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Multi Parts Supply (MPS) employs more than 60 people around the world exactly because, as Jon Owens stated in his column Made in China, “there’s more to (sourcing directly from China) than just finding a low-cost  supplier and letting the increased margins roll in.” Not one of these 60 people is actually fabricating or distributing the parts that make up the few lines we supply and if we could safely and successfully do it with less people, we certainly would. Despite what so many email solicitations, trading Web sites and the vast majority on the lower level at AAPEX would have you believe, there simply is no massive warehouse across the Pacific Ocean stocked full of low-cost parts, ready and waiting to ship the full range of virtually any category at a quality level that is acceptable, consistent or even safe. 

Outsourcing technical products from anywhere is a major undertaking. China does not have a monopoly on questionable safety. And as material, labor and especially currency issues continue to drive up the costs of Chinese  merchandise, expect to see products from other developing nations present their own challenges. Besides, even industry giants have their problems, as Bridgestone/Firestone showed us not long ago in a mess that led to many more tire recalls than the recent Foreign Tire Sales incident mentioned in Owens’ column. The bottom line is that no matter where products are made or who is making them, a rigorous set of design and production controls is necessary. Expecting manufacturers in developing nations to create and enforce these standards on their own is at least naÏve, if not negligent. As Owens pointed out, NHTSA, in line with US law, put the onus of responsibility squarely on Foreign Tire Sales as the distributor of the faulty tires rather than on the actual Chinese manufacturer.

Long before the most recent spate of highly publicized Chinese recalls, Multi Parts Supply recognized the need to marry savings and safety. The company developed a formula that it employs around the world in bringing parts to its local market. The formula includes local product managers, local design and manufacturing engineers, teams who train and inspect facilities outside the US, customer service departments and available capital to invest in specialized tooling and testing equipment.

This formula represents a far more significant investment than simply shopping for a less-expensive product that might, at least superficially, look like the one you have trusted for years. Some major aftermarket suppliers, such as those MPS serves, are discovering that despite the added expense of “doing it right,” a well thought-out and planned outsourcing strategy can still provide worthwhile savings over large volumes and can even provide entry into new product categories that would otherwise require excessive start-up investments. Other players, both big and small, have found, or may soon find, that doing it cheaply can hurt your reputation, your bottom-line, and unfortunately, can even kill. 

Brian Cohn
Multi Parts Supply 

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