More tips on auditing suppliers; Force Majeure

Other than a factory’s management and production facilities there is one very important thing  to consider when evaluating a potential supplier: climate & weather.  China has a diverse climate and you should understand the climate where you are having your product made. For example over the last two weeks in Southern China, including Guangxi, Guizhou and Hunan icy weather has led to severe power outages. Some places have been without power for a full two weeks. Can you imagine if you had a product for an important customer with a cancellation date fast approaching and your vendor in rural Guangxi emailed to tell you that production was stopped because the bad weather had lead to a power blackout? Of course, there is nothing you can do about the weather but you owe it to yourself and your company to try to understand as best you can about the climate in the Province where you are going to be manufacturing and to ask your vendor how they are equipped to deal with inclement weather and/or resulting power outages. Power outages can be especially frequent in the summer when energy demand in China is at its peak and it is not uncommon for a factory to have just a few hours of power every day, their allotment from the local government. If they have a generator ask them to turn it on for you. Once again, just because there is a piece of equipment on hand, does not necessarily mean that it works ( please see Mulberry Fields archives) . If you have a product which needs significant dyeing and/or drying time, furniture being a ready example, you have to see if your vendor has facilities inside the factory to dry product when drying outside is not an option. Again, ask him to demonstrate these facilities for you. You also need to see how packaging is stored as wet weather can inflict serious damage on corrugated containers. It is too easy to forget about all of this especially when you come from an area, as I do, like Northern California where the weather year round is 60 degrees and sunny. But as it says in The Book of War 不知彼而知己,一勝一負 (bu zhibi er zhiji yi szxheng yi fu) If you know only yourself but not your enemy, you may win or you may lose. Why take the chance when all you have to do is spend a few hours reading about climates in China and follow up with your vendor.

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