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by

Christoph Bliss
Ronald Haddock
haddock_ronald@bah.com

China’s Shifting
Competitive Equation
How Multinational Manufacturers Must Respond

and several in Western emerging market. by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) while roughly one-third had regional or global in Shanghai and Booz Allen Hamilton. The study are achieving higher levels of profitability. Europe. Chinese entities. In neither case have multinationals. sometimes with prod- partners.3 billion people. that. their headquarters were ally thereafter. 81 percent were wholly owned by sales and distribution networks that can reach foreigners. annual sales. materials. beyond their manufacturing footprints: More ing under pressure. the world’s largest corporations have poured billions of dollars. and euros into About the Survey China in pursuit of two basic objectives. industrial. with countries of origin including the China should be treated much like any other United States. It found centers. imported the very best practices from their Companies that do rise to the next management operations elsewhere in the world. About one-third of the respondents had an additional major presence in China But these old sourcing and sales models are com. multination- als have tended to build export-oriented factories with operating strategies based on abundant. The “China headquarters in China (because some Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008. 10 percent were joint ventures between multinationals and Chinese China’s 1. Other companies the members of AmCham Shanghai’s Manufacturing also maintained regional or global procurement Business Council (see “About the Survey”). and 9 percent were categorized ucts that are made in China but also with goods as “other. or research and development centers.1 China’s Shifting Competitive Equation How Multinational Manufacturers Must Respond By now.” con. according to a study conducted than 50 percent had representative offices. One has Of the 66 companies belonging to AmCham been to create a low-cost manufacturing platform Shanghai’s Manufacturing Business Council that could make and export products to other that were surveyed in October and November markets. regarding a market of 1. healthcare. The second objective has been to create 2007. companies surveyed were joint ventures with ducted for the first time in 2007 and planned annu. In the mind of far too included consumer. Japan. as a whole. Nor have most of level by integrating their export-oriented activities for them managed to integrate the dual functions of export global markets with their domestic market operations platforms and domestic market penetration. and many corporate strategists at headquarters.” The manufacturers’ industries imported into the country. surveyed 66 manufacturers among considered to be in China). cheap labor showed that three out of four companies today lack and distribution channels aimed at rapid increases in fundamental best practices in their China operations. yen. due to low labor costs and high expectations in China.3 billion people. The study .

8 percent) than is the mere offering our own conclusions about the strategic impli- use of China as an export platform.” ing functions if they hope to retain an advantage as Fortunately. But only one out of four It is clear that China’s manufacturing competitiveness companies is able to integrate the dual halves of their is coming under fire: More than half of the surveyed China operations this way. supply chains or other infrastructure in other countries. Booz Allen Hamilton . and Vietnam tages. on average. the survey also revealed good news: Even China’s operating environment becomes more competi- if China has lost some of its edge. tive edge to other low-cost countries in manufacturing. companies—54 percent—either strongly agree or Multinationals will need to bring their best operations agree with the statement “China is losing its competi- to China and fully integrate their sales and sourc. compared with 17 percent who say they do. One of every two multination- in the game. other corporate decision makers. it is still very much tive and costs increase. Thailand. we the first place: Access to the local market is important will discuss the research results in some depth before to more repondents (70. whether for world Exhibit 1 Respondents’ Top Reasons for Not Relocating Out of China % of Votes 80% 78 14 60% 13 39 40 40% 14 29 29 3 22 51 21 14 20% 13 16 6 16 14 13 13 5 3 8 6 16 6 8 3 13 12 10 10 5 5 5 2 2 2 5 0% Vast domestic Unwilling to Constraint Unfamiliar with Country. Nearly one in five (17 biggest reason to remain in China is access to its vast percent) of these companies already has made the domestic market (see Exhibit 1). access to the Chinese market is now a key a statistical portrait of how manufacturers perceive reason why many companies are coming to China in their China operations and how they are structured. Manufacturers also decision to move at least some China-based opera- say they are reluctant to spend the money to build new tions to other low-cost countries in Asia and elsewhere. which is why 83 percent of the respondents say are challenging China’s position because. 2 showed that companies that successfully integrate cations of this research for chief executive officers and their China operations enjoy profitability of 29. among other they have no concrete plans to move capacity from factors. the Middle Kingdom’s wages and other costs China. Because we believe this is the first study to produce In fact. are rising and the increasing value of China’s currency Reflecting changing perceptions.6 per.8 percent profit- The State of China and Its Industry ability for those that do not. Ongoing Better Better labor Ongoing Stable political market in establish a on capital new business favorable infrastructure productivity attractive tax situation China new supply expenditure environment government chain policy 3rd Most Important Factor 2nd Most Important Factor Most Important Factor Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008. manufacturers say the is eroding its cost advantage. Operating in China still offers huge advan- als surveyed agrees that India. cent. compared with 17.

