During the sampling phase, chances are that you’ll go through a series of tweaks and changes before you nail down a product to confirm for mass production. These changes, albeit needed, also bring about another wave of phenomena in your China project management that you want to be on guard for.

Changes change timing

1 day doesn’t always equal 1 day.

Changes may cause the supplier to need 2 more days on the front end. But those 2 days on the front could potentially equal 2 weeks on the back end. In other words, 1 day delaying in confirmation can cause the factory to bump you to a different schedule (material booking, labor) or it can cause missing a certain shipping date.

When it comes to time and changes, remember that 1 day doesn’t always equal 1 day.

If timing is a factor (as it so frequently is when doing event or launch merchandise), then a question you want to have in your arsenal is: “How much time will this add to the process?”

Then you don’t want to only ask that 1-time. You may ask that and the supplier responds, “it doesn’t change time”. Ok, ok put that answer in your back pocket, but don’t fully buy it. Chances are, when you asked that, the supplier didn’t consider, a, b and c.

As time progresses, but not too far along, based on the fact that you made changes during the process, go back and ask again for a reconfirmation on timing.

Cost changes high possibility

Consider any change that’s going to incur more costs, will likely cause an increase in your price per piece. Don’t think that if you don’t mention it, the supplier won’t. This is a slight possibility, but what will probably happen is you’ll think that the change won’t affect pricing but you’ll see the pricing change later on and will get bummed out.

If something adds more material, an additional process to the production line (ie more labor), then price changes are reasonable. Professionally request / negotiate with the vendor to keep the cost as close to the original as possible.

It can get hairy when the “change” is more of a correction the supplier should’ve (?) considered in the first place…

Factory motivation also changes

This one’s tough to explain, but here we go…

Many times, you’ll find that starting out, the factory seems reasonably stoked and willing to get the initial sample done.

Then you make changes.

They may make the next sample and then you find that on this 2nd sample, there’s another tweak or 2 to get the product right.

Or you may find, that once the factory made the 2nd sample, they changed something else you didn’t authorize…or they weren’t careful and unintentionally changed something. Or weren’t intentionally careful; however you want to word it.

Then, the factory motivation lets out like air from a balloon. In worse-case scenarios, instead of adding their own insight, they go into what I call, “do-whatever-you-say” mode. But they don’t even do that willingly.

So if your next requested change actually has an error from your side (ie you asked for something that’s not advisable), they may be too bummed to catch it or consult you to consider differently.

It’s as if not only do they lose motivation, but they allow your need for changes to now dull them on their own basic product knowledge of THEIR OWN product. It’s sort of the impatience of the fast-paced culture that exists in modern China. If the trigger isn’t immediately pulled on a project, then the suppliers seems to become discouraged.

How to combat:

  • Before you authorize to start sample production or make your first set of changes, take a breath and make sure you’ve carefully thought through all contingencies.
  • Don’t assume you’ve got an unlimited number of tweaks and changes. It’s almost as you start out with a limited number of goodwill cards. If you play all of those, it gets harder to hit your goals.
  • Recognize that you’re asking for changes and acknowledge to the factory that you’re aware this is further effort and resources. Reiterate your own hopes and efforts of this paying off for the factory…ie of this leading to business. If it’s not a good possibility of business, then double-check that you want to move this forward.
  • If multiple changes are required, you may want to consider adding more money to the equation…if the factory hasn’t already charged you.
  • Mindset after multiple changes

    Keep your organization. Have record of each change, what exactly was to change and what should’ve stayed the same.

    Have dates of your changes.

    Factories, lose perspective on the job, records get cluttered. They can tend to get stuck on the “Law of Lasting 1st Impressions.”

    Even after these changes, how will mass production differ?

    That’s a real stickler; as you’re making changes, double confirm with the factory, that the supply chain is available for mass production.

  • You chose a new material; does the factory indeed have access to the same grade, color for mass production?
  • Sampling is frequently done on a smaller more detailed production line. How is mass production going to differ?
  • Here are further snippets on the sampling process with your China supplier.
  • Keep in mind that changes aren’t simply a new interval stuck into the timeline but are mini disruptions that enter the process.

    Good suppliers are able to pivot.

    But even the best suppliers may have obstacles in implementing along the way, while not missing a beat.