“The factory received our PO but the  production time they are now confirming has increased 20 days. Why Didn’t the Factory Tell Me Earlier?”

Unexpected changes and surprise increases are part of the routine struggle when manufacturing and importing from China. Why does the factory not inform of such detail in more of a timely fashion so it doesn’t become a last minute sucker punch?

As with the majority of my posts on China manufacturing, this is geared towards the promotional product industry but some of these foundational concepts will fit across the board.

“Why Didn’t the Factory Tell Me Earlier” – this is exclaimed as you’re gritting your teeth, shaking your fist at your Skype window, sweat beads rolling down brow and wondering how you’re going to tell your client.

Too Much Lag Time: Imagine; you contact your vendor for a quotation. Then like so many buyers, you disappear for 20 days and then come back with another question. This goes back and forth for another week or two. Then you decided on sampling. The vendor expresses you a sample and you’re ready to sign off and start the project. At that moment, the vendor let’s you know something that’s the equivalent to them tossing a bucket of cold water all over you. The price shot up 20%. The lead time you confirmed and stressed 30 days ago is no longer on the table.

Keep in mind, that along with your piece-meal inquiry to the vendor (5 days discuss, 10 days silence, come back, leave, come back, finally a sample), the factory may have 25 more clients doing the same thing at that moment, plus their normal clients who consistently bring them MONEY.

So, when you ask, “Why didn’t the factory tell me earlier?”, you’re asking, “why didn’t they better manage my project for me and daily give me an update on all on-goings between them and the material vendor and the print shop and how busy they are on the floor and what they had for breakfast and how much their electricity bill is etc”… you get my drift. Also keep in mind this expert project management you feel entitled to from the factory is before you’ve given them 1 red cent.

The factory has other fish to fry. If you want to play “now you see me, now you don’t” for 2 months over a $20,000.00 order (which is nothing to a factory), that’s fine. But don’t be surprised if minimal interest is taken in the project. Factories and Chinese vendors understand (to a degree) that the buyer side has to spend time to make a decision and sign-off. Buyers need to understand (also to a degree) that a factory operates like a big machine and has to keep chugging along and feeding employees.

Buyer side has to spend time making a decision. Factory side has to continue working and feeding itself

Buyer side has to spend time making a decision. Factory side has to continue working and feeding itself

You’re Not a Consistent Enough Buyer: These types of problems happen less in retail than in the promotional product business because there is more consistency. Promotional product buyers frequently are reinventing the proverbial wheel therefore consistency isn’t a luxury. New materials, infrequent orders from 1 vendor, customization for lower-volume purchases; all these factors lead to more control on the factory side and the likelihood of more intangibles.

Here is an example: you order a few glass mug references a few times a year. Glass usually requires large quantities to run. Glass factories usually combine orders and run large quantities at one time. If you’re ready to order one of your yearly purchases and the factory has NO other orders for this reference on line, this may change the 25 days quoted delivery time to the now 40~50 days while they wait for more purchases to combine.

Many times, what was quoted was based on all things being “perfect”. Factories quote, best-case scenarios they hope to reach and all other factors working out. Yes, they quoted that desired material and that color. But the factory didn’t know if you were actually going to proceed with the order. Then once you decided to proceed with the order, the factory checks within the material market and finds out it’s going to take another 20 days to customize the material. Yikes!!

Responsible? Not exactly.

Reality? You betcha.

There are ways to avoid these kind of surprises, but if you are working in the promotional product business, it’s likely to always be lurking around the corner.

There are ways to minimize the damage and hopefully I’ll write about this in an upcoming post.