After looking at all the pictures published across our various social media platforms, you are probably wondering why Steve the “Big Boss” is always in China? You would be right to question why as we are avid promoters of British Manufacturing!
You also may have noticed that you end up seeing Steve more in photos from China than you do with the Ragworm Team and that’s because he is always away. Steve visits the Far East approximately 6 times per year for anything up to 2 weeks at a time. We also have a further 3 technical engineers that take their turn in paying the distant land a visit. All in all it equates to approximately 10 visits per year. I know it sounds like a lot and you may wonder why a proud British Manufacturer would spend this much time in Far East factories.
As it is a question we have been asked many times recently we thought we would take a bit of time and explain why.
British Manufacturers and the Far East
The PCB industry has changed dramatically over the last 10-15 years since Far East manufactures have come into play. A decade ago many believed that it would no longer be possible to manufacture PCBs on British soil as a result of the fierce competition coming from overseas suppliers. In order to survive and continue his manufacturing career Steve had to come up with a game plan and find out how to make it work for all of us. It was clear that customers would be attracted to the low cost offerings off shore manufacture could supply however it was also clear that in many cases the same level of service could not be afforded. This is where we have been able to play a vital role. Our presence on the ground ensures that our off shore suppliers are approved and providing a high quality of manufacture. It also enhances our relationship with them.
China culture dictates that you are friends first and do business later, Guangxi. This is very different to a European business relationship however; in order to successfully trade in China we have discovered this to be a vital ingredient.
Why do we visit so many times?
There are many things we need to find out:
A- How our Approved Far East suppliers are performing.
B- Carry out Audits
C- Introduce key projects and provide guidance where required
D- Asses what technologies are growing in the Far East that we in the UK need to focus on
E- Check that no breaches of IP have occurred
To expand a little more on some of these:
Approved Suppliers Performance
We have a list of approved suppliers for large volume and high technology PCB’s. We are more than capable of handling large quantities in the UK as we have 4 factories at our disposal but there are instances where it is not possible to reach the cost expectation of a customer with onshore. In these situations, and only when a customer is happy for manufacture overseas, we can look to China for alternatives.
Quality and Audits
Steve or one of the team members tends to spend 2 weeks a time in China checking the quality and control of all builds that we send out to the far-east. In doing so, this means that we’ve got a point of contact 1st hand. In addition to this we also have 4 dedicated employees based in an office in Shenzhen to help and deal with all the Far East enquiries. Our main point of call is our sourcing manager; he tends to be the one taking pictures of Steve at all his visits.
We continue to manufacture projects in the UK whenever we can however as with all aspects of the Stickleback/Ragworm service we have taken on board customer requests and wants, and will continue to work closely with offshore manufactures to provide a full service.
It is of course overseas where technology is changing at its fastest, while this is all happening what we need to do back in the UK is prepare for this and to make sure that we’re ready for it. By improving technologies and the capabilities of our machines we can be ready for all of the weird and wonderful requirements you throw at us.
Steve is always on the lookout for new companies and machines that we could take advantage of in this fast moving time.
One thing that we pride ourselves on is that our customers can submit a design through Ragworm and feel confident that all vital information will be kept confidential as part of a customer/client agreement and that we will never share designs or projects with anyone else without express permission to do so, it’s almost like an automatic NDA!
The abuse of IP is something that we have heard all too much about from our customers. Copyright laws over in the Far East are a lot less stringent and in many cases they are completely disregarded. Thankfully this does not ring true in all cases and should not be a sweeping statement for all offshore manufacturers. We have spent a long time building our relationships with our suppliers and regular audits ensure that designs are not being copied. With all this in mind we would still advise customers to tread carefully when considering offshore manufacture for particularly inventive technological products.
So now you know – Another piece of the Ragworm puzzle put nicely into place! We are always happy to share our stories and background with you so if you have any questions please feel free to contact one of the trusty team members at HQ.
Of course if you are thinking about large volume production and then let us know and we can discuss further in emails/meetings; whatever you prefer. Here at Ragworm we hope to always have the answers that you need.