Having to sort out mass production errors is not a place any buyer wants to find themselves. But the cold fact, is that it happens. It’s better to be prepared and have some concepts in place on how to handle instead of acting like “it won’t happen to me.”
Something to do way before mass production
This is not after the fact, but it’s going to help you to tackle a problem if it arises.
Find out from the early phases how the supplier plans on fixing any production errors.
If the supplier acts like mistakes are impossible, let that be a red flag.
If the supplier is responsible, they’ll tell you that they’ll offer replacement pieces or reproduce. In other words, they’ll give you some kind of indication of what systems they have in place OR how they fix errors.
Develop it more than a simple indication and be sure to get that in writing that they’ll amend or reproduce at their cost.
Writing, writing, writing
That’s why it’s critical to have everything in writing. Not just in writing but written on the sales contract.
What’s written in the sales contract should be duplicated in your purchase order. But the important location is the sales contract that’ll have the supplier’s stamp. The final quote file with all the relevant product details should be an annexed page to the sales contract.
Keep perspective once a mass production error comes to light
Is it an error or a difference?
I’m not making light of real mistakes but when an importer keeps things in perspective, then they’re able to clearly determine if something is a out-and-out error or a difference.
Many times when receiving feedback from quality inspection companies or by looking at photos, perspectives will be overly magnified or disproportionate.
It’s important to find out what exactly the error is.
In 15 years of China manufacturing, I’ve seen problems that were 10% big become magnified to 80% big (for example) because of lack of perspective via 3rd party comments, jpg images or whatever.
Things to consider when fixing mass production errors
Can the problem be fixed or do you need to completely reproduce?
It’s possible to get off balance on either side but determine if a modification is possible or if everything does indeed need to be scrapped.
Be mindful that when a supplier says they can fix something, it may lead to worse problems.
If the workers have to go back in to the packaging: what possible problems can that lead to? Damaged packing, dirty product, poor repackaging.
Hopefully they will never happen. But life is full of trials and tribulations and so is China manufacturing.
If timing is not an issue and a full modification is necessary, let the supplier know your timing parameters ie, simply telling them that you have time to fix instead of rushing bandaid fix product.
Many times when there is a required correction, the vendor will think the buyer wants to rush this out and will make it worse.
If timing is on your side, be stern and vigilant against rushing.
Still incorporate proper QC methods to check the amendment.
It may take some dialogue between you and the vendor
Aside from the “it won’t happen to me” is the thought that, “well, whatever happens, the supplier will have to fix it 100%”.
The client doesn’t feel like hashing out details and is indignant. Many times this is warranted but you still have to work through it regardless of your feelings.
Be prepared to have some chats with your vendor; recommended via skype or wechat and using the webcam.
If a face-to-face is required and you’re unable to travel to China, this is a reason you want to have a trusted source on the ground. You may need a mediator who’s able to look at the mass production and speak to the vendor on your behalf.
An emotional buyer loses support from the supplier
When you’re trying to get the situation solved, avoid ad hominem attacks and becoming emotional.
If the relationship with this vendor is already rocky, you want to walk a thin line with the supplier not pulling a cancelation card.
If they’re loss is too great or if you figuratively beat them over the head (regardless of how much they deserve it), they may threaten to take their ball and go home. In other words, they simply decide to stop the project.
Then you’ve got another mess on your hands, ie deposit recovery…that’s a toughie.
To state the obvious, the best case scenario is that the balance payment hasn’t been made. Then you can use not paying as a negotiating factor.
I’m a proponent of timely payment to your suppliers but don’t pay earlier than necessary.
Another good reason to establish longterm relationships with the same supplier is to work out favorable payment terms that protect against mass production errors (ie money in supplier’s hands and errors to solve).