Is China quality really that bad ?

I was reading the business headlines today and see that Toyota is recalling over 1 millon cars because of problems with the windshield wipers and air bags. And it seems to me that this is not the first time that the Japanese auto-maker has had to make significant recalls because of faulty manufacturing or design. The Toyota recall this morning comes on the heels of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fiasco where faulty design on the part of Boeing and/or a Japanese battery maker, Yuasa, has resulted in the grounding of these jets worldwide. Reading all of this, I am asking myself this morning if it is not a little unfair that Chinese products have such a bad reputation in the world?

In 2007 University of Manitoba researchers released a study which covered 2 decades of toy recalls in the US. They found that the majority of recalls resulted from faulty product design on the part of the US companies and not from shoddy manufacturing in China. This is a well-known and respected study but of course your average importer or consumer is not aware of it. Consumers simply read the headlines about this recall or that recall and immediately blame the Chinese.

And then I think to some of my projects over the years. I remember a company that was doing a dresser for a major US retailer but both product development and the retail buyer forgot to put drawer stops in the design so all the drawers were falling out. It was comical but dangerous as well. Or the ceramics company whose mugs were showing up with severe pocks on the base because the design required that the mugs were placed on a special rack when firing. Or the basket company that insisted on a special burgundy color lacquer only to discover then that mold was more visible on the baskets. The stories are endless.

Make no mistake about it, there is a lot of bad product coming out of China, flawed design or not, and I have certainly had my share of Chinese product breakdowns. And as my post yesterday made clear, it is essential that you inspect an order being shipped from China. But a lot of good product comes out of China too. How about all the toys, appliances, exercise equipment etc. that is “Made in China” and is perfectly safe and functional? Just as we do not suspend judgment about Japanese ingenuity and technical prowess when there is an auto recall, maybe we should be as understanding with China when we read about a toy recall.

Just a thought.

Canton Fair 2011


3 thoughts on “Is China quality really that bad ?

  1. Well try mate!
    Try to sell this joke to those that have lost the love ones due to failed and dangerous products from China.

  2. Poor design makes all of the product bad. I think what causes a bad reputation for China is that good designs poorly executed result in much of the product being bad. Think of putting out an electronic product with a 20 percent fail rate in an Internet age. I saw a review on a company’s own site that said the product worked for 5 minutes don’t buy it. Who would ignore that? Also, when someone creates a new quality product like high intensity flash lights that sell for $20.00 and then they are knocked off poorly for $2.00 the value is destroyed. It’s hard to sell them for $20.00 now and everyone assumes they are equally bad regardless of cost. There used to be customer service that would help educate the consumer. Now everyone claims theirs is better with no perceivable difference or claim its the same thing only cheaper. Either way as Guy Kawasaki says you want to have better sameness you compete on price.

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