Repeat orders in China manufacturing still require vigilant control. Casualness from both sides influences the outcome for the negative; the burden of fault being on the supplier’s shoulders. Here’s some reasons why errors happen in repeat orders and what to look out for. 

The concept of “familiarity” in China

At the risk of getting too profound, I’m going to touch on a cultural aspect that bleeds over into repeat orders’ mass production.

In China, once a “relationship” is established, all requirements or demands on either party start to subside.

A friendly or business relationship is established and the 2 sides now have formed an understanding.

What’s not included in this is the concept that, “I’m going to continue to prove myself as a friend and partner. I’ll be vigilant for mistakes or areas in which I’m not upholding my duty. I’ll commit to always improving and looking for ways to better the relationship.”

What’s included in this concept is, “We’re friends / partners / close acquaintances. I’m not going to hold you to the fire if there are issues. And you certainly aren’t going to call me on the carpet if I’m not upholding my end of the bargain. If mistakes happen, they’re nobody’s fault, but more of an ethereal entity that forces its way into the equation. But it’s nobody’s fault. When it happens, we’ll discuss and figure out a win-win together”.

It’s “test minded” instead of performance minded

At one time, I was in charge of the hiring processes for the companies I started. It’s common in China for folks to give a whiz bang of an interview and really do a terrific job. Then once that next Monday started it was like “invasion of the body snatchers” and there was somebody else in their place.

You see, they had past the test.

They were in.

No need to further strive.

There’s strong images of this in the education system.

This same concept invades the supplier’s thinking in repeat orders.

It’s an old order, an old client, why worry?

Casualness from the supplier in repeat orders

Suppliers already tend to have a hyper confidence like mistakes cannot and will not happen on their watch. Then when it comes to repeat orders, this intensifies.

The supplier isn’t mindful of the issues that you worked through in the past order and that these issues still may very well require a close control.

The (somewhat) better service you received during the last production runs subsides because now they’re focusing on establishing another customer.

Lowering vigilance a few notches increases the risk of:

  • Info not being communicated properly from your sales person contact to the production line.
  • Poor internal quality control. The factory’s own QC isn’t that much to begin with. Whenever it’s a repeat order, casualness trumps vigilance. The casualness that can influence repeat orders, this leads to sloppy production.
  • Timing being messed up. Yeah it’s a repeat order, the quality was the same, but they seemed to have underestimated the number of days it would’ve taken to finish it. This will kill you in a time sensitive event or holiday promotion.
  • Because there is a new buyer placing a much larger order, they regulated you a sub-quality 3rd party vendor. After all, you’ll understand. You’re an old customer.

Repeat order but with slight changes

When you’re placing an order for the same item but making slight changes, you need to have large WATCH OUT flags and buzzers going off all over the place.

What to the client seems like a small change, to the supplier causes a redoing on a certain process; setting up a new production line, ordering something from a different vendor, etc…

Therefore, you need to have the mindset of reseting to square #1 on the changed process.

If it’s a changed color; insist on controlling that color like you did the 1st time. Samples sent to you for sign off.

If it’s a change of logo, don’t take it casually but still send the proper artwork, still insist to see samples and perform your own due diligence.

Are you changing the shipping terms? Don’t be relaxed with documentation and both sides being well aware of responsibilities. The difference can mean missed timing or stuck in port.

Considerations for Controlling Repeat Order

Buyer become relaxed and forget they’re still dealing with China, still dealing with offshore production and the issues that can arise.

  • Still insist on a regiment of control. Updates with visuals, supplier providing timely email reports.
  • Require physical samples for sign off. Saving a $200.00 FedEx package fee isn’t worth poor quality bulk goods. Don’t let the vendor talk you out of a physical sample.
  • Were there issues on the last orders that you had to overcome? Remember these and keep them at the forefront of your thinking and the sales contact thinking. Don’t assume all will be smooth the 2nd or 3rd time around. Don’t bring your own form of casualness to the order.
  • Don’t forego the 3rd party QC simply because it’s a repeat order.

Don’t feel like anything is mundane or old hat.

An inordinately relaxed client leads to a too-relaxed vendor.

In repeat orders, you don’t want to be too uptight or too relaxed.

Keep the right, balanced approach.