Buying Chinese: The Pros & Cons

Ever wondered what the pros and cons of buying machinery from overseas are?  Namely our large norther neighbour who seems to manufacture just about everything these days?

Let’s be honest, we usually start this journey because we want to save some money.  The options can look attractive: you appear to get the same functionality at a reduced price.

Or do you?

We’ve been doing this for over 15 years and I’d like to think we’ve learned a thing or two in that time…it hasn’t been easy, so before you jump in blindly and waste a whole lot of money, here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:

Look there are a few Pros to it:

  • Cheaper prices
  • Fast production
  • Volume

But there are also some potential Cons:

  • Less regulation
  • Lower manufacturing standards
  • Lower spec materials
  • Lower overall quality
  • Delay in parts delivery if equipment breaks down
  • Little to no recourse if things go wrong

So how do you navigate this minefield?  My advice-know what you are getting yourself into.

The Pros:

I would say the Pros are pretty obvious, which is why people go down this route.  You can get machinery often in large volumes, at a very attractive prices that will keep the bean counters happy.

What I think is less obvious is how it can backfire on you.  Some concerns are obvious, like lower manufacturing standards and less regulation and to be honest, if you’re prepared to double check that the standards are met for the country you are going to use the machinery in and have someone oversee the manufacturing to make sure it is of the required standard (ie metal grades, welds, electrical components, proper engineering certification, ect.) you can manage this-although all this needs to be added to the cost of the machinery so you have already increased the initial ‘purchase price’, possibly exceeding the pricing you obtained elsewhere for the same quality.

What is perhaps less obvious is some of the potential pitfalls.

The Cons:

In some cases you will need to insist on using specific components that meet regulation and contrary to popular belief, it is not uncommon for components and parts that we consider everyday brands here in Australia to be significantly dearer to buy overseas!  This can increase your costs relatively quickly.

Also, did you realise that if you import machinery OEM you are considered to be the manufacturer under Australian law?  Because of this, you are held responsible if anything goes wrong and it can be very difficult to get any recourse from your overseas supplier if at all.

Should you want to take a legal route, the cost of international lawyers is prohibitive and you would seriously have to weigh up if it is even worth the trouble.

Add to that the fact that you will need to carry your own stock for spare parts as the supply timeframes from your overseas supplier may contribute to delays and downtime on your site: costing you significantly downstream along with capital tied up on shelves.

So how do you get around this?  I would suggest that you always partner with a manufacturer you know that you can:

  1. a) work with well and
  2. b) know you have back up support.

The benefit of this is twofold: 

Firstly you have the same recourse as any manufacturer in Australia and they should make sure that all the legalities and specifications are met, giving you assurance and peace of mind.

Secondly, you know you have a point of contact for technical support and spare parts readily available to keep your project moving, saving you time and money.

The Verdict:

Overall, it comes down to knowing your requirements.  A good OEM manufacturer will work with a reputable overseas company they have vetted and have a long history with, hopefully have their own IP machinery and have a parts department and can be there to assist you should you need anything.

If you do decide to go it alone, just be aware that these are some of the potential pitfalls you may face and plan accordingly.

All the best with your next purchase!

Ben Bunker.