Gas station without pumps

2019 July 23

Alibaba now open to US companies

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:28
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I saw a BBC article today that announced “Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has opened its doors to US sellers on its oldest platform, Alibaba.com.”

I wonder whether this is just for wholesale sales, or includes the bidding on contract manufacturing.  For small start-up companies, finding a US manufacturer is often nearly impossible—most manufacturers make it very difficult for new customers to contact them, with unfriendly websites and opaque pricing.  It has been much easier to find Chinese manufacturers, but putting out a request for bids on Alibaba, then having the manufacturers who are interested in such small orders contact you.

My son’s company, Futuristic Lights, did contract manufacturing that way after their first production run, which they had done with the prototyping firm they had been using.  They did have to “qualify” the manufacturers by ordering a small prototyping run, to make sure that the manufacturers had adequate quality control, but even with that extra step the process was much easier than finding a US manufacturer willing to talk to a company that wanted only a few thousand tiny boards.

Since seeing that (about 4 years ago), I’ve had a strong belief that much of the problem with US manufacturing is not with the factories or the labor costs, but with the almost Victorian business infrastructure that relies heavily on word-of-mouth to connect customers and manufacturers.  The Alibaba business-to-business infrastructure seems much more useful for small businesses (including small manufacturers as well as businesses needed small runs of custom fabrication).

I hope that US manufacturers join the Alibaba platform—or a similarly useful platform is developed for US manufacturers.

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