Global sourcing products requires careful consideration, it’s a tough decision for any organization. You must determine whether it’s best to gain cost advantages at the expense of some control of your organization’s core activities, or if globally sourcing would be too costly to be practical. Below are key things you need to consider during global sourcing.

1. Monetary Risk 

Although the use of foreign suppliers can save costs due to factors such as lower costs of labor and proximity to raw materials, there are also risks that can impact costs including: 

Unanticipated and rising shipping costs. 

Cost of delays or loss of goods in transit. 

Rising costs of transactions, such as documentation fees, contract management fees and third-party supplier audit fees. 

Costs related to time zone differences, extra time for storage or transport delays, e.g. approval is given in one country, but the time difference or traditional days off mean the action cannot be enacted until the next business day. Many organizations use primary and secondary sourcing as a mitigation strategy. A primary source is used as long as it meets company requirements for supply, delivery, and quality while a secondary supplier is available to cover shortfalls. Often the secondary supplier in on-shore or near-shore in order to address supply issues quickly, and although typically more expensive, this can prevent greater monetary risk to the organization due to lost customers purchasing competitors’ products.

2. Competitive Advantage

Protection of intellectual property and quality are important aspects of competitive advantage. Organizations who believe their intellectual property is absolutely core to their competitive advantage should be very selective about the components they source from global suppliers. The more an organization has to divulge of its proprietary information, even in terms of specifications, the greater the risk to its competitive advantage. Organizations must also keep the purpose of global sourcing in mind, by ensuring their costing is realistic and includes all the costs of sourcing, such as planning, transition, and implementation costs. If a competitive advantage is to be gained by lowering costs, it is important to ensure there are no hidden costs that will eliminate any realized cost advantage. Organization must ensure they understand what their competitive advantage is and all the factors of global souring so they can best utilize, protect, and enhance their competitive advantage.

3. Culture

Global sourcing success requires the understanding of the cross-cultural differences between the sourcing organization and the potential supplier. If the key players in global sourcing initiatives are not aware of the impact of their behaviors on the interactions with potential suppliers, the resulting misunderstandings, miscommunication and hurt feelings will prevent any attempts at business agreements.

4. Ethics

Ethical business practices in other countries cannot be assumed as a standard practice. Although sourcing organizations are seeking the lowest prices, there can be negative backlash from customers if they find that, for example, farmers or mine workers are exploited or purchases are funding wars and insurgents. In developing countries, producers of certain raw commodities, such as coffee, bananas, cocoa, sugar, tea, and cotton, are being assisted by the Fair-Trade social movement, which seeks to ensure producers receive equitable compensation and serves to promote sustainable community development.

5. Environment and Compliance 

Other countries have different standards, laws, regulations, and business practices that can impact sourcing from other countries, either by adding costs or requirements that would be considered illegal in one’s own country. It is always important to remember to conduct business from the perspective of the end customer. Questionable practices that can be related to an organization’s product can have a negative effect on an organization’s brand and reputation. 

6. Quality 

The implications of a quality failure from an international source are much more severe than a quality failure from a domestic source. With lead times involving different time zones and much longer distances, it can take several months to rectify a quality problem. Quality issues also affect downstream supply chains.

7. Logistics 

Once quality supplies have been secured, the next consideration is managing their transportation. Even assuming transport costs have been factored into the feasibility research, there are still risks in transportation that are beyond the control of the exporter and importer because supplies are generally in transport for long distances and for long periods of time. 

8. IP Protection

Sourcing international suppliers for raw materials or components doesn’t pose a high risk for loss of intellectual property compared to outsourcing manufacturing. However, there is an intellectual property protection risk, if the components contain proprietary design or material elements or require proprietary equipment.


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