his fortune by manufacturing high-end electric scooters in China and importing them to Britain.


    He arrived in the southern city of Guangzhou two years ago to search for a factory that would help him design and build a scooter. Without any experience of business in China, or any language skills, it has been a gruelling process.
    Now, with rows of his scooters standing on the floor of Bright Mountain's plant, waiting to be loaded and shipped, he is clearly exhausted. For the past six months, he has lived at the factory.
    "If I had known back then how China works, I would have used a factory in England," he says wistfully. "Well, maybe not England because it is too expensive, but perhaps Taiwan or Japan. I'm looking at switching production to there for the next batch," he adds.
    From the very beginning, delays have eaten into the budget for his start-up. "I'm £50,000 to £60,000 over budget," he says.
    Unlike in the West, Chinese businesses aim to build relationships with their clients before they negotiate the details of any order.
    "We seemed to spend all of our time just sitting around drinking tea with bosses. I played ping-pong for hours with the head of one of the largest battery factories in the north. They put us up in five-star hotels and we had endless drunken banquets," he says. "But then when it came to negotiating the deal, it kept breaking down."
    Finally, Chris met Victor, a Chinese sales manager for Bright Mountain, who assured him that he could build the exact scooter that he wanted. A deal was struck for an initial test order of 25 bikes. Since then, however, nothing has gone to plan.
    "Initially I went back to the UK while they were making the prototype. Victor sent me email updates with pictures of the bike and when it looked like it was finished I returned to China," says Chris. "What I found when I got to the factory was no prototype, just a wooden frame with an engine in the middle."
    Across the courtyard from the main factory floor, Victor works in Bright Mountain's sales office. He is in charge of foreign orders, but the only two other orders from abroad that Bright Mountain has had so far have gone disastrously wrong.
    One, a shipment of 3,000 motorcycles to Germany, ended in acrimony when the Germans found that Bright Mountain had substituted the specified parts for cheaper ones, causing the engines to explode.
    The second order, a monthly shipment of 1,000 scooters to India, was terminated after the first container was opened and all the bikes were found to be rusty.
    Victor is frank. "I would not buy my wife a bike from Bright Mountain," he says, shaking his head cheerily. "They are too dangerous. Of course, that's just the domestic models. Export ones are OK."
    When asked what had happened during the making of the prototype he freely confessed to having lied to Chris. "During all those months, I did nothing. Nothing at all. He asked what was happening, so I emailed him to say everything was fine and sent him photographs from a friend's factory," he says.
    "Victor is the most dishonest man I have met in my entire life," says Chris, tersely. "But the problem is that no one takes any direct responsibility. The workers lie to their bosses. The bosses lie to the salesmen, the salesmen are our point of contact, but they don't know what is going on," he adds.
    Other mishaps seemed to occur randomly. When Chris asked for the prototype to be made in black, he received one in bright pink. The workers managed to scratch a large number of the bikes and had not ordered enough spare parts to replace the damaged panels.
    But now, after several months of delays, there is just a list of 10 small modifications that need to be made before the bikes can be shipped to the UK and sold. To get them done, Chris has to visit the deputy head of the factory, a man who Victor describes as "the big potato".
    Outside, two workers buff his Mercedes S-Class sedan. "The big boss is the second most corrupt man in Wuxi!" Victor says proudly.
    The factory used to be state-owned and much of its office space now lies empty, the staff having been stripped back. The deputy head's office is expansive, with a polished marble floor and a solid bronze statue of a bull. The boss sits on a sofa in the corner, wearing a light green sleeveless shirt, rimless spectacles and a Rolex. He listens calmly to Chris' demands and orders the chief engineer to take care of them.
    "When we were told about the order by our salesmen, we didn't realise how technically difficult it would be," he explains later, quietly.
    "We never would have taken it if we realised we would have to come up with an entirely original design and such a high standard. It has cost us a lot of time and effort to fill the order."
    Chris returns to the factory floor, but most of the engineers are not working on Chris' bikes, but are instead in a small back room, smoking and "designing" new bikes.
    Bright Mountain's design process involves taking apart a well-known bike, perhaps a Vespa or a Honda, and reverse-engineering it until the factory has its own pirated version to offer to its customers. Today, the men appear to be working on a version of a Harley-Davidson.
    Meanwhile, on the production line, 18-year-old Jiang Shasha says the work is "quite relaxed". She's tiny, and looks much younger than she claims to be. She arrived at the factory from her home province after failing China's university entrance exam. "We are busier in the morning and then we get to relax a bit after lunch," she says.
    "They work to order," says Chris. "I've seen them work all night and all weekend if they have an order to fill. When they don't, they slack off," he explains.
    At 11.30, there is no sign of the chief engineer, Xiao Yi, or Little Yi, who has been put in charge of finishing off Chris's bikes. "He's never around. One lunch he went to karaoke and came back sozzled," says Chris in dismay.
    It is not until four o'clock that Little Yi returns, perfectly sober. By then, the activity in the rest of the factory has slowed to a virtual halt in the late afternoon haze. Workers stand around chatting as the sun streams through large windows onto the production line. Little Yi grumbles at the list of last-minute changes and disappears into his office.
    By 5.30, it is clear that Chris will not manage to ship the bikes on time. "I came here with a list of 10 things. The list has now grown and I don't think we'll get anything done today," he says. "My natural instinct is to trust people and I have learned not to do that in China."
    On the mountain behind the factory there is a Buddhist temple. Victor proposes that we go there to pray for the bikes.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bangyai
    He arrived in the southern city of Guangzhou two years ago to search for a factory that would help him design and build a scooter. Without any experience of business in China, or any language skills, it has been a gruelling

