Taryn Sullivan has worked every job in a Chinese factory. After years of traveling to China to source and develop products for American companies, the founder and CEO of Efficiency Exchange wanted a deeper understanding of how Chinese factories work.
“That’s why I went and worked at a factory and I worked on the line,” Sullivan says. “I soldered PC boards, I ran the ERP [enterprise resource planning software], I ran incoming quality inspections, and I ran the warehouse.”
Sullivan encountered inefficient practices and antiquated systems that eroded small and medium-sized factories’ already-thin profit margins. “When you go into these factories, everything is chicken scratch on pieces of paper,” she says.
Those visits, along with her experience sourcing and developing products, inspired Sullivan to start a company that would lower costs for and reduce energy use in Chinese factories. Her Washington, DC-area company now builds web-based cost management software specifically for Chinese factories called EEx Charge. Users input information from their electricity bills, and the program provides customized recommendations for cost savings.
Sullivan, a George Washington University graduate who studied Chinese language and literature and Asian studies, put her Mandarin language skills to use, chatting with factory workers and telling jokes. She slept in the workers dorms, ate in the cafeteria, and played basketball with workers after hours.