By Jacob Yount
If I’ve seen this type of carelessness once, I’ve seen it a thousand times.
This is not your typical form of negligence you have to watch out for in your China projects. In other words it doesn’t come from the trenches of confirming and explaining.
It comes from whenever the buyer steps out of the trenches and gets soft.
It’s the equivalent of a 1-yard line fumble
A difficult project goes exceptionally well.
You’re about to cross a crucial milestone in the project; whether it’s the end of mass production or hitting a sailing date on time.
Whatever the case may be.
Up to this point, you and the factory have invested blood, sweat and tears.
Then, right before the unveiling, somebody drops the ball.
What was once beautiful and fluid now becomes red alert.
You may have to back up a multitude of steps and lose time.
Perhaps accept a substandard product.
Or just come to some sort of concession.
Either way there’s a bad taste in your mouth.
What’s some of the root of this carelessness?
From the supplier side:
There’s tendency in China to focus on what’s perceived to be the “important details”.
Suppliers seem to compartmentalize things in there mind to important and another compartment for “small details”.
The important stuff they’ll focus on, fine.
But the small details are for someone else. “That will all work out in the wash, regardless….so don’t worry about it.”
Anyone who’s dealt with or lived in China for any length of time, knows what I’m talking about.
They’ll take a perceived small detail and minimize it to such an extreme that now it metastasizes and becomes a major point of contention.
So let’s use a few basic examples all based on real life cases I’ve seen.
A difficult molded plastic item finally finishes. The supplier did the mold brilliantly and the sample comes out looking very good.
All the supplier has to do is finish the color process and send the sample.
They cut corners though on the coloring process. They rush the process through. A high-end molded item loses all of it’s luster because the vendor rushed that last phase.
Here’s another one.
The vendor completes the majority of mass production for a beautiful custom, private label item.
But doesn’t give the paint time to dry.
You see, the buyer kept harping on timing.
Timing or dry, timing or dry?
The vendor chose one and the buyer receives an item with smeared print.
From the buyer side:
There’s a tendency with many buyers to be passive to a fault. They assume if there’s questions, the supplier will ask them.
“There’s always time.”
“If there’s questions they’ll ask.”
“The supplier will know what to do.”
Anyone who’s bought from offshore vendors knows the tendency to slack.
You think you’re delegating and being quite the hustler.
In fact it’s more of a slackness on diligence… jus’ sayin’.
This usually comes from a few elementary missteps.
Over-focusing on 1 aspect of the production causes the supplier to lose focus.
An inordinate importance placed on timing triggers the supplier to rush.
What’s the old sayin’?
“Haste mucks up offshore mass production?”
How about a successful order caught in customs because we treated documents like an afterthought?
What’s my point?
I don’t really have one.
Avoiding this comes from experience and getting orders under your belt.
But if I had to boil it down to sound bytes.
- Don’t get content during the project. This leads to carelessness.
- If you relax, your supplier may also relax. Keep up the communication.
- Consider peripheral processes and details. If overlooked these could spread disaster through the project.
Don’t pop the champagne until the order arrives, reaches fulfillment and sales start.
Jacob Yount lived in China from 2001 to 2012, during which time he started JLmade. He is now based out of North Carolina in the US and his home office is still in Suzhou, China; manufacturing and exporting branded merchandise, promotional products and retail gifts for distributors worldwide. Contact Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find him on his blog.