    process.
    Ya think? Its one thing to go there with plans another to do this. Makes me think to the barbecue thread. Lots of people do high end barbecues in China for nothing compared to the west.

  3. #3
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    Good to hear that the Chinese are fucking things up. The last thing the world needs is China making everything perfectly and rest of the worlds manual labour jobs being transferred there.

    I feel sorry for the Brit in this case, he's obviously getting the same runaround as anybody who has owned a business in Thailand can relate to.

  4. #4
    watterinja
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    I wonder when western developers will realise that they can design & build better kit in their own countries, at a reasonable price, if they set their mind to it.

    China makes rubbish.

  5. #5
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    ^people are willing to buy rubbish

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    What I really don't understand is that it's in their interest to make a quality product. Quality product = sales. Sales = more orders. More orders = more money.

    I may not be a business man but it seems obvious, really.

    The Asian mindset is one to behold.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog View Post
    ^people are willing to buy rubbish
    Yeah, they don't seem to be able to make the link between cheap and crap and more expensive but good quality. In Thailand I've given up on trying to explain to people that replacing or repairing the cheap junk they've bought actually costs more than just buying the more expensive, well-made products in the first place.
    The Above Post May Contain Strong Language, Flashing Lights, or Violent Scenes.

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    He would have been far better off getting a Chinese factory to build to his design .Not even knowing the language what hope did he have .
    China builds quality goods ( as well as the crap it normally builds ) under Japanese and German supervision .The goods are stamped Toshiba etc but are made in China .

  9. #9
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    Interesting, the quality discussion in shops can give surprising opinions from shop staff. I recently purchased a new tumble dryer. I chose a Miele. Very good quality excellent design, very expensive. I went to three stores had same conversation in each, they all tried to sell me a cheaper machine,better value i was told! No need to spend so much! I stuck to my guns and bought the machine i wanted.
    I am now told that the shops earn far more from the cheaper machines and no customer buying the more expensive machine needs insurance as the better makes give a longer warrenty for free.

  10. #10
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    Another example of an entrepreneur trying to be a jack of all trades and when overseeing this quite complicated venture.

    If you can read between the lines he obviously has not given the right job to the right people and that is getting third parties to crack the whip on his behalf including adopting a penalty clause condition against orders.

    I know of many successful export projects completed in China and also many disasters whereby people have not followed up in person the progress and quality control.

    Any person who underestimates what the Chinese can achieve are set for a hiding.

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    Obviously this guy is far to young and inexperienced to do business in China or any other Asian country for that matter.
    He came to China thinking that he could just set up a business without any knowledge of Asian culture or traditions, and no idea about Chinese business law. On top of that he couldn't speak a word of Chinese. This was a disaster from the start.

    I've live and worked in Wuxi for the last ten years. I get very good quality products from China, in fact the best quality anywhere in the world.
    If you let them sell you crap they will do just that.

    My advice for anybody coming to do business in Asian is do your homework first. Don't think you can just come here and make a fast buck.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spin View Post
    Good to hear that the Chinese are fucking things up. The last thing the world needs is China making everything perfectly and rest of the worlds manual labour jobs being transferred there.

    I feel sorry for the Brit in this case, he's obviously getting the same runaround as anybody who has owned a business in Thailand can relate to.
    Feel sorry for him? Why? An accident waiting to happen, obviously never did his homework, same sort of person who arrives in pattaya looking to buy a restaurant and settles with a bar.

