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Disorganization between importers and suppliers compounds

by Renaud Anjoran

When defining a sourcing strategy, most importers forget to do a bit of introspection. If their purchasing and quality services are poorly organized, their sourcing options are severely limited.

The most simple situation would be to find a good manufacturer:

Organized buyer + organized manufacturer

It leads to a predictable situation with few issues. Unfortunately, it is a rare case.

I also see some of this:

Very organized buyer + disorganized manufacturer = few problems.

For example, the buyer follows a project management approach and asks the supplier for regular updates. The factory hasn’t received all components in time, but the buyer surfaces this information (provided the supplier is transparent about timing) and revises the planning.

Unfortunately, I also see a lot of this:

Disorganized buyer + disorganized manufacturer = a mess.

In this case, disorganization compounds. Here are a few examples:

  • One week before the scheduled shipment date, the buyer asks “so, are you finishing the packing?” The supplier responds “we had a few problems and there is a delay… we are just starting production.”
  • The buyer mentioned the need for 7-ply carton walls in a Skype conversation, but did not write it on his PO. No specification sheet was prepared. The supplier forgot this point.
  • A first set of pre-production samples is sent. Certain aspects need modifications. A second set of samples is sent out, but the buyer notices new problems that were not present the first time. The buyer only writes text comments, without visual sketch. In the end, the development process takes 3 times as long as it should, and way too many emails are exchanged.

There are also cases where an intermediary is present. Sometimes it makes things worse:

Disorganized buyer + disorganized trader + disorganized manufacturer = a huge mess.

I remember helping a buyer of garments that worked with a trading company. That company changed the patterns “to make things easier for the factory”, and didn’t say anything to their customer. When we visited the factory we noticed the fabric had been cut the wrong way, the trading company’s salesperson (who ignored what her colleagues had done) refused to show us the patterns. It was a painful experience for all parties.

Fortunately, there is a more positive situation:

Disorganized buyer + very organized trader/agent + disorganized manufacturer = few problems.

Some intermediaries correct communication deficiencies and follow a rigorous checklist. Sometimes they call themselves a “project management agency”. From my observations, they are few and far between.

Do you see the same thing?


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.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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