Logic and common sense:  too often the overseas buyer throws these two jewels out the window in China manufacturing.

When you’re importing and buying from China, don’t treat yourself as a final consumer.  Your success will grow when you hold yourself to a management and control standard on the manufacturing chain.  Too many buyers seem to mentally check out, though, during this process.  This process is going to require YOUR brain work.

It’s not like buying domestically where, for example, as a distributor, suppliers give you great customer service and keep you supplied with an endless array of updates, photos, options…the whole package.

Success in China manufacturing requires management, foresight, knowing your production, proactively avoiding problems before they happen and knowing what’s possible and what isn’t.

But I see buyers make assumptions, not put 2 and 2 together, lazily confirm points, not proactively handling their own cases and then when problems happen, “it’s all the supplier’s fault”…the list goes on and on.

Chinese suppliers do make a lot of errors, no doubt and I’ve documented this in a multitude of posts.  But at the same time, Chinese are very practical people;  many times there are reasons why things are the way they are.  Regardless if the reasons are considered “acceptable reasons” by Western standards, they are reasons nonetheless.  If Western buyers would put the same energy to understanding and self-education as they do to pointing fingers, huffing and puffing and complaining, they’d see a 10-fold change in the smoothness of their buying process.

Change of Thinking:  Buyers approach factories or vendors and ask to see examples of “item x”.  The supplier provides reference imagery.  It may not be the exact same item, but this is where it’s going to take thinking on your part….

As soon as the buyer receives a reference photo from the factory, they immediately burst out “this is not what I was asking for”.  The factory then thinks “duh”.  The factory, contrary to much belief are not morons.  They know they just showed you a different item.  What they are displaying is “capability”.

Again, this bears repeating, buying offshore is not like buying locally.  Don’t think in terms of “existing references, picture-perfect photoshoped images and cataloged work”.  Think in terms of “material, processes and capabilities”.  Factories main thing is production, period.  Not marketing, not sales, not customer service, but production.  The trade companies who are, more times than you think, in between buyer and factory are also not that savvy on presentation.  Their specialty, if they are a good trade company, is controlling the manufacturing of your product and getting your product out of China at good quality.

This is where it’s helpful on your part to have some form of production knowledge.  If the factory showed you “item y” in the same material and overall process as “item x”, then just because they didn’t show you a photo of “item x”, doesn’t mean they cannot do it.  A large portion of buyers though think, no photo of “item x”, then no can do “item x” (this is why I shake my head when promotional product distributors tell me they buy factory direct or think they want to find a factory…most likely they are not or unable to).

Sampling process:  Same concept;  keep your thinking, knowledge and foresight working at full speed.  Keep the sampling part of the job in the right perspective.  If order closure is based on a perfect sample, make provision for more than just 1 run of samples.  Sampling to a factory means, “giving it a go a few times until we get it right.”  This especially makes sense if it’s the first time the factory has manufactured this item.  Also keep in mind that factories are notoriously bad for keeping records and cataloging past work.  Many factories, especially in the low-cost good world, don’t build on past orders and precedence but work and think job to job.   

Pricing:  Here is another area where it is going to require you to put on your thinking cap and figure out what is the real picture.  If a factory quotes you an item…say a bag and the price is out of your budget, then it’s possible apples to apples are not being compared.  Instead of just throwing out an empty “price is too high“, as time allows, work with the vendor to see what needs to be done in order to hit your price points.  If not, then you’re always floundering from vendor to vendor in an attempt to save a small amount that you may end up paying on the back end from the lower-cost vendor’s inefficiencies and other unforeseen problems.

Developing and Item or Product Line:  Last but not least another major area, that is going to require an ever-vigilant attitude from buying side.  Realize the first price is an initial estimate.  Don’t put too much stock in vendors quoting exact the first time (this can be true even if you’re not developing an item).  The vendor can put 100% effort in to the quote and it still be off; but chances are, if you are a new buyer to them, they may put very little effort in to the process.  If you are a first time buyer, that they don’t know, why do they owe you an exact quote?  Chinese suppliers don’t have a “quoting machine” and again, like work history, their price records and history is also poorly cataloged.