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Be ULTRA SPECIFIC with your Chinese suppliers

by Renaud Anjoran

In a recent trip to Yiwu (not the place where one will find high-quality products!), I noticed several interesting things.

When an importer prepares a specifications sheet, I always recommend being ultra-specific (include what tools to use, what tolerance to follow, and so on). Same thing when preparing a list of potential defects: show a lot of photos, try to think of everything that can go wrong.

Here is a good example to follow: an airport board that shows a list of knives and guns that are forbidden!

Can you be more specific than that? Probably not.

Is it overkill? Unfortunately, not in China.

When I reached the hotel, I noticed they took extra precautions to ensure I understood their warning:

And the same hotel even showed a map of its premises at the back of the key envelope. Nice!

I think there is a lesson here for importers.

Bad communication with Chinese suppliers

  • Send information at different times, in different formats.
  • Use email, then Skype, then email again, then the phone…
  • Count on the supplier to glue the pieces together (after all it is their job, right?).
  • Give feedback on pre-production samples, and use the samples you approved as “the standard”.
  • Send pdf files or jpeg images that the supplier cannot modify.

Effective communication

Every time something changes in your specifications, update your master spec sheet and send a new version to the supplier.

  • Make the last changes obvious (for example, in another color).
  • Keep it in Word or Excel format, so that the salesperson can easily translate it and pass it to her colleagues in engineering or production.
  • Use less text and more images whenever possible. For example, green “ticks” and red “crosses” are excellent symbols.

Any other tips?

Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on

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