management capa- bilities.4 3.1 18.9 11. against intellectual base instability labor) quality China property problem rights Issue with 3rd Highest Impact Issue with 2nd Highest Impact Issue with Highest Impact Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008.9 6.7 0% RMB Poor Wage Sluggish Recall of Hostile trade Ongoing Poor delivery Potential Social appreciation price employee increases product Chinese policies of concerns reliability of compliance increases retention launch products the U. China is 0% Access Labor Access Strategic Material Access Utility lagging behind global standards in many operational to local cost to Asian move cost to cost dimensions. losing some competitive edge.1 7.4 40% 5 percent in wages and more than 3 percent in materi- 30% als (see Exhibit 4). Companies are feeling much of the cost pressure in the realm of white-collar managerial staff. Booz Allen Hamilton environment.4 11.7 3.1 percent more every year and paying white-collar % of Respondents support staff 10.6 11.7 3. the two factors that are The supply base is a crucial issue.3 60% 18.9 11.7 At the same time that costs are increasing. On balance.7 40.7 7.5 15% 29. and over local supply market (e.1 7.4 14. The respon- Exhibit 2 dents report that they are paying management staff Respondents’ Key Motives for Establishing a Manufacturing Base in China 9.7 25. access to technology. and protection of intellectual property (see To the degree that some executives believe China is Exhibit 5).1 18. China scored below standards on such competitors labor important measures as logistics infrastructure.5 25. and it’s clear that most prominent in this shift are the appreciation of the Chinese suppliers are significantly less well developed Exhibit 3 Top Concerns of Companies that Believe China Is Losing Manufacturing Competitiveness % of Votes 75% 70. trade Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008.5 18.9 14.7 3.3 or Asian markets.3 70.8 collar staff costs increased by 7.7 3. Compared with companies’ existing global Chinese savings markets against savings talents/ savings market key global quality operations.1 25. This contrasts with 64 percent of renminbi (RMB) and inflation in prices of components respondents who cite labor cost savings as their major and materials (see Exhibit 3). are wage increases and poor employee retention.9 51. child readiness due to E.1 percent..5 7.7 per.3 30% 3.0 material costs by 7.7 panies are facing annual cost increases of more than 50% 42. In contrast. Booz Allen Hamilton . cent who cite access to Asian markets (see Exhibit 2).g. Other factors they cite motive for locating operations in China and 51.3 percent more.6 percent and raw 70% 64.7 3.4 11. most com- 60% 51.8 45% 11.8 3. blue- 80% 70.8 33. 20% 10% 7.1 25.S.U.7 3.

7 on 30% 27 a scale of 1 to 5 (see Exhibit 8.74 Management capabilities 2. We asked respondents about how they are deploying best practices in their manufacturing. there were compensation compensation compensation cost a number of areas in which China was superior to the CAGR = 0%—<5% CAGR = 5% – <9% alternatives. That’s especially true in the automotive and energy equipment industries. the competitive environment is not solely to blame. in than suppliers in the United States. Thailand.71 IT infrastructure 2.00 Below Neutral Above Standards Standards Average Score Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008. The countries Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008. and IT infrastructure. Vietnam. parts of developed Asia. and If companies have failed to thrive in China. Malaysia.93 Readiness to best practice 3. the 18 days of China’s being considered a cheap labor manu- 20% 17 11 facturing platform are numbered. Booz Allen Hamilton . page 5). whether supply chain risk management Exhibit 5 China’s Scores on Various Parameters Compared to Companies’ Existing Global Footprints Intellectual property protection 2. Clearly.63 International logistics Infrastructure 2. Europe.78 Labor quality 2.58 Access to technology 2. 60% When respondents were asked to compare China with 54 50 other countries as a venue for relocation. page 6). and utility costs. supply chain. intellectual prop- White-collar White-collar Blue-collar Raw mgmt staff supporting staff staff material unit erty protection. and Brazil. Other major factors 9 10% 6 3 6 6 in the attractiveness of those other countries were tax 0 0% benefits. The sector where it is most behind Range of Cost CAGR Experienced by Survey Respondents appears to be energy equipment. China is on par with 70% 67 more advanced economies (see Exhibit 7. availabil- CAGR = 9% – 12% CAGR = >12% ity of supply base.05 5 = 2. However.74 2. including the size of the market.54 1 = Environment sustainability 2. When it comes to % of Respondents electrical equipment. however. Booz Allen Hamilton most often cited as possible alternatives to China were India. China is slightly closer to global standards when it and logistics operations—and found that none of the comes to logistics capabilities but is still behind in best practices. page 5). the competitive landscape.56 Trade environment 2.71 Currency stability 2. slightly less so in electrical equipment (see Exhibit 6. 4 Exhibit 4 most industries. at 3.49 3 = Neutral 2 = Below Standards Legal compliance 2. however. and other that order. it was highly 50% 45 44 significant that they cited lower labor costs in those 40% 37 other countries as the largest differentiator.84 Availability of supply base 2.46 4 = Above Standards Logistics infrastructure 2.

