By Jacob Yount
As we’re rounding out 2018 and about to enter 2019 here’s a batch of “things to check”
Too often buyers get knee deep into a project and realize, “oh no! I should’ve checked….”
Chinese New Year is coming up.
Now is the time people are thinking about and planning new projects.
Mass production isn’t necessarily starting whole hog right now.
Wise buyers use this nebulous time of Western Holidays to Chinese New Year to finish projects and start discussing new ones.
As you’re kicking off a new batch of projects or if you’re completely new to the game, here’s a list of 5 things to check. Sorta hard to call this a list. More like 5 blobby points where I talk a lot, but I think it’s good stuff and will help you. Read on!
#1. When do you need the goods in hand?
My advice on this one is, regardless of how how much time you think you have; START EARLIER!
Far, far too many projects don’t leave the factory when the buyer hopes they should.
For whatever reason.
But the bottom line is, the buyer should’ve started earlier.
The buyer tries to line everything perfectly up.
But the factory, has to spend a few times to get the sample right, for example. Or it could’ve been another normal production hiccup.
These are normal hiccups but they eat up days the buyer tried to perfectly plan.
Now the buyer is behind schedule, although the factory really didn’t do anything wrong.
Yeah, yeah, they told you 15 days for sampling, but you have to put that through your reality filter.
#2. Early in the sourcing process, find out your tariff codes and implications
Tis this season when there’s rumors and talk about tariffs. Supposedly we’re in a 90 day truce.
But whether there’s an increase or not, know your information.
Don’t rely on your Chinese vendor to provide that detail for you.
Find out what the tariff is NOW.
Find out what the tariff WILL BE if the increase takes affect.
Is your product even included?
Still discuss implications and your own awareness with your China vendor. Make sure they’re not making any artificial increases and attributing them to tariffs.
#3. Consider what communication you can decrease between you and the supplier
I say this not to completely eliminate necessary communication. There’s legitimate back-and-forth to properly solidify a project.
I’m talking the basic questions that can be answered proactively. Or at the least have the information ready to provide the supplier as soon as they need.
Here’s the scenario:
Supplier asks buyer a basic question: “how do you want these packed?”
Crickets for 10 days…radio silence.
Don’t do this. Be ready at the draw to provide the necessary detail.
Before you get the sourcing process underway sit down with your pen and notepad and brainstorm questions the supplier may ask.
Brainstorm details you want the supplier to know.
Fill out your notepad.
Systematically type it up.
Either give the detail in advance to the vendor (such as packing) or wait until they ask. I say wait until they ask because sometimes information overload causes more clutter or even problems. But when the vendor does ask…be ready.
#4. Whatever caused trouble in the previous order(s), how can we be ready for it now?
When you’re doing that meditating and contemplating business I advised above (you know, silence, pen, and notepad), consider what can you do better.
Before the sourcing process takes off, consider:
- Were there misunderstandings over designs. How can you simplify or explain better?
- How about third party vendors? If what the third party vendor provided had issues, be on top of this from the beginning. I was burnt on this recently. A lid came from a different factory. The lid is not great. I should’ve controlled the lid better. I didn’t follow my own advice (again pen, notepad, silence). Next time, I know how to better control the lid.
- How about price quotes? Are you going off a 6-month old quote and when you’re ready to rock n’ roll the supplier is going to say they need to requote? It’s better to make sure you and the supplier are on the same page price wise before you get too far along working on old data. Buyers get quite exasperated about this. To corporate buyers, for example, time goes slower; they take forever to hit the green light.
#5. Check and find out what manufacturing phases you need to especially control and watch over.
When do certain mass production phases happen that are super, duper important?
There are certain processes, that once they happen, they’re done. It’s harder to go back and correct if not impossible. Ok, everything is possible, but there comes a point where if you don’t catch it in advance, your supplier won’t agree to change, it’ll be too costly, time doesn’t allow…you catch my drift.
These sort of delicate and highly important phases, first you need to know what they are. Is it the print? Is it when the 3rd party vendor’s stuff arrives and you want the factory to check it before they use it?
How will you control it? Perhaps you should have the vendor provide a series of images, videos and samples or swatches to signoff on before the next phase starts.
You may want to consider sending in a QC team at that particular important time.
- Know the importantly delicate phase to keep a sharp eye on.
- Know how to control this point.
- Communicate a bit more with the supplier around these phases to make sure they also understand the importance of it. You’d be surprised that even though there is something important, the supplier comes back with a banal “oh yeah, we didn’t know that would happen”.
That’s it in an overly long nutshell. Before you start your sourcing process, don’t just dive in, throwing caution to the wind.
Consider previous experiences.
Make a plan.
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 email@example.com, or find him on his blog.