When you’re importing from China, chances are you are going to be faced with an urgent delivery time. 

Whether it’s the promotional product business and you’ve got a launch date or it’s the retail industry and the box store requires a certain date to stock the shelves, timing can and will be a super-important issue.

Here is a checklist to incorporate as part of your work routine and thought pattern.

Define your terms.

This is what will make or break the project.

When the factory quoted 30 days: 

-Does that mean from the time they receive your deposit?

-Does it include transportation time to port and making the closing date?

Know what processes are a must and must have proper time.

If printed beach towels require a certain drying process and you are hyper pushing on a fast delivery, guess what!?

The factory will have no qualms in skipping a required process in order to fulfill your delivery.

A cardinal rule is that if a buyer over stresses one point, the factory will comply and lose control of another critical point.

Decide if a rushed delivery is possible without compromising quality.

Money is the key to start the ignition.

Unless the deposit payment was made, you cannot expect the factory to to rock n’ roll on the the order and hold timing at the forefront of their thinking.

Payment is the key to start, not a PO (purchase order). The majority of suppliers, unless you have a longterm working relationship with them, will not start based on a PO. In fact, from the factory’s point of view, a PO issued by the buyer is generally of little importance.

The factory’s invoice is the document the factory views as the binding document and the payment puts it into effect

Is the factory waiting on anything from your side? 

You contact the factory to check on production status but the factory tells you they are still waiting on your confirmation of the samples or are still waiting on artwork. 

Make sure the factory reciprocates confirmation when you give final signoff to begin production…ie “confirm to me that you have started the mass production.”

If anything is coming over from a 3rd party; material vendor, outsourced processed? 

Your contact factory may be working around the clock to meet the target date, but one disinterested partner-factory can ruin the entire plan.  Know what’s coming in from the outside and contact them to control timing if necessary.

Have your contact factory be specific on dates.

You can ask your contact factory questions such as:

When is the material scheduled to arrive?

Confirm you have contacted the accessories vendor to make sure we’re on time.

When did the accessories vendor confirm the pieces to leave their factory? 

In dealing with Chinese vendors,  you want to be some what of a a properly squeaking wheel. Learn to strike the right balance without over or under doing.

When does the factory actually put “hand-to-plow” and start working on your order?

 Know when your goods are actually scheduled to be on the production line.  When your factory tells you 30 days production, 20 of that can be waiting to get on line.  Know what day the major processes are supposed to start and stop.

Don’t wait and casually contact the factory the day of; you want to contact them a week to 5 days prior.

“Mr. Chen, as per our schedule, you said the material was arriving in 2 days and then this Friday the factory will start the cutting and sewing process. Please confirm we are still on track.”

The inconvenient truth is, is that you have to stay in the factory’s thoughts and remind them of what has been confirmed. 

Urgent Delivery Time Checklist

What happens if a larger, more important buyer comes along? Is the factory still going to dedicate resources to your order?

Have your factory contact send you photos of the goods starting production and best case is, if possible, they express mail samples off the production line.

Balance payment.

You knew this was coming, you knew this delivery time was urgent.  Have the factory keep you updated on communication and production line images (photos, etc…).  If all is looking good and you’re confident, pay early!  Unless you are concerned about quality and need to hold off, you cannot harp about timing being urgent but not being just as urgent in making your payments.

The balance payment could be the dark horse in ruining the whole thing. You think the factory is releasing the goods to the shipping company, they think you are making the payment. This actually needs to be defined waaay up there at my first point.


Is your transportation agent ready?  Whether price terms are FOB or to-door, make sure you’ve got everything lined up and there is no down time.  Know when the closing date at the port is, know when the vessel sails and know when the goods have to be at the warehouse to sail on time.  I’ve seen multiple orders leave he factory on time, only to be caught by some inefficient shipping arrangement.

Make sure way in advance that your transportation agent and the factory have made contact.

DO NOT LEAVE this entire process up to the factory. They are a factory, not a freight forwarder,

In the factory’s mind, the logistical process is an additional “favor” to you (although they quoted it and confirmed to undertake the role).  They are not handling it with all guns blazing. Factories and freight forwarders can both be reactive instead of proactive in contacting one another. Neither party wants to pick up the ball and run with it.

Sound like a lot of work?  It is… importing from China and doing it right, isn’t Mickey Mouse business, it’s serious.  Too many importers want to place an order and then assume their supplier will do everything right.

It is your delivery time that’s urgent and you need to partner up with your supplier in controlling the timing, not just barking orders and wishing and hoping they will do it right.