  13. #13
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    We ship quality goods out of China on a daily basis.
    I like this story, it makes our services even more valuable.
    It also reminds me of what people used to say about Japaneses 30 years ago, now Sony and Toyota rule the world.

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    Quote:
    "My natural instinct is to trust people and I have learned not to do that in China."


    or:
    "My natural instinct is to trust people and I have learned not to do that in [insert country here]."

  15. #15
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    ^
    "Only the paranoid survive" Andrew Grove

  16. #16
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    As a wise man once told me. You can have any combination of two of the below, but not three.

    Cheap.
    Good quality.
    Quick.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Attilla the Hen View Post
    As a wise man once told me. You can have any combination of two of the below, but not three.

    Cheap.
    Good quality.
    Quick.
    Sure can have all three, well we (My Employer) does anyways.

    Cheap - Yup, cheapest on the market for the given threat level.
    Good Quality - Yup, fully certified materials including full vehicle integrity certification.
    Quick - We can turn a car around every two days.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perota View Post
    We ship quality goods out of China on a daily basis.
    I like this story, it makes our services even more valuable.
    It also reminds me of what people used to say about Japaneses 30 years ago, now Sony and Toyota rule the world.
    Yes, but assuming you're not full of xit then you know what a headache it is to get and maintain thet quality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deathstardan View Post
    What I really don't understand is that it's in their interest to make a quality product. Quality product = sales. Sales = more orders. More orders = more money.

    I may not be a business man but it seems obvious, really.

    The Asian mindset is one to behold.
    Maybe your answer is here.
    Why 'Made in China’ is a mark of shame

    They say that the first step on the road to recovery is to admit you have a problem. Only now, as the public becomes aware that the "Made in China" label is tainted with a huge number of shoddy and dangerous products, are companies beginning to understand there is a serious problem. The next step is to ask: why do Chinese manufacturers behave so badly?



    By Paul Midler
    Published: 6:46PM GMT 10 Jan 2010
    Comments 3 | Comment on this article


    The nature of the relationship between Chinese suppliers and Western importers is the key to the problem. Chinese factories are typically paid for their wares before they are shipped, so they have every reason to cut a corner or two.
    Only after the containers have arrived at their destination are problems uncovered, and taking Chinese factories to court is not an option because of China's underdeveloped legal system.


    Chinese manufacturers will do whatever they need to in order to catch a piece of business, but from there, the relationship often goes downhill, albeit in small steps. "Quality fade", the quiet and incremental degradation of a product's quality over time, is one of the more common issues.
    Because Chinese manufacturers know that they cannot be matched anywhere else, and also that their Western customers prefer continuity in their supply chain, they feel comfortable nibbling away at quality levels, despite whatever contracts they may have signed. Product failures are, in effect, the result of a game that is being played and lost by Western companies in China.
    Much of the problem is cultural. Chinese suppliers believe that what an importer doesn't know can't hurt him. They change product specifications without asking, and they believe that it is better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Quality is seen as a barrier to greater profitability and quality issues are not openly discussed.
    Some believe that at the root of the problem is the political system. There is a carrot in China without a counterbalancing stick. China's Communist Party rewards manufacturers that help bring foreign currency into the country through commerce. At the same time, however, there is little or no punishment meted out to those who conduct their businesses in an unethical fashion.
    China could prevent unethical business practices such as quality fade by establishing an office that handles such complaints. Why the country has not yet done this is anyone's guess.
    Meanwhile, we continue to see worrisome headlines.
    In China, hundreds of thousands of babies were sickened last year by melamine- tainted milk. The government cracked down on the dozens of operators that were involved, and, to deter others, executed two individuals. It had no effect. Just a few weeks ago, another dairy producer was caught adulterating its milk products with the toxic substance.
    What can we say about a country in which even the most extreme forms of punishment do not seem to have an impact on criminal activity? And what does our eagerness to import products from such an economy say about ourselves? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/c...-of-shame.html

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dug View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Perota View Post
    We ship quality goods out of China on a daily basis.
    I like this story, it makes our services even more valuable.
    It also reminds me of what people used to say about Japaneses 30 years ago, now Sony and Toyota rule the world.
    Yes, but assuming you're not full of xit then you know what a headache it is to get and maintain thet quality.
    You assume a lot

    It's a headache only if you're poorly organized.

