The Lunar New Year is a wonderful time to be in Asia. The impact to the production world of the Lunar New Year holiday however is not limited to just the official days off. In China for example, you basically need to assume you lose a month prior and a month after to manufacturing efficiency. The official days in China are February 4th to February 10th in 2019. But, different factories offer different lengths of the holiday depending on the industry and the region they are located in. One pattern I see is the further North you move in China, the longer the period a factory seems to close. In Guangdong, most of our suppliers give the official days off to their staff and no more. While as we move further North through Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Shandong, the period gets increasingly longer. By the time we get to Hebei, suppliers are closing for a month. That’s hint #1.
Have you ever tried travelling in China during the Lunar New Year period? If you haven’t yet, save yourself the headache and avoid it. It’s not called the Great Migration for nothing! And that is what brings us to hint #2. Different factories in China find their employees in different parts of China. Some factory owners like to hire staff from their home provinces. Other’s prefer certain provinces due to a “famous” apparent skill. Regardless of where the line staff come from, one must consider how far they come from as that tells you something. The further away from your factory’s local, the longer the factory will close. This is because management must allow more time for their staff to get home and hopefully return after the festival. Not everyone takes the super fast high-speed trains as they are still a lot more expensive than the slow trains. This means that a factory based in Fujian that hires its staff in Sichuan, most likely is going to close earlier before the holiday and open later after the holiday meaning a greater impact to your lead-time.
This actually leads us into hint #3. Not everyone comes back. Some decide to stay home in say Sichuan as more and more people can find comparable paying jobs in their hometowns nowadays. After all, when they travel afar to work in a factory their families are usually left behind. You can’t blame them. Wouldn’t you want to work closer to your kids instead of a thousand miles away? As a result, this also can cause an interruption to a factory getting back up to efficiency and quality after the holiday. So something you must always consider is what is the Lunar New Year staff turnover. The higher the turnover, the more staff a factory needs to hire. The more people they need, the more time is lost to training. That affects lead-time. It also means a higher risk to your final production quality should you be in the unfortunate position of deciding to order right after Lunar New Year. The newbies need to be trained and trust me they will be on the line working making mistakes when they really need more time for training. Anyway, my favourite are the companies who hire from their local village 😀
Here in Hong Kong, we’re not so lucky. The Hong Kong Labour Department rewards us with three days off February 5-7th. Then most of us (except the Hong Kong government) return to our usual 5 1/2 day (six in practise) work weeks. But I guess we can’t expect too much. On October 25th, 2018 the Labour Department decided to start rewarding Hong Kong fathers with an increase of paternity leave from three days to five! Woohoo! It’s so great the Labour Department is starting to follow 1st world labour standards…Not! Anyway, in Hong Kong you don’t have to worry too much about any interruption due to the holiday. That being said, some Hong Kong based companies who have their own invested factories across the border in the mainland also close for one to two weeks since their labour at their factories have all gone home anyway. Best you check with them.
What about other regions? Taiwan usually has about a one week interruption and you don’t need to worry about migrant labour there. Any migrant labour in Taiwan comes from places like the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Thailand has one day (February 5th) for the holiday and it is limited to certain parts of the country also. The Philippines also has just one day (February 5th). The Vietnamese call it Tết and they actually have holidays from February 4th to February 8th.
So the moral of the story is, when choosing your supplier also consider Lunar New Year and how it could potentially impact what you want to do. There indeed are more things to look at in regards to the lead-up to Lunar New Year, but if I put them all here I would be working my way out of a job. You can always ask me a question.
Happy Lunar New Year!
January 17th, 2019