Your time management has a bearing on your product quality and order success. In China sourcing, like many things in life, there aren’t many disconnected threads taking place in isolation. Most concepts are interwind and interrelated. Time management is no exception.

Possible negatives from time management lapses

  • Causes a supplier to grow cold.  A cold supplier can be a careless supplier. Thus quality takes a hit.
  • Late confirmations cause the supplier to go rogue and confirm things on their own. Thus they take incorrect paths, usually the cheapest and easiest.
  • Your own time management failures cause lags in hitting timing points. Delayed 3rd party QC visits and delays getting to the port on time.
  • Tips to combat time management lapses

    Answer emails in a timely fashion

    Even if a quick note.

    Also included in answering emails in a timely fashion it’s understood that you are reading your emails. If you tackled your messages in a timely manner, you can tackle quality discrepancies in a timely manner.

    You see, each of your supplier’s emails, if you read them carefully, you are able to discern certain things. Not absolutely, mind you, but from their wording you can see if they’re understanding concepts correctly, are on the right path or if they’re leaning towards a wrong direction.

    Quick example: in the development stages, you were vying between 2 materials, the polyester or the nylon. You eventually confirmed the nylon. In a supplier email, from a week later, they mention something about the polyester. If you see this same day, you can say, “hey, hey, why are you talking polyester, we confirmed nylon?”. If you see this 2 weeks later, you may have a much larger issue that could’ve been caught.

    …make sense?

    Even the best of vendors can cool off on a project. Factories put their focus towards other projects and they become stretched thin.

    Lack of response, subconsciously causes a casualness in your vendor’s mind. They think what was once important must have cooled down.

    If it’s not important to the buyer any longer, why should it be important to us?

    Make the most of waking hours

    At the risk of stating the obvious, try to coordinate with your vendor to work when you work and also try to work when they work.

    A buyer in California sends an email at 11am PST asking for an urgent response. But it’s 2am in China. They will not give you an urgent response at 2am…just saying.

    Also, since you have to make the most of your time, avoid sending a “yes or no” question when something’s a hot topic.

    Your intention is that the supplier doesn’t give you just a “yes or no” but gives you a full update with scenarios and options. But realistically, if you ask a “yes or no” question, they’re only going to give you a 1-word or 1-phrase response. You’re none the wiser.

    Then you end up playing email ping pong, 1 day, 1 question, 1 day, 1 answer, and you spend 4 days doing what should’ve taken place in 1 minute.

    Instead of casually sending questions over email, ask your supplier to schedule a time with you when you can chat on WeChat or Skype.

    Or if chat services are not your thing, you may need to roll out of bed early and handle email.

    Ask your supplier the best time they can be available to handle messages. Most suppliers seem to handle the meat of their email messages from around China’s 4pm to 6pm. If a hot project is ongoing, ask your supplier to meet you halfway and stay awake or available until your mid morning.

    Include key detail…be thorough in communication

    Don’t over cram your inquiries and emails with info, but do include detail in your China sourcing inquiries. When key detail isn’t included, it causes the email pingpong I referred to. You should’t lose a day because your supplier had to ask you something as basic as “expected order quantity”.

    You may think they should just quote and give you quantity scale pricing options.

    My suggestion is to use that same mental energy you used to form that assumption and instead, just give them the expected order quantity.

    Inquiries are definitely going to require back-and-forth, but endeavor to give the key detail from the beginning.

    You cannot rely on your sales contact to be a personal assistant

    In other words, your sales contact, regardless of how helpful they are, may not be on top of reminding you certain immoveable dates. The primary purpose of your sales contact isn’t to be an assistant.

    It would be great if they’d come to you and say things such as, “If we do not confirm the samples by this date, then we will not be able to proceed and hit the sailing date”.

    That’s why many delays seem to come out of the blue to the buyer. They assumed everything remained on the confirmed path, not realizing that every day delay meant more than they thought.

    Contact 3rd parties waaaaay in advance

    Don’t grow complacent in scheduling product testing or 3rd party QC visits. Do this in advance.

    Scheduling your QC company at the last minute means them arriving to the factory after goods are fully packed. The QC sort of misses the opportune time to see everything; factory workers have to go back into the product, potentially soiling or dirtying the item.

    Contacting your logistics company at the last minute? A plethora of problems when it comes to timing are possible. From late booking, missing opportune sailing date, last minute arrivals to port can cause surprise inspections… the list goes on and on.

    Establish routine in your China sourcing and order control administrational work. Either you or the people under you need to let these aspects (above) become 2nd nature. This way, the focus is on the product, no late confirmations or late payments.