YMSW Journal
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Part 2: An American in China

Richard Campbell is the Vice President of Operations for Yellow Mountain StoneWorks. During his tenure, Richard has grown our China-based team, strengthened our relationships with vendors, and honed our production processes to achieve greater efficiencies and scalability. We thought it would be interesting to share Richard’s perspective on doing business in China and his experiences helping us create a reliable supply chain. In part 1, Richard addressed the cultural aspects of running a production operation in China. In part 2, he speaks to quality control and meeting increased demand.

Ensuring quality control
There are many elements that go into consistently providing a unique, quality stone product, on time, on budget – and produced in China. But to summarize, I would have to say it comes down to proactive communication and standards and processes that are clearly understood by our clients, staff and production vendors. Much of the detail of a given project is worked through during the development stage – this is when YMSW collaborates with our clients and works out the specifications for the stone. Once everyone agrees to the plan and standards we move to execution – and established quality control processes. For example:

Before production starts, there is always a meeting with the vendor and his staff to review the project drawings - which control the dimensions, and the control samples and mockup – which provides a visual standard. With the help of our staff translators and interpreters, we take the time to answer questions and make sure that our expectations are understood. Often, we put the control sample right where the artisans can all see it while they work to reinforce what will be accepted or rejected.

To further ensure quality, one of our QC inspectors is assigned long term to each production vendor where they monitor the progress of all YMSW projects. They inspect every piece of stone against the specifications and have cameras, laptops and phones to provide our project managers with reports of anything amiss. Our project managers oversee concurrent projects at multiple production facilities from our Xiamen office. The PMs are responsible for working with the owner of the respective production facility to problem solve issues.

Any piece of stone that is rejected is a cost to the production vendor. Having long term relationships with our Chinese production vendors has enabled us to show how proactive communication and quick alterations to production early in the process makes our projects more profitable for their business. That’s why the standards, the inspectors, the project managers – all the communication we do is to minimize the amount of stone we need to reject. This also helps to keep projects on schedule.

Scalability and Confidence
A lot of companies build processes that work, but we made a conscious effort to build processes that work whether we have one project or a hundred projects. By having a standard operating procedure and clear quality expectations that everybody understands, we can focus on execution and scale production accordingly. This makes recruiting and training more efficient as well, because we simply integrate new hires into the existing process.

Being a company that operates in several locations, including on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, our processes also provide our management, staff and clients with the confidence that jobs are being done as expected. Whether I am in Xiamen or Seattle, or visiting a production facility, I know what the China team is doing on any given day because they’re following the standard operating procedure. I rely on them to do that, and they rely on me to do that. It keeps everything moving forward.

For a related articles, please read:
Part 1: An American in China
Before you give ANYONE Money for Custom Stone from China...


Topic: Global Perspectives
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Part 1: An American in China

Richard Campbell is the Vice President of Operations for Yellow Mountain StoneWorks. During his tenure, Richard has grown our China-based team, strengthened our relationships with vendors, and honed our production processes to achieve greater efficiencies and scalability. We thought it would be interesting to share Richard’s perspective on doing business in China and his experiences helping us create a reliable supply chain. In part 1, Richard addresses the cultural aspects of running a production operation in China. In part 2, he speaks to quality control and meeting increased demand.

Forging a bridge between two cultures
I pursued a career in international business because I am fascinated by contrasting economic models and I wanted a challenging, non-traditional job that involved different cultures. Working in China for Yellow Mountain StoneWorks is a perfect fit. China presents a complex and arduous business environment; the norms and assumptions of Western businesses simply do not apply.

For example, when we began talking with production facilities, we expected what Americans would call ‘the straight scoop.’ However, with surprising regularity, what we were told was not necessarily true – it was not necessarily untrue, but the Chinese often speak in innuendo, deflection, and obfuscation. It can be a matter of saving face or miscommunication or simply of habit. If you're Chinese, I think culturally you're more aware that things are not the way they are said to be and you adjust to interpretation. But our business is based on exact specifications and deadlines – and we must have confidence that our vendors will meet our standards.

To deal with this difference in communication style, we chose to invest in a few factories, not monetarily, but invest our energy and process and to stick with them long enough to see if we could find common ground. And slowly but surely, these relationships improved. And because we keep returning with orders, the vendors understand that working with us, in the way we need them to, creates a mutually beneficial alliance.

“A human company”
Similar to finding the right production vendors, it has been important that our Chinese employees understand our approach, and see a value to themselves in meeting our rigorous standards and expectations. We talk a lot about only hiring the right people, good people. It has rightfully created a sense of pride among our employees and contributes to our company culture. When we need new hires, we often ask our existing project managers and quality control (QC) inspectors if they have recommendations, because they understand the kind of people we are looking for.

In fact, I was interviewing a good candidate for a QC inspector job and I told him, ‘We’re going to pay you fairly. We’re going to treat you fairly. We expect you to treat us fairly.’ The English translation of his response was, “I know, I know, they told me that. You’re a human company.” That was really good to hear because it is completely aligned with what we are going for. We value our team and want them to value the company because everyone plays an important part in our success.

For a related articles, please read:
Part 1: An American in China
Before you give ANYONE Money for Custom Stone from China...


Topic: Global Perspectives