5 Exhibit 6 Comparison of Supply Base Quality across Geographies Average Score 5.8 3.0 4.8 3.8 3.7 3. postponement have done best in integrating their enterprise resource of assembly.0 3. Booz Allen Hamilton or lean Six Sigma. But they are significantly behind percent of the respondents.6 3.3 3.0 Overall Automotive Computer & peripheral Electrical equipment Energy equipment Industrial machinery China Asia except China Europe U.0 2.4 3.6 3.4 3.6 3. and statistical forecasting (see MRP) systems.S.5 3. Their Chinese operations in network modeling and optimization.1 3.7 3.4 3.0 4.S.5 4. 5 = Strongly Positive 4 = Positive 3 = Neutral 2 = Negative 1 = Strongly Negative Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008. Exhibit 9).5 3.7 3.9 0.0 Overall Automotive Computer & peripheral Electrical equipment Energy equipment Industrial machinery China Asia except China Europe U.0 4.1 3.7 3. was being applied by more than 50 mizing product flows.9 3.9 2.4 3.8 3.0 2.1 3. segmenting and tailoring supply chains by planning or manufacturing resource planning (ERP/ product characteristics. Booz Allen Hamilton Exhibit 7 Comparison of Logistics Capability across Geographies Average Score 5.0 4.5 4.5 3.5 3.9 2. calculating their inventories.4 3.8 2.4 3.7 3.0 4. There does not appear to be a wide varia- .3 3.0 3.4 3.0 3.5 3.5 3.9 3.9 3. 5 = Strongly Positive 4 = Positive 3 = Neutral 2 = Negative 1 = Strongly Negative Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008.7 3.5 3.6 3.6 0.4 3. and opti.1 4.0 4.7 3.6 3.

Companies that report pursuing dual objectives enjoy and chemical sectors are roughly equivalent. facturers have a large presence but either have not tage of labor cost savings. modeling ment production forecast MRP calculation capacity balance mgmt on shop facturing & logistics planning Not Applied Yet Minimally Applied Somewhat Applied Applied Fully Applied Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008.32 3.96 2 than China Worse 1 than China 0 Labor Tax Competitive Intellectual Utility Availability IT Market Logistics Size of costs landscape property costs of supply infrastructure growth infrastructure market protection base Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008. 6 Exhibit 8 Comparison of China with Respondents’ Most Favorable Candidates for Foreign Relocation Average Score of Top Five and Bottom Five Parameters Better 5 than China 5 factors in which alternatives are superior to China Somewhat Better 4 3.6 percent while others report only 17. that appears best practices across their operations. electrical equipment. profit margins of 29. Booz Allen Hamilton tion across industries in this regard: The computer. Booz Allen Hamilton . page 7).68 2.26 Similar to China 3 2. and they are Exhibit 9 Extent to Which Respondents Apply Best Practice Levers to Existing Operations in China % of Respondents 100% 11 11 9 11 12 13 12 90% 20 18 27 30 27 15 33 80% 22 18 20 40 30 22 26 70% 23 25 18 60% 35 30 19 18 27 22 33 11 50% 28 40 40 40% 34 34 28 35 40 20 30% 38 31 36 35 20% 29 28 20 16 16 16 18 10% 21 16 16 11 11 7 7 7 7 7 7 0% 2 4 5 2 Integrated Analytical Optimized Advanced Push vs. A large percentage of the companies surveyed—43 percent—are consciously pursuing the dual objec.45 Somewhat Worse 1. industrial machinery. presumably for goods for been able to or have not chosen to implement global export (see Exhibit 10. automotive.36 3.48 3.8 percent margins.70 2. Supply Optimized Supplier Lean Six Design for Network Postpone.74 than China 5 factors in which China is superior to alternatives 3. Indeed. The survey paints a complex portrait: These manu- tives of selling products in China and taking advan. to be the path toward greater profitability in China.65 2.Segmented Statistical ERP/ inventory product demand & pull chain risk cycle integration Sigma manu.

