In continuation to my last post, spotlighting the dangers of low quantity orders in China manufacturing; here is the silver lining, the more solution-oriented side of things.

6 ways to better navigate lower quantity runs. 

With these 6 suggestions or even just 6 characteristics of the order (6 pieces of experience that I’ve seen work), it will make the bitter pill of low quantity an easier pill to swallow.

1-  Less Customization

Less, meaning an item with as little customizing or personalization as possible. When doing a low quantity run, the buyer has to pick their battles on customization requirements.

A printed logo, yes.

But insisting too heavily on custom pantone #’s, dyeing thread or even changing molds, gets your minimum order request into a high-effort realm.

That’s fine; you have every right to request exactness and specifics. But the more exact and specific, the heavier control that’s required. And heavy control is not something low quantity orders usually receive from Chinese suppliers.

2-  An Existing Physical Sample

Is there an existing piece you can rapidly express over to the supplier?

With an existing sample, you can ask the supplier to efficiently quote, make counter samples and then move right in to production.

This makes it easier for the supplier to gauge the effort that’s involved.

Whenever you start from scratch and require the supplier to submit their interpretation of initial samples, the more friction that is involved in the supplier willingly quoting a low volume order quantity and accurately manufacturing the job.

Do you see how this point is closely tied to point #1, less customization?

3- Give the Supplier Everything Upfront / Be Ready!

A lower quantity order goes better when there is less back-and-forth. You want to avoid the factory regretting they took the order (a regretful factory is a factory that is not highly attentive to quality).

On a smaller volume run, don’t make the factory email you having to ask “What do you mean by this? Clarify what you mean by that. We are still waiting on this.”

For low quantity orders, the more time the factory has to spend to push you to provide what should be provided, the more energy they are spending and therefore the EVEN LESS money they are making on the job.

Even for larger orders, I recommend buyers to be prompt with letting information flow. How much more prompt should buyers be for orders the factory does not really want in the first place?!

If the order is important, give the supplier what they need.

4-  Avoid Long Confirmation Time and Down Time

For a low quantity order, avoid a long pause between quoting, confirmations and mass production.

The longer time in between each key phase, the higher the possibility of:

  • A pre-confirmed condition changing by the time production is ready to start. The material vendor did have that color in stock, now they don’t…..should’ve rock n’ rolled 2 weeks back – that sort of thing. Don’t dare ask, “why did the factory not tell me?!?”
  • The factory moving on to larger orders and now they will not even take the order. You’ve been waiting 2 weeks for your client to sign-off, they finally do and now the factory will not answer your emails.
  • Junk quality. You finally confirm, the factory has been waiting to get you out of their hair, they run the machines, it’s done, get out of here. There is 0 motivation from the factory at that stage.
  • The goal for a low-quantity order is that you want to get it in the factory, on the production line, confirm the quality and get out the door.

    If there must be a down time before sign off; check back over your pre-confirmed conditions and keep your communication open with your China supplier, letting them know what’s going on.

    5. Payment
    The bitter pill of a low quantity order is easier to swallow if there’s a quick payment to wash it down with.
    A quick deposit and of course a timely balance payment is away for a smaller, fussy client to gain favor with the China factory. 
    6- Professionalism
    Professionalism, especially in cross-cultural business, goes a long way.
    Nothing is worse than when a supplier graciously takes on a small order, from a client they have no real relationship with…but the client acts like they are ordering 10 containers!
    One way to motivate the supplier to treat the business carefully is by RECOGNIZING it’s a smaller order and by recognizing that the supplier is helping you out.
    It would only help to encourage your vendor and say things such as:
    “I appreciate you taking on this project and staying motivated. My goal will be to use this small order to bring more business to your company. So let us make sure we work together to achieve good quality and a timely completion”
    Of course, I’m assuming that if you say this, you will mean it.
    You see, on the manufacturing side of things, no matter how much the supplier tells you they “do low quantity orders” or no matter how much they tout, “low MOQs!”, the truth is, it’s not the supplier or the actual manufacturing facility’s ideal business.
    The supplier looks at it as way to bring in new business or keep current business content.

    And from a manufacturing side of things, the lower quantity orders are harder to control.

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