By Li Zhang
Once the samples arrive from the factory is a critical moment in the sampling process. This is a big moment for buyers because it’s sort of that time period where you see your quoting and sourcing work start paying off. You’re opening a FedEx package that usually marked with Chinese characters and layers of airway bills, excited that you’re going to see your product in the flesh.
Post Arrival Portion of the Sampling Process
This is part II to the China sampling process, where we went through the front side of making samples. From the factory to arrival. Now, let’s look at the sampling process more from the standpoint of once the samples arrive to the buyers’ hands. What’s Next?
Observe the condition of the packaging, interior, etc…
If it arrives damaged…
Take photos of it immediately and send the proof to your vendor. If time allows, implore them to send a replacement and remind, remind, remind your supplier to be careful in the packing. In fact, it’s good to remind your vendor this before they send the sample.
1 piece, being sent by air express freight is easy for bending and breakage, more so than when sent via air with bulk production!
If it arrives looking good…
If the sample initially looks great, then simply tell the vendor, “thus far it looks good, but wait for further feedback”.
Don’t send an emo email to your supplier saying, “Oh my gosh, this is the coolest bestest sample ever!” and then 2 days later you send problems with it that need changing.
This will cross your vendor’s wires and they won’t know how to take you. Keep a low key until all facts are known.
Let the supplier know the sample did arrive.
A simple email confirmation to the supplier, letting them know that the sample did indeed arrive goes a long way. It lets the supplier know their work wasn’t vain and they’ll stay on the lookout for your next update.
By the way, if the sample hasn’t arrived yet and you have a tracking # but keep asking your vendor for an update on the status…that’s, how to say, odd. If you have a tracking #, then look it up. I only understand a buyer asking the supplier to check the status of the sample for them if the buyer is royalty or some other kind of sovereign.
But suppliers, when you are working in the day, it doesn’t take 2 mins to track the package and let your buyer know what UPS.com is saying and the expected arrival date…so it’s a 2-way street. Supplier, if you don’t give your clients a tracking #, then you stink. Sorry.
What’s next in the sampling process?
If you have to send the piece off for confirmation, or if it’s going to take an estimated 2 weeks, just let the supplier know. Open communication is the life source of a successful China project, so don’t be mysterious on what’s going on.
The more you let the supplier know, the more they’ll appreciate you as a buyer.
Once you know of changes or problems…
This is where you need to be a bit more detailed and precise.
Avoid saying things like “the sample is no good”. That doesn’t make anybody any wiser to solve. Avoid sending in the problems in a piecemeal, steam of consciousness fashion.
Avoid unhelpful phrases in describing problems such as; “no good, won’t work, not acceptable, why did you do this? etc..”
Use precise phrases, images and mockups. Remember that instead of trying to describe something, use mockups and big red arrows to show something.
Provide an official sign off.
Once everything is approved, then provide a simple, clear-cut sign off that cannot be misinterpreted.
“We approve the sample as is, please proceed with mass production” (the factory may be waiting on your deposit though to start).
If you do not need further changes to the item, you need to make this crystal clear.
Because it’s possible that prior to confirming the sample, you and the vendor talked about possible changes. Here’s an example:
“I don’t know if my buyer will accept that color, we really needed it darker, but I’ll let you know”.
It’s possible, that if you don’t confirm the sample as is and stress NO MORE CHANGES, the supplier, will go back and attempt to apply a change as per your original request.
Once mass production starts, it’s hard to go back and fix communication mistakes between buyer and supplier.
Consider the necessity of sending the sample back.
If the sample is unique and the factory didn’t make various pieces, you may want to consider sending the approval piece back.
Why would you have to do this? Because unless you made a specific request and and then confirm they did indeed do it, it’s very well possible, the factory has no idea what the confirmed sample was like.
Especially if multiple attempts at getting it right, they lose track of what the approval piece is like.
The truth is, most Chinese factories in the low-cost merchandise realm, do a poor job of cataloging processes, samples, name it.
Inform the supplier of your need for mass production samples and how many.
Finally, let the supplier know you require production samples. That is, pieces taking out of mass production. Let them know this from the beginning, how many pieces and where to send.
You’ll probably have to remind the vendor this a bit later on, so don’t let it slip!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog.