I read Sheryl Bauer-Shewman's Feb. 7 Perspective column (“China: gold mine or mine field,” Page 6), and I was surprised because the problem was avoidable.
If you are going to do business in China, or, for that matter, in any foreign country, you should have some basic resources in place. To prevent this problem, I would advise a buyer to have a project engineer who can follow the program and interface with the vendor. It would be advisable to have that engineer on-site for tooling trials and for a pilot production run to verify the tooling, line tools and assembly area are capable, with a vendor that has a trained workforce to produce the product.
Vendors that refuse this should be avoided at all costs — they have sent you a message, and you need to practice your “active listening” skills.
If you do not have the resources internally to manage the program, then I suggest you engage the services of a third-party inspection firm. There are several reputable companies that specialize in this area. They will do everything from vendor survey audits, to conducting physical part inspections, to chemical analysis work, to being present to inspect product at the vendor's location up to and including ensuring the product is packed properly for shipment.
To blame China vendors for bad product is like driving down a one-way street the wrong way, causing an accident and then suing the other driver for hitting you. Yes, there are always suspect vendors and bad product to be had anywhere in the world. But an educated purchaser will avoid the preventable issues. Remember, it takes two parties to consummate a business agreement.