    We take order only at reasonable price. We have clear procedures on how the orders should be handled. Every time we are about to place a order with a new supplier, we send first our own people to check the factory. And they go back as often as necessary to insure the quality of the goods are up to our customers standard when they are shipped out.
    The way you spend your time, in a nightclub with the company manager or on the factory floor with the production manager, really makes a difference.
    The things we regret most is the things we didn't do

  21. #21
    watterinja
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perota View Post
    We ship quality goods out of China on a daily basis.
    I like this story, it makes our services even more valuable.
    It also reminds me of what people used to say about Japaneses 30 years ago, now Sony and Toyota rule the world.
    You are wrong.

    Chinese simply do not have the Japanese eye for quality. This is why China will always cut corners where it can get away with it.

    I trust that this latest global crisis will encourage many manufacturers to move their production base closer to home where they can better control product quality.

    China makes rubbish... maybe reasonable today, less tommorrow, but certainly rubbish in the long run... If you have to micro-manage the manufacturer to make a decent product, then you have the wrong manufacturer.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perota View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Dug View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Perota View Post
    We ship quality goods out of China on a daily basis.
    I like this story, it makes our services even more valuable.
    It also reminds me of what people used to say about Japaneses 30 years ago, now Sony and Toyota rule the world.
    Yes, but assuming you're not full of xit then you know what a headache it is to get and maintain thet quality.
    The way you spend your time, in a nightclub with the company manager or on the factory floor with the production manager, really makes a difference.
    Exactly, as I said
    you know what a headache it is to get and maintain that quality.
    "In my professional assessment as an intelligence officer, Trump has a reflexive, defensive, monumentally narcissistic personality, for whom the facts and national interest are irrelevant, and the only thing that counts is whatever gives personal advantage and directs attention to himself."

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by watterinja View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Perota View Post
    We ship quality goods out of China on a daily basis.
    I like this story, it makes our services even more valuable.
    It also reminds me of what people used to say about Japaneses 30 years ago, now Sony and Toyota rule the world.
    You are wrong.

    Chinese simply do not have the Japanese eye for quality. This is why China will always cut corners where it can get away with it.

    I trust that this latest global crisis will encourage many manufacturers to move their production base closer to home where they can better control product quality.

    China makes rubbish... maybe reasonable today, less tommorrow, but certainly rubbish in the long run... If you have to micro-manage the manufacturer to make a decent product, then you have the wrong manufacturer.
    Actually we've got Chinese suppliers and they've been able to match what, up until now, only our Japanese ones could in providing consistently high-quality raw materials.

    Further, that raw is then in turn manufactuered by us here in Thailand into a high quality product that, literally, nobody else in the world is able to match.

    So no I don't think he's wrong at all, and certainly not from his experience(s). As with most of these things it's neither black nor white.

  24. #24
    watterinja
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    Quote Originally Posted by AntRobertson View Post
    Actually we've got Chinese suppliers and they've been able to match what, up until now, only our Japanese ones could in providing consistently high-quality raw materials.

    Further, that raw is then in turn manufactuered by us here in Thailand into a high quality product that, literally, nobody else in the world is able to match.

    So no I don't think he's wrong at all, and certainly not from his experience(s). As with most of these things it's neither black nor white.
    I'll bet you anything that if the Japanese were required to up their spec to meet Japanese internal standards, that the Chinese would not even come close.

    The Japs don't even bother pushing the quality specs hard when they need to supply to Thailand, as most Thais won't want to pay for quality.

    The moment you turn your back on the Chinese, you will find quality degredation. It's up to you if you want to buy from them. Many European manufacturers are beginning to turn away products made in China, due to ongoing reliability problems in the field.

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    Raw materials? What raw materials would that be?
    Raw materials are a bit different to a manufactured product. As Watterjina said, the Chinese just don't have the eye for quality. (hey, it fits, so what if it's a few thou out).
    In my experience they really just don't get it.
    of course there will always be exceptions to the rule.
    half the problem is the Chinese obsession with face.
    For example lets say an assembly worker notices that a part doesn't fit as commonsense tells him it should, what should he do?
    he has been told to fit that on there and tighten this then hand it on and go on to the next step. That's all he has to do.
    if he points out to his supervisor that the part doesn't seem to fit his super could take it as a loss of face. The assembly worker doesn't want to risk causing his super a loss of face so he just continues doing what he's been told to do, there can be no repercussions for that even though he can see it could cause the product to fail somewhere down the line.
    The super, by he way is not qualified for the job, he's there because he's the nephew of the business licensing department head who the factory boss took out to lunch last week.
    And on and fucking on.
    I tell you.
    It's ridiculous.
    The hypothetical example of the face thing I gave is just an example of what pervades the entire culture of a workplace in China.
    True a lot of quality products are made here but they are foreign owned and run factories with foreign quality control and production supervisors.

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