Getting perfection out of your China vendors

I had an email from a prospective client this morning. She writes:

“My main concern is quality control, what’s the guarantee the factory will do it right? I have been importing our ( product name)  for the last 7 years and I never had an order come in perfect.”

My advice to her was as follows:

It is very difficult to get perfection out of your China vendors and you need to have more realistic expectations to begin with.  You will always get some bad product  out of China and so the goal should not be to demand perfection but  to manage your orders so that you greatly reduce the number of defects and product you cannot pass onto your customers.   If you can do this you will find that you can fulfill your orders, grow your business and then you will  be in a better position to work with your vendor on quality as the volume of your orders increased.

 There are 3 keys to getting good product out of China as follows:

1.) The first key is to find vendors who can do your product in the first place. Certain vendors are capable of doing only certain products.  Even with apparel the technical limitations are many.  I think it is always a good idea to shop your product around to see who can come up with a good, near perfect sample. If they can make the sample to your specs they can make production to your specs.  If you have problems with samples, then you will have problems in production. Vendors always say they will “correct” something in production but in fact it does not often happen.  So you need to spend some time to find a FTY that can give you a more or less “perfect” sample and then you “manage” them during production so that they do it right.  It is that simple.

2.) Make sure you find a vendor who communicates well and who you feel is genuinely interested in your business. This takes time to gauge but it is worth the extra time to find a good vendor.  Just remember when you have problems you will need good communication to troubleshoot them.   There is nothing more frustrating than sending a vendor an email and waiting a week to get a reply.  When you have a fast-approaching ship date and a quality concern you do not have the luxury of time.

3.) Visit your vendors.  The message this sends to your vendors is that you care about your business. If you never go to China to inspect production, the message you send is that you don’t care. I don’t know if you have been to China but if you have not and are just relying on agents to deliver good product to you there in Florida, then that is a very big part of the problems you are having now.

In short, you really can’t expect to get a perfect order out of China (unless it is a very small, non design-driven product and semi- automated order) but there are things you can do to ensure that your China vendors deliver product to you that both you and your customers will be happy with.