is almost philosophical in Late customization late Customization nature and poses a question to chief executive offi. motive new business model incubation. Far too many companies built may be an infinite number of ways to assemble a per- factories and distribution systems with low levels of sonal computer. Now Management Summary those pressures are beginning to force a rethink of how these companies structure their Chinese opera. is the ability to create manufacturing just beginning to recognize the possibilities inherent in systems that produce large volumes of products. assuming Exhibit 11 that the low costs associated with operating in China would offset these omissions. It is clearly a critical moment Postponement/Late Customization. these companies rec- ognize that China must be a core part of their global Both Local market motives strategies. for example—view China in a global context and see it as part of an international Neither web of capabilities. innovation. and talent develop- ment.7 Exhibit 10 that the most global companies—IBM. One of the keys to for manufacturers who want to make the most of their making an integrated presence work. General Motors. postpone the moment at which those products have to Building a Strong Platform for Growth in China be customized for specific Chinese and non-Chinese We believe that the manufacturing philosophy employed markets. F F Lean Streamline through tions and how they position China in their overall Lean Practices Operations Levers global strategy. The base of the pyramid. D Footprint & and Network modeling network Modeling cess that may be likened to a pyramid (see Exhibit 11). including manufacturing. for example. They treat China as a linchpin of their global operations. F E S&OP The best manufacturers are employing a thought pro. rather than as just concerned about the changing cost structure they see another market.) There in need of an overhaul. and the next level existing investments in China as well as those who are of the pyramid. rather than focusing on develop- ing some operations aimed at the world while other 20% systems concentrate on China. It’s not just another emerging market. (This is an area where the research showed in recent decades by foreign multinationals in China is that Chinese operations are particularly weak. Because 10% of its size and its dynamism. But the changing cost and currency structure have shifted the equation. Booz Allen Hamilton thinking about global markets. They integrate their sourcing and sales access as major 27% 43% motive operations in China. A Global integration/“The Integration/“The Zone” cers: What are the fundamental guiding principles for organizing your Chinese operations? We have found Source: Booz Allen Hamilton . and streams/segmentation Streams/Segmentation Operations Strategy B Postponement/ therefore the starting point. Respondents’ Perspectives on Whether Local Market Access or Labor Cost Savings Is the Primary Motive for Operating in China and General Electric. but few of them make technology and without widespread adoption of best economic sense unless the company knows who the practices from more sophisticated markets. but one of the world’s largest markets. unfolding around them. That’s why we call the companies operating in this zone “global supply chain integrators”: They integrate their sourcing-centric mod- Labor cost els and their sales-centric models in China and deeply savings as major motive embed their Chinese operations in their planning and Sources: China Manufacturing Competitiveness 2007-2008. C Tailored business Business Global Integration.

