If you’re manufacturing offshore, specifically China, here are some steps to take right before mass production starts. Taking or not taking these steps could very well determine the success of your order.

During that time, as a distributor or an importer, when you’re “waiting” on something from your client (could be a payment, a sign-off, a change in spec), that time period before mass production starts should be an active critical period with the factory, not a period of “waiting” and doing nothing.This is what I call “between sign-off and deposit”. Whose deposit? The deposit you send to the Chinese vendor.

9 times out of 10, the Chinese vendor is not going to budge an inch until they see 30% (at least, sometimes 50%) in their bank account. But before the Chinese supplier budges, it’s highly important that during this time, you keep communication open with your supplier.

Keep the Supplier Updated

What’s happening on your side? Is the brand confirming, is the order coming, is something changing? You’d be surprised by how many Chinese vendors have no insight in to what’s taking place with their buyers, only to receive an email the next day that says the buyer is ready to start the order.

So why is that a bad thing?

Because between those 2 weeks, anything could have happened. The factory could’ve taken on more orders and now the lead time you worked so hard to confirm has increased by 15 days. How about cost of materials? Those don’t stay the same forever and especially after certain yearly milestones in China (post holidays specifically) costs seem to go up.

During the “waiting period”, before mass production starts, use that time to stay in touch with your supplier. Let your supplier or factory know what’s going on. Sincerity shown by a buyer in China can go a long way. If you don’t show the supplier you care about your own possible order, then guess who else is not going to care.

Reconfirm Your Lead Times Prior to Mass Production Signoff

You’re waiting on the last piece of “go-ahead” from your brand and pushing them to close. Don’t just sit on your laurels and assume the Chinese supplier is going to hold the previously quoted delivery time.

I’ve seen factories wait for at least a month on a morsel of news from the buyer. The buyer suddenly appears and is all like, “I’m ready to order, here is the deposit and we need the delivery time you confirmed 3 months ago.”

But a lot has happened in those 3 months. The factory is 30% busier and all production lines are full.

Also as a matter fact, there are generally 2 lead times; the quoted one and the real one. Many Chinese factories, especially when working for promotional product orders or clients, don’t firm up the actual delivery time until the order is a sure thing. Why should the sales person you’re dealing with spend time haggling with the production line and nailing down confirmed dates when they don’t know if you’re even bringing the order. During this “waiting period”, give the supplier a scenario and get to cracking in firming up that lead time.

[Importer to Factory] “Ok, imagine that by Friday you will have the deposit. Give me a production schedule based on that. How many days for material purchase, how many days for color dying, how many days for assembly? From Friday until the day it ships, how many days total?”

Then as you’re waiting for the brand/end-user/customer to finish up the formalities, you send them this information.

[Importer to Final Buyer] “I know you’re still waiting on approval from management, but keep in mind that sign-off by Thursday still keeps us on schedule, etc, etc, etc. If that’s delayed until next week, we’ll have to go back and reconfirm the schedule”.

If you want your order leaving in the time frame your buyer requires and you want to be in control, you have to be proactively detailed. Your factory is not going to do it for you. The Chinese, although come from the land of “layered red tape” are also very practical. They will think that if you needed the goods sooner, why didn’t you order sooner?

Kinda makes sense to me but maybe I lived in China too long….

If you stay in close communication with your China supplier or factory, especially before mass production starts, they are more likely to show you favor and let you squeeze ahead of another order from a smaller client or a client they don’t deem as worthy.

China, manufacturing, promotional products

Critical Steps to Take Before the Factory Puts Hand to Plough

Reconfirm All Specs

Before the mass production starts and there’s that lull on the buyer side, use that chance to reconfirm all specs. Don’t assume your supplier knows exactly what they quoted or that what you think they quoted is what they quoted!

Especially if you sampled various times, there were various quotes sheets back and forth, and multiple changes. Chinese suppliers are pretty bad at organizing and cataloging detail. You may think you’ve been going after the 9th set of changes, but the factory may be working on the 1st batch of information. It’s what I call the “Law of 1st Impressions“.

Put together a spec sheet with all expectations; from the product, to the packing to the shipping terms and reconfirm that with the supplier. Don’t be timid to repeat info and speak the obvious concerning your expectations for mass production. What’s obvious to you isn’t obvious to the supplier.

From my 10+ years of dealing with China, there is no such thing as a waiting period. You’re either staying on the radar or falling off the radar. Even if you told the supplier the “order is coming”, that doesn’t mean anything. Stay on top until the order actually comes. Nothing, to the Chinese factory, shows an order is coming until that deposit is in their account. Make up for the supplier’s short-sightedness by being proactive.