Don’t let your guard down after you get a good sample.

One thing to watch out for when you source in China is to be lulled into a sense of security or complacency when you receive a good sample from your China vendor. Don’t get me wrong. A good sample goes a long way in establishing that your vendor can do your product. There are probably many vendors who cannot.

But making one sample is a lot different than making production for these reasons:

1.) Most vendors have a sample room where they specifically make samples for customers. In other words, your samples received a lot of individual attention whereas in production machines, or less qualified artisans, will do the work and there will be less monitoring of production.

2.) The people who make samples are generally more skilled than the people who make production. I have seen this many times. I once visited a factory and the sample maker was one of most talented individuals in the factory, whereas production was farmed out to local villagers of varying capabilities. And this is how cottage industry in China works.

3.) There are issues that come up in mass production that will not come up in sample production. For example dyes. In mass production dyes are very hard to control sometimes and you may have a wide variance in production lots. Getting dyes to be consistent sometimes takes a lot of supervision on the part of the factory. Making a dye for a sample is generally not a problem.

4.) Once you approve a sample, vendors will sometimes take liberties to cut costs. You may approve a sample and once you do the vendor will start looking for cheaper alternatives.

Still, as I said, a good sample is a very good start. Because you know the vendor can do what you want. But when you receive a good sample, your thought should be “, they can do it.” It should not be |”they have done it.” And the process then is working with your vendor to drill home the point, time and time again, that production needs to be as close to the approved sample as possible, if not identical to it. This point is even worth getting on plane and going to China to deliver yourself.

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