At the source

Updated: 2011-05-06 11:08

By Patrick Whiteley (China Daily European Weekly)

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 At the source
Carsten Bleis first came to China in 1998 with Vestas to set up wind-power turbines. [Liu Zhe/for China Daily]

If you need a widget in China, Carsten Bleis can find it

Industrial sourcing expert Carsten Bleis has been doing deals in China for more than 13 years but despite his familiarity is continually baffled by how business is conducted in the Middle Kingdom. Bleis, who was one of the founders of the Danish Chambers of Commerce in Beijing, believes Chinese manufacturers need to improve their service levels or run the risk of being outgunned by their European rivals.

Only last month, he had a major argument with one of his biggest suppliers over the differences between rubber and silicone.

"The European buyer was very clear that he wanted natural rubber, but the supplier insisted the customer should accept silicone, and this went on for a while," the veteran businessman says.

"We have dealt with this supplier for eight years, and after heated debate it was eventually sorted out, but the misunderstanding of what good service means in China is sometimes lacking.

"Many Chinese manufacturers think it's only about price, but since the economic crisis, European factories have become more competitive and are able to service small orders in two-to-three weeks, compared to three months from China."

Bleis says European companies also offer 90-day payment after delivery, unlike the Chinese, who insist on a 30 percent deposit before any production is done, and the remaining sum paid when the goods are loaded on the ship.

"The customer has paid the full amount and still has to wait a month or more before the goods arrive," he says.

"And the prices are not 40-50 percent cheaper anymore, they are now 20 percent lower.

"China is not the same world factory it once was, and despite the cheaper prices and the rising quality of the product, it is in some ways losing its competitive edge in manufacturing."

Bleis, who grew up in Denmark working for his family's furniture business, has been a globetrotting businessman for more than 30 years working in a variety of sectors including the timber industry, technology, telecommunications, and wind power.

For nine years he traveled the world with a Danish firm buying and selling hardwoods and at the same time setting up new companies.

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