5 Steps to lessen the risk of quality fades in production

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
“A very interesting blog…”  – A company in France

I just had an email from a customer yesterday who told me she was very happy with some samples she had received. These are handicraft products from a vendor we have been working with over the last eight months. My customer has exacting standards and it has not been easy to get to this point. But we have gotten there and it feels good.

Accordingly I wrote to my client as follows today:

I think half the battle is making sure your vendor can do product to your quality standards.   These are very intricate handicraft pieces made by hand and there is a lot of artistry involved. It is not easy to get people who have no concept of high-end product and who probably have never even been in a western style department store to make to your standards.  But you have won this battle and should feel good about that.”

I then added:

“The next battle is to make sure they can maintain these standards in production.  How to do that will need some discussion. “

I have written before about being lulled into complacency after receiving some outstanding samples from your China vendor.  So how can you ensure that a vendor will maintain those same standards in production that you see in the samples?  This is definitely one of the trickiest and most aggravating issues when sourcing in China.

The most obvious way to prevent quality fades from sample to production is to go to China yourself to supervise production.  Of course for many small business owners this is neither practical nor feasible because of the cost and time commitment. So often you have no choice but to rely on your vendor. Although this can be a very risky proposition there are quite a few steps you can take to make it more likely that your vendor will end up delivering what you have ordered.  Five of these steps are as follows.

1.) Begin a dialogue with your vendor about the nature of your business and how you see your partnership unfolding over the long-term. Let your vendor know that as your business grows and you become more confident in their abilty to supply you with quality product the orders will get bigger (hopefully this will be the case).  At the same time you have this discussion, you have to be aware that China vendors are notorious for being very short-sighted. Many want no more than to cash in on the order at hand and they have no interest when you talk about a long-term relationship. No matter how many 500K orders you dangle in front of them, their focus will be to cut costs and deliver a minimally acceptable product to you.  But you have to have this conversation nevertheless because, who knows, you may be with a vendor who truly values a long-term partnership. China manufacturing is changing and vendor’s attitudes are changing as well.

2.) You have to make it clear to vendors that if they do not maintain your quality standards there will be no second order. This message has to be delivered firmly but nicely.

3.) Make the vendor know that you have options. I found the aforementioned vendor at the Canton Fair on behalf of my client.  The vendor knows this, has met me and is probably aware that I can give my customer other options if she does not work out.  In fact, one of the worst things you can do in China sourcing is to let your vendor know that they are your only option. If you do that you are putting yourself in a very disadvantageous position. So line up other vendors while you are in production with your current vendor.

4.) Consider having a third-party inspect the order and make the vendor aware of your intentions.  Never give the vendor the idea that once they have an order in hand all they have to do is make it and that no one will show up to inspect it. Leave the possibility out there that someone will be visiting to inspect the order before it leaves China.

5.) Tell the vendor that you will be requesting TOP production samples and if those samples are substandard you may request to halt production. This should be in your sales contract as well.  Additionally, tell the vendor that you will not pay the air freight on any samples that are far off specs.

These are just five things you can do  But there are many more.

In short, you have to show vendors you care. Because only if you care, will they care.




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