By Jacob Yount
Everything is smooth sailing in your China order. The factory seems agreeable, a confirmed sample is in-hand, the next step is to sit back and wait for the Bill of Lading, right? Wrong. Don’t fumble on the 1 yard line. Bring a strong closure to your China order.
Many an offshore project goes down the toilet because slackness creeps end towards the end of the process.
Buyers do it.
Many buyers in companies and certain industries, don’t view themselves as importers. They see a China order as simply another duty on top of their to-do pile. This type of buyer never fully grasps that a China order requires vigilance from start to finish.
“Once the sample sign-off takes place, then it’s the in the supplier’s hands, right? I mean, we sent the deposit, we sent the PO, the supplier should know what to do. And if there’s any problem whatsoever, the supplier will fix it double-time and won’t miss a beat.”
That’s obviously not how it is, but with the lack of oversight and attention to detail that creeps in to the end of an order, you’d think this is how buyers are actually thinking.
Suppliers do it.
Your China supplier is also subject to end-of-order slackness.
They get a hyper confidence about them where they don’t feel there’s any further need for them to monitor the order.
“They passed the order to the production line manager and the production department didn’t say there were any problems. Everything is no problem.”
This is erroneous thinking on the supplier’s part. Mistakes frequently happen in the final phases.
The supplier gets casual or puts their focus to other orders at the neglect of the one finishing up.
There’s blame on weather, “It was too humid for the print to dry”.
Fingers will point at “the workers”. You’ve probably heard this, “the workers didn’t do such and such right.”
Yes, that may very well be true, but the fact is, the sales contact simply let aspects of the control slip.
Don’t Choke! Areas to keep tight eye on in final phases of your China order:
Go back over things that were confirmed a long time ago.
Did you and the supplier discuss requirements in the beginning phases? Are these aspects still at the forefront of the supplier’s thinking?
If you think yes, how do you know?
A reminder to the supplier may mean the difference in a successful order versus something overlooked.
“Please confirm you are incorporating this as we spoke about”.
I’ve head supplier’s say on more than 1 occasion, “oh, we spoke about this so long ago, we didn’t think it was still important because you didn’t mention it again.”
Continue the communication.
Still insist on updates. Don’t treat anything as old hat or mundane.
Throughout the process, request photos at the appropriate times. If your vendor is inept at providing proper visuals, coach them through the process.
What photos and when? (This is why you need to know the key points of the entire China order path.)
Remember that your communication to your sales contact works as a default reminder to them to do their job. Asking pertinent questions and requesting timely updates during your China order serves as notices to your vendor of where and when to control. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be necessary, but we’re not talking perfect world, we’re talking a good end of your China order.
Remind the vendor not to rush.
This may seem like an overly simple suggestion, but use it.
Some orders delay.
Some orders produce in a timely fashion.
Then there’s a portion the supplier rushes for whatever reason. They’re very busy and are trying to get your order off their plate, they want the balance payment, or they think you want it fast and are just accustomed to all buyers putting a rush on things.
Remind your vendor to take proper time with processes and to approach you if more time is necessary in order to get it right. I’ve seen suppliers muck up orders because they thought timing was the most crucial thing to the buyer. This is why I’ve always said to keep a balance whenever you are urging speed in your China order.
Certain process you should monitor during your China order.
Know your key production phases. This may be the day the material comes over from the 3rd party vendor. Did the right material come? What’s your proof?
A certain process starts and the key to it’s success is the beginning; perhaps the actual printing. Do you have on on-site inspector to watch the kick-off?
A sample from the production line sent at just the right time can mean correcting an error before it’s too late
The right photo at the right time means fixing a scratch before it becomes a gaping wound.
Export packing is one of the aspects of a China order where buyers assume the supplier will pack the order a certain way, well…just because.
Too often packing is treated as an afterthought.
Buyers may think there’s no certain need in the packing, not realizing the supplier, if not controlled will simply put 100 pieces in a box without individual packing. A buyer may assume everything is going to be individual but it turns out the quote was for bulk.
If you need a certain packing scheme, first, it should’ve been in the quote, the PO, the invoice, and an email trail. But that doesn’t mean the supplier necessarily paid attention to that.
Find out when the packing process starts and assure the supplier is doing what you need.
It’s a nightmare to reopen and repack an order. This can lead to compromise and dirt on the product.
Keep in mind that it’s also expensive to repack outside of China.
I could write many a post on final phase order choking when it comes to logistics.
In fact, I have written many a post.
- Buyer thinks everything is arranged, but shipping company awaits some kind of confirmation.
- Buyer assumes everything loads on a certain day but after a week of no emails, the supplier admits the goods haven’t left the factory yet.
- Wrong documentation causes delays in port and perhaps even a customs check.
Don’t regulate everything concerning logistics to a back burner. Don’t dichotomize the success of the order from the shipping process. The two will go hand-in-hand.
Finish strong and continue the follow-up on all fronts!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or find him on his blog.