"It pays to continuously scout for new suppliers" | Expert opinion

"It pays to continuously scout for new suppliers"Ruud Bosman, a production and sourcing consultant for marine equipment has travelled to every part of China to find the right manufacturers. After visiting hundreds of factories, one would expect him to have a small exclusive list of suppliers. “I do work with trusted partners that I have known for years. But I still find new, better and technologically more advanced producers every time I visit China. It pays look out for new suppliers all the time.”

Ruud Bosman of Rotterdam-based Bonatec, is a specialist in the development, sourcing and outsourcing of parts, appliances and marine engines and diesel generators in China. Shipyards and marine equipment suppliers hire him to find the right manufacturers and production technology at the right price. “But it is not just the low manufacturing cost. Low cost opens up new possibilities in choice of materials and production methods. For a product that is to be produced in small batches in Europe, metal may be the choice of material. In China it may be worthwhile producing in plastic, because the mould can be produced in China for far less than in Europe. By sourcing the product in China, production techniques can be used that remain out of reach in Europe.”

Scale is key

The scale of production can make a big difference, Bosman adds. “For a large industry client it pays to make a compression mould that costs half a million Euros. For smaller companies and lower production numbers, other choices must be made. It is not particularly difficult to get a low quote from a manufacturer. It does however take a lot of experience to balance price and quality.”

For each product the consultant visits at least five companies; he chooses his partners not only for their quality and competitive pricing, but also for their eagerness to learn, to service and to supply according to the customer’s specs.

Bosman is proud of his extensive network of manufacturers. Some – like plastic and metal factories – are to be found close together in specific regions. Bosman mentions the city of Fuan that offers an abundance of generator suppliers. “I still find new partners outside the known production areas; visiting trade shows every year pays off! I don’t rely on alibaba.com too much, but continuously scout for new, better and more advanced suppliers.”

Too risky

“New factories open up every day; five years ago, I considered sourcing 50kW to 300 kW diesel engines from China to be too risky. Now there are at least half a dozen of brand new factories with great quality products at a good price. My advice to anyone who wishes to source products in China: keep your eyes open, as new opportunities arise every day.” 

Bosman identifies the lack of IP protection as a major problem in China. Nevertheless there are workarounds. Bonatec can help to find ways to minimize the risk of copying. Bosman: “Niche markets can offer a natural protection as Chinese manufacturers are not interested in small quantities and service- intensive products. One can also split a product into subassemblies and put them together in Europe.”

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