Misconceptions About Sourcing Your Product Packaging from China

Has your company ever partnered with a factory in China for product packaging?

Outdated perceptions about problems with sourcing packaging from China are causing many companies to miss out on huge advantages.

What these businesses don’t know is that most of their negative perceptions are rooted in myths that haven’t applied in years, if not decades.

In fact, for the average company, there is a mountain of evidence that switching your packaging manufacturing to Chinese facilities can save you a fortune on production costs—without sacrificing quality or speed of delivery.

Today we’re going to examine 6 of the most common misconceptions about sourcing your packaging in China, and see whether they’re accurate today:

MYTH – Manufactured Chinese Products Are Usually of Low Quality

This myth has its roots in the economic realities of 1970s and 1980s China.

As a rapidly industrializing nation struggling to come to terms with its immense population and other issues, early manufacturing organizations had to deal with lack of access to capital, outdated machinery and equipment, and the lack of a skilled and educated workforce.

Today, most of these problems have largely been sorted out, and while there are indeed still ‘bargain basement’ options available in China, in most cases the quality of the finished product will be as good or better than a domestically-sourced product, especially if you take the time to request samples prior to production to confirm quality.

MYTH – One Manufacturer Is Comparable to Another

When dealing with a Western manufacturer, capabilities within an industry are relatively standardized. In China, again due to concerns related to capital and population, specialization is significantly more common in the manufacturing field. Large or grand format printing may be handled not by one single entity, but several possible choices – some specializing in finishes, others in specific substrates and materials, and still others in particular styles of product packaging.

Chinese printers also may not be quick to divulge that a particular operation or style isn’t one of their core competencies. They may tell you a shop can handle a specific type of request, then outsource the order, which may result in other difficulties.

MYTH – Sustainable Packaging Solutions Aren’t Available in China

This myth is another holdover from decades past. When a country is in the throes of the societal disruption caused by industrialization, they are more often concerned with results and the overall bottom line than they are about displaceable costs, such as waste and recycling.

Today, you may be surprised to learn China leads the way in many aspects of material and energy conservation. Not only are traditional materials familiar to Western companies available in China, such as recycled paper options, but a manufacturer may even offer you additional capabilities or savings for sustainable materials.

MYTH – Chinese Companies Cut Corners to Control Costs

In years past, this myth was unfortunately true. We’ve all heard stories about Chinese products that simply did not perform as promised, sometimes with disastrous results – such as the 2007 pet food recalls.

Today, firms are well aware that cutting corners is counterproductive at best and outright litigious at worst, and much of the offending behavior has largely disappeared from most markets. Requesting pre-production samples from the manufacturer will help you confirm a product’s quality.

MYTH – Shipping and Warehousing Are Slow, and Distribution Costs Eat Up All Your Savings

Let’s engage in a thought experiment for a moment. How long would you guess it might take to move products from China to the US?

If you guessed 2-3 months, you’re in good—but incorrect—company.

In reality, products often ship from China to the US in a matter of weeks, not months.

Most production schedules also progress more rapidly in China than in the US. Rather than taking 3-4 weeks to produce domestically, a Chinese printer may be able complete packaging in 2 weeks, offsetting the 3-4 week transit time via shipping container. On average, you’re looking at an extra 2 weeks or so to source your packaging in China, compared to domestic production, which still has trucking costs and travel time associated with it. More importantly, you’ll realize significant cost savings, even with the extra shipping expense.

MYTH – You Need to Speak Mandarin to Do Business in China

For the past 15 or 20 years or so, English language education has been an important part of the Chinese schooling system. While in the past the language barrier might have been insurmountable, these days most if not all Chinese companies will have at least some staff capable of speaking English.

To ensure that good communication is possible, reach out and make contact with the company you want to hire. Communication may still be challenging, but in most cases it is manageable – particularly given the added cost and time savings you get with sourcing in China.

Most businesses would be well-served to revisit the option of sourcing their product packaging in China, even if they have done so before and decided against it; many of the negative perceptions associated with overseas production have largely disappeared in recent years. Today, for most if not all organizations, overseas sourcing represents a huge opportunity to reduce costs without compromising on quality. With a little due diligence and smart planning, your company could be next in line.
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