Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More problems with Chinese partners

There's another depressing story in today's New York Times on a life-threatening quality problem with Chinese products. Now, it's a tire manufacturer who decided to forgo installing a gum strip inside the tire, an omission that makes the tire more likely to fail on the road, the tires' US distributor, Foreign Tire Sales, announced yesterday. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is demanding a recall. Writes the Times:

...In September 2006, the Chinese manufacturer, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, a former state-owned company based in eastern China, acknowledged that a gum strip that prevents the tread from separating was left out of the manufacturing process.
It brings to my mind a question of alliances. If my business depended on an alliance with a Chinese manufacturer, I would be very nervous. Because there is growing anecdotal evidence that faraway partners are willing to cut corners without regard for the impact of those cuts on the end-user.

Which means those partners can't be trusted. While alliances are full of mistrust (am I getting paid what I'm owed? Is my partner selling my product as hard as he should? etc.) at their core is a profound trust--that the product works to its specifications and is of acceptable quality in the market in which it is to be sold.

Because when you sell someone else's product, you do so because you don't have (or don't choose to have) the capability, experience or resources to do it yourself.

(Think of what would happen if I sent this blog to be translated into the Czech language by a company in the Czech Republic. I don't know Czech, and would be reliant on them to do a proper translation.)

And without trust, these relationships are doomed. We can't inspect every tire, can we, to make sure the gum strip is installed? But if Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, or the company that added an antifreeze ingredient to the toothpaste, or the companies that made the tainted pet-food ingredient, feel free to implement that little change that makes the product at least substandard, or even a danger to its users, you simply can't do business with them.

Foreign Tire Sales will likely go bankrupt as a result of the tire recall. Let's hope their replacement selects better partners.