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Challenges with pre-production samples

by Renaud Anjoran in 'Quality Inspection Blog'

Many importers pull their hair every time they are working on a new development with a Chinese supplier. This stage can be even more confusing than mass production.

Last week, the JLMade blog published some excellent advice for getting pre-production samples right, in these two articles: Sampling Strife and Sampling Process.

I am simply going to quote some parts of these posts:

Be aware of common misunderstandings

It happens frequently that a buyer needs pre-production samples for a new product, and that the supplier requests a set-up fee.

Western mind: The factory requested a payment, this payment represents what the factory needs in order to get the job done right. They have analyzed the project, they feel they can fulfill the request and it’s a project they hope to take all the way to order status and make successful.

Factory mind: We need a payment just to look in to the job and do a sample run. Once the sample is complete, we’ll discuss ways to “get it right in production” or via other sampling runs…of course there will be additional charge for these sample runs.

With sampling processes, it’s a big game of “chicken and egg”. Factories hate doing samples, even if you pay them. They only want orders. But how can you order without the sample? How can they expect to sell quantity without first providing a sample?

Have realistic expectations

Many buyers expect fully customized, locked-and-loaded-samples, with all the options.

Even time and money sometimes don’t assure the feasibility of some processes that are only possible for bulk quantity. These include but are not limited to dyeing material, molding, processes that may include a lot of waste and I could probably name some more if I put my mind to it.

Communicate your expectations very clearly

It is best if the buyer provides actual samples to copy, photos, drawings, text descriptions…

The sticky thing about controlling orders in China is that you can give the factory a list of 9,999 things to do and not to do, but they will still find something that’s NOT ON THE LIST!

You’ll see factories make decisions that, in a million years, you would not have considered they would make. Something random, such as change the color when no color change was ever discussed, mentioned or needed.

But be aware of the factory’s natural inclination:

Remember: if you send a sample for quality reference only, but the branding is to be different from that piece and same as the artwork file you sent, you really have to stress that point. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it 1000 times. To a factory, a physical piece will ALWAYS trump an instruction, an image or a direction.

Any other piece of advice for getting pre-production samples right?

Renaud Anjoran is the founder of Sofeast Quality Control and helps importers to improve and secure their product quality in China. He writes advice for importers on the Quality Inspection blog. He lives full time in Shenzhen, China. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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