By Jacob Yount
The China sourcing process, whether quoting an existing stock item or developing something from scratch, is more than pulling a lever on a machine. Because the human element is involved, from RFQ to delivery, something is very likely to get off course.
Specs and details of the order can change from the first RFQ all the way to the start of the order.
It’s not necessarily related to something devious but more so attributed to the normal ebb and flow of the sourcing process.
Client changes a spec here and there. When it comes to developing a product, a supplier may realize that something is not doable.
Point being is to be mindful of specs and keep clear record of the evolving requirements. What happens is after multiple waves of changes both buyer and supplier get muddled on where the project currently is and what price is based on what.
Another reason for spec changes, and this reason is more annoying, is lack of carefulness. It could be the client not being tight on requirements and adding something at the last minute. It could be the supplier didn’t start really analyzing the project closely until it went past a few steps. Then supplier realizes they weren’t careful in considering what they said was possible. To compound the headache, whichever side starts making spec changes, it can affect the quoted price.
Supplier service during sourcing process
This happens quite a bit. The supplier starts out eager. Once the project gets going and even after an order starts, it’s ends up being hard to get an update. The supplier focuses on other cases. They get negligent on following-up and bringing the case past the goal line. It’s all too common where a lot of cases start out really well in the sourcing process. But towards the end, the supplier gets casual and stops watching certain specs.
Supplier motivation gets wrapped up in this aspect of it. If the process has been long and drawn out and their margin is nothing to write home about, they’ll start giving subpar service just to get you the heck off their radar.
Quality control isn’t something that you just tell the supplier, “oh yeah and we need these perfect.”
Effective quality control is something fluid and ongoing, not stopgap.
It’s going through the proper steps from the beginning in the sourcing process. It’s analyzing a series of random samples from the production line. It’s lining up the right factory visits at key times to watch key aspects of the production. Rinse and repeat.
Timing and logistics
Through the entire project without tight control, timing is subject to change.
A client may delay a sign off on a sample, thus delaying the supplier’s start to production preparation. A 3rd party vendor may be late delivering material to a main factory. The main factory may be too busy to fulfill obligations. It could be summer in China and electricity is cut. The list goes on and on.
How about a tidal wave of connectivity? Specs change, extend the project and this demotivates the supplier. The demotivated supplier becomes negligent and messes up the quality. You realize the order needs correcting and this delays departure and now you have to rebook your shipment.
Remember, in the China sourcing process, nothing happens in a vacuum.
Jacob Yount lived in China from 2001 to 2012, during which time he started JLmade. He is now based out of North Carolina in the US and his home office is still in Suzhou, China; manufacturing and exporting branded merchandise, promotional products and retail gifts for distributors worldwide. Contact Jacob at email@example.com, or find him on his blog.