but they can bring enormous benefits if companies embrace the best practices that are available in other n Light. 8 final customer is. In an export context. ing network: ness stream takes advantage of China’s capacity for n Let the product and the customer guide the process. Take into capacity for somewhat predictable demand conditions account the costs of complexity and the economics of and 5 percent for opportunities that arise suddenly and manufacturing in-house versus outsourcing. Companies can start the process by mitment of a printer to a market by making universal having a set of clear policies for managing trade-offs printers and then applying power supplies and lan- in these systems and by creating a unified decision- guage-specific manuals at the last moment. key element in determining how to best construct a Tailored Business Streams/Segmentation. large-scale. n Medium. United States or elsewhere. company can master the application of this concept in ponents get near the ultimate customer. times. labeling and packaging are undertaken only after a Understanding China’s role in global operations is a specific order is received in a postponement center. for example. By definition. such as supply customizes computers in response to a specific order. whether in the other markets. where they should be places the most expensive parts in a housing set. serv- China. it may make more sense to use China for the ers. es operating expenses without necessarily adding value. Hewlett-Packard. cost-efficient manufacturing yet retains Consider market requirements. it many plants they should have. and currency ensuring that the components necessary for rapid. but not apply exclusive to China. rather than its supply chain. . low-cost countries. it provides an example of how a culture-specific. and labor agreements. is an example n Develop the business case. while reserving 15 percent of turing footprint. minute configuration are available at the right point in 1 For more on tailored business streams. located. Manufacturers will seys made in bulk. effect of successful postponement is what we call a There are four key elements to designing a manufactur- 1 tailored business stream . The net global manufacturing footprint. in quanti- lored business streams can best work for them in ties depending on the popularity of specific players. but then customized in the final need to understand how postponement and tai- stage with the player names and numbers. making system. which increas- requirements. Spring 2004. including lead times. Tailored business streams allow a manufacturer n Evaluate alternatives. These mon for companies to respond to customer demand by may include contractual obligations. see “Smart Customization: Profitable Growth through Tailored Business Streams. Dell Inc. interruptions. transportation delays. customer-driven touches until the com. of its output and thus put the majority of its capac. When Motorola makes radio products. and services. needs to be optimized.” strategy+business. the total production and supply network. Although this innovation is not early and middle stages of assembly. therefore cannot be forecast. let’s distant. The National Hockey League has replica jer- Footprint and Network Modeling. a tailored busi. In evaluating different network to identify the common elements that unite 80 percent scenarios. The implementation of a company that applies the postponement and plan for the new footprint should consider organiza- tailored business streams concepts to its product: It tional changes and potential risks. last- movements. Tailored business streams can be challenging to devel- There are at least three varieties of postponement: op. Yet Dell has varying approaches to its building up a huge inventory of commoditized PCs in supply chain for notebooks. It’s not uncom- n Identify economics and challenge constraints. and what their focus and mission should be. if customers require short lead global markets. order to take the next critical step: determining how n Advanced. regulatory offering various levels of customization. high levels of differentiation for both Chinese and delivery. desktop computers. return to the example of PC assembly. postpones com- markets today. and other products. which is generally much broader than the manufac- ity into a single stream. it may rule out the construction of plants in To understand what a tailored business stream is.

We In previous decades. One problem is that companies a strong S&OP system would allow a company to more have built ERP/MRP systems for sourcing and then easily determine if a major customer wants a shipment other systems for their distribution channels. tions without understanding their fundamental mis- sion and all the building blocks of the pyramid. and processing center chains have been widely reported. communication between the sales force and the manu- facturing team. and decisions have accordingly the wrong point in China by trying to create lean opera- become more complicated. operations departments. originally pioneered by Toyota. there have been poor localization levels in manufactur- tion. are not widespread in China. And virtually any kind of sales channel fundamental operating philosophy is misguided or not could reap double-digit gains in growth every year. Building full-fledged manufacturing and distribution capabilities on the mainland is becoming more com- Lean Practices. both inbound and outbound. perhaps. But adequately developed. the S&OP system would drive decisions But the goal of achieving lean practices should not about where last-minute customization is performed drive the entire decision-making process in China. the information systems also need to be linked. Too few companies are well Also contributing to this article were Ken Zhong and Raymond Yeung. sales executives. S&OP.9 Sales & Operations Planning. But they are just one part of a cross-functional issues. and they are of leaders. thereby lower in China. becoming global supply chain integrators. . and by establishing a regular forum to resolve obvious concern. found that better coordination between the sales and Shop-floor operations also are not integrated enough. teams alert operations and IT when they plan a promo. Many manufacturers start at precisely plex than it once was. than ad-hoc decision making. by ensuring that marketing world. We estimate that fewer than 5 now the challenge for companies is to take a more percent of the companies in the world are able to fully systematic and global view of their Chinese operations deploy lean practices. To continue the PC example. is adjusting the philosophical To be sure. With better tions. Smart manufacturers have broader problem. In some cases. enables coordination and joint plan. as well as planned rather Logistics. it seemed that virtually any plant have found that it is wrong to tackle the challenge of built in China could become profitable because costs lean practices. unlock latent productivity. there are clearly huge opportunities to premises that shape and guide all decision making in use lean practices to improve existing operations and China. can make the difference and information systems are not producing the right between profit and loss. deliveries. and the percentage is much and integrate the duality of those operations. The next level of the integrated with their suppliers—and point-of-usage pyramid. If they of very specific computers in two days or a more gener- are going to be able to integrate their complete opera- ic order delivered a week or 10 days later. if the were so low. Quality problems in Chinese supply managers. caliber of information. by increasing communication between product ers’ supply bases. are inefficient. and where inventory is held. Even more fundamental. which are commonplace in the developed ning between departments.

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