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Reminders on order documents

By Li Zhang

Order documents are vitally important to the success of exporting and importing the project.

Order documents are an often overlooked but very important aspect of your China sourcing project. When it comes to working with Chinese vendors and being proactive on your order documents, here’s some order reminders.


Alert the supplier on the required order documents

Once your order opens, make it clear what order documents are required. Every order should receive the following:

• Commercial Invoice

• Packing List

• On-Board Bill of Lading

But if you require something that the supplier may not be accustomed to providing, you need to let them know.

Most likely, you’ll have to remind the supplier midway and towards the end of the order.

What types of documents could these be that may be required not mainstream?

• Certificate of origin / Form A:  these seem to be widely required from Europe and parts of South America. For other countries, I don’t know off the top of my head and would check with the client. But many suppliers will not remember to check.

• Fumigation certificates:  If there is wooden packaging or wooden parts and your home country requires fumigation.

• Safety or inspection certificates:  This is most definitely an example of a document you should detail the supplier about in the beginning. This is more than they applying for a  document but is something that will require testing and a more in-depth process. A perfect world, the supplier will check with you, but in order to avoid delays on the backend, let the supplier know from the beginning.


Provide the supplier with all details in a clear, laid-out fashion

Give the supplier the exact information of who the importer is on record. This will allow the supplier to properly fill out the booking form for the shipment.

Plainly tell the supplier; “the consignee (importer) should be detailed just like the following…”

It’s good practice to ask the supplier to show you document drafts before they send in the official document.

Too often, importers fail to give clear detail and the supplier is remiss in asking. The supplier fills out the booking form and just gets client contact detail from the client’s email signature…for example…

But the actual client may not even be the importer on record.


Very carefully, check all details on your order documents

Suppliers make clerical errors. Left to their own control, suppliers will make many clerical errors. It’s the nature of the China sourcing beast.

When it comes to customs and clearance, as the importer, those documents are going to represent you and your business.

Check your order documents with a fine-toothed comb.

Check the consignee information; did the supplier fill out the shipping documents correctly?

For example, with the USA, if there’s an inconsistency in the consignee and the importer on record, it can cause a delay or check with clearance and customs.

Poor management of order documents can turn an offshore project into a real headache.

Do some research on what’s required.

Ask your freight forwarder.

Ask peers in your industry.

Check with a customs officer.

Over time, as you do reorders, your supplier will become more responsible.

…but like I said, this takes time.

Li Zhang has worked in international manufacturing and exporting since 2003. She has served global brands such as Bayer, Coca Cola and Warner Bros. Her background is in design and engineering. Li is a native of Jiangsu Province and currently finds herself back and forth between Suzhou, China and the USA. Contact Li at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog.

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