By Li Zhang
Buyers too often rest secure in assuming the factory is rightly manufacturing their order, timing looks good and no sign of order delay is in sight. This is in spite of the red flags that were majestically waving throughout the project. Buyers tend to have selective belief when dealing with offshore vendors. It’s human nature, right? I mean, we all hope things “go right” and therefore, we choose to believe, regardless of the evidences that scream otherwise.
Here’s examples of order delay red flags that should keep you on your toes to avoid a false sense of timing comfort.
The sample took a long time to get right
This one can be a double whammy. If the sample took a long time and the factory did multiple attempts, this tells you a few things. Most importantly it tells you quality during mass production may be an issue.
Problems the factory had during sampling, are you absolutely sure they stamped out for mass production?
If they have to tackle these same quality problems, during mass production, then it can bleed over into an order delay.
Keep in mind that when the factory quotes mass production times, they don’t factor in possible problems.
The lead time the factory quotes is based on everything working 100% smoothly.
When negotiating the timing, the supplier gave heavy pushback but finally agreed
If the factory wasn’t eager in achieving this, then keep a strong eye on it throughout the order. If the factory keeps saying how busy they are, then it shouldn’t be a surprise if you get a “bad news” email 5 days before completion.
No documentation or quote file clearly lays out timing
If there’s nothing concrete on timing, let that raise a red flag. If your only evidence of timing confirmation is a WeChat conversation you had 1 day on your way to work where you said you really need this timing, and the supplier said “we’ll do our best”, that’s not exactly teflon against an order delay.
It’s a complex item and the vendor quotes a standard mass production time
Your item requires various developmental processes, input from secondary vendor partners and lots of back and forth.
You ask the vendor the mass production time.
They quickly say 30 days.
Let this bring up a red flag.
If it’s an item that you know is going to take kid gloves at development, then even if the supplier gives you a great timing parameter, do your own due diligence and consider more weeks.
You’ve been pushing for rush production and your vendor is only agreeing instead of showing
Have the vendor show you how they are going to achieve that timing. Not only saying “yeah, yeah, yeah” but have them actually chart a course. Even if you have to lay out the steps for them and have them confirm. Asking the right questions is a must.
It’s like in math class where it wasn’t sufficient for you to only give an answer, but the teacher would say, “how did you get that answer”.
It’s the same thing in China manufacturing.
If the vendor is not resisting a difficult goal or process, this should bring up a red flag. This shows they’re not truly calculating and considering the request.
You don’t want the factory to only agree and you don’t want them to give heavy pushback and then half-heartedly accept. You want a vendor that will professionally weight the pros and cons and then come to a professional decision.
Radio silence from the supplier towards end of order
Many times when timing is tight and things aren’t looking good; the factory stops replying to emails. They are no longer available during your usual chat time. Something smells fishy.
Or they reply to emails and hit all of your points, but conveniently skip over the point you had asking about timing.
During mass production, it doesn’t look like they’re hitting timing goals
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it probably is.
If it simply looks like it isn’t gonna happen, then it probably ain’t. Regardless if the supplier keeps saying “no problem”. Use your own common horse sense. If they still didn’t start certain processes or show you proof of completion, and there’s a day left until scheduled factory departure…then guess what?
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 email@example.com, or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog.