by Fredrik Grönkvist
China has evolved into an increasingly sophisticated production hub. While MNCs in certain industries might consider other manufacturing bases, China (and Guangdong province in particular) has never been more attractive to e-commerce companies and hardware Startups. On the other end of the supply chain, Amazon.com and Shopify are making it easier and faster than ever to gain market access.
In this ‘gold rush’, the doors are essentially open to anyone, including the industry outsider – a company or individuals without any previous experience in the industry. Think bankers going sportswear designers. The industry outsider is largely unaware of how ‘quality’ is defined for their product. Meanwhile, they tend to assume that the supplier is responsible for ensuring a certain, perhaps imaginary and undefined, quality standard.
This could not be more wrong. Knowing what defines the quality of your product is the key to prevent quality issues in the first place. In my experience, a lack of clear specifications is, by far, the most common reason for severe quality issues. As compared to, say, deliberate usage of substandard components and intentional quality fade.
To help you prevent this from happening, we explain how you can identify all relevant technical specifications for your product, using spec sheets on Alibaba.com and Amazon. We also explain how you, in turn, can use the spec sheet to identify various quality and product customization options. But first, let’s recap on why a spec sheet is where every product begins and ends.
In contract manufacturing, it’s not the supplier’s responsibility to define and ensure quality. To anyone with an engineering or industry background, this is fairly obvious. However, industry outsiders often lack technical understanding of the product they intend to develop, and must therefore learn how product quality is defined, from scratch. Quality is, in turn, defined by the specification sheet.
Hence, the first step is to identify all relevant specifications, and then let the manufacturer respond to each one. Don’t assume that the supplier communicates all relevant specifications. They might have their own reasons for not communicating certain aspects, or simply be unaware. By letting the supplier ‘fill in the gaps’, you expose your business to the risk of severe quality issues due to misunderstandings, or due to usage of low quality components.
Suppliers on Alibaba.com and GlobalSources.com tend to publish very extensive specification sheets. However, the detail varies, and some suppliers leave certain specs out. Review specification sheets from as many suppliers as possible, preferably fifteen to twenty, to draft a full list. Supplier spec sheets can also reveal various quality options (i.e., materials or components), and give a hint about applicable product standards and regulations (i.e., RoHS).
As a complement to Alibaba.com, detailed specification sheets can often be found on Amazon.com, Ebay and smaller Online stores. For natural reasons, spec sheets on Amazon.com and other B2C sites are not as detailed as those presented on B2B directories. However, they may still reveal certain technical details and regulatory requirements.
Once you have drafted a list reference specification sheet, you must research the various options (one or more) available for each specification. Request the suppliers to quote what they consider as ‘low, medium and high quality’ – which in turn is reflected by the quoted price. Provide a full list of specifications to which the supplier must respond. Below follows a simple (and far from complete) spec sheet for an E27 LED bulb light:
|Specifications||SKU A: Low Quality||SKU B: Medium Quality||SKU C: High Quality|
|Light Source||SMD 2835||SMD 2835||SMD 2835|
|Lifetime||30000 h||40000 h||50000 h|
|Lumens||600 lm||600 lm||800 lm|
Request quotations from at least five to six different suppliers. Also remember to communicate your compliance requirements, as this has a major impact on the unit price.
Fredrik Grönkvist is the co-founder of ScandinAsian Enterprise in Shanghai. Since 2010, he and his team have helped hundreds of companies worldwide, primarily in the EU and US, to develop and manufacture products in China. He is also the main contributor on www.chinaimportal.com, a leading knowledge base for small- to medium-sized enterprises importing from Asia. For further questions, you can contact him on www.chinaimportal.com/contact-us/.