Chinese importing: Avoid these common PCB sourcing pitfalls in the Year of the Monkey

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Los Angeles 2009 Chinese New Year Parade

Celebrations, parades and fireworks over the weekend marked the end of the Chinese calendar year, and start of the Year of the Monkey.

People born in the Year of the Monkey (including those born in 1992, 1980 and 1968) are believed to be quick-witted, curious and mischievous – but the Year of the Monkey is also thought to be one of the most unlucky in the Chinese zodiac.

In a superstitious country like China, where you’re not supposed to wash your hair on New Year’s Day for fear of washing away your fortune, bad omens can be very damaging for business.

We’ve examined some of the biggest pitfalls and mistakes that British businesses can make when sourcing volume PCB orders from China.

Going it alone

For first time volume-PCB importers, China represents a minefield of problems.

As Hi5 Electronics’ Managing Director Richard Houghton explains, things are rarely as they seem in the Chinese PCB market.

“Those businesses that go it alone with PCB sourcing might as well stick a pin in the internet. It will always be a gamble whether the person receiving your order is the real deal,” he said.

He continued: “Sometimes, British firms choose legitimate looking companies because they have a fancy website. But often, these companies are just brokers who end up outsourcing the production the cheapest bidder with no guarantee of quality.”

Mr Houghton explained why going through an experienced intermediary like Hi5 Electronics was better than going it alone.

“We regularly visit all of the Chinese factories that we do business with. We know they exist and we’ve checked their procedures. Customers placing volume PCB orders through Hi5 Electronics can be confident of a consistent quality that you just can’t guarantee if you go it alone.”

Getting the exchange rate wrong

Exchange rates are another thing to think about when importing from China. Fluctuations in exchange rates can make PCBs vastly more expensive if you time the market poorly, and much cheaper if you get your timing right.

Hi5 Electronics remove this layer of uncertainty from volume PCB sourcing because it charges customers in Great British Pounds (GBP) rather than Chinese Yuan (CNY) or US Dollars (USD).

Mr Houghton said: “Clients that source PCBs through Hi5 Electronics get the same customer experience as they would anywhere else in the UK, but with the cost advantages of importing from China.”

Forget about Chinese New Year

China takes its New Year celebrations very seriously. Forget about the solitary bank holiday on New Year’s Day, in China the festivities usually go on for two weeks until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the year.

During this period, Chinese factories will totally shut down, causing serious delays in delivery schedules if you fail to prepare.

Mr Houghton said: “I’ve feel like I’ve seen it all in my 15 years dealing with Chinese factories, but the disruption that Chinese New Year can cause is still surprising. Factories tend to have quite high staff turnover rates around New Year time, so it can sometime be months before orders get back on track.

“Thankfully, after fifteen years of experience, we have built relationships with specialised suppliers who manage to keep disruption to a minimum.”

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