If you source products from China or South-East Asia, you MUST require pre-production samples before production is launched. In some cases, it will be impossible, but the supplier should give you a clear explanation why if that’s the case.
In this post, I’ll explain why PP samples are the standard for production and how to assure their quality makes it into each mass-produced piece, too.
Important points to note about pre-production samples
I just read a recent article by David Dayton, which outlines the important points to keep in mind about pre-production samples.
1. Always ask for perfect pre-production samples
“We never place orders for products that have not been sampled correctly”
It seems like an obvious principle, but many importers do not follow it.
The buyer is in a hurry, it seems like the factory is just one step away from getting there (and promises that “it will be fine in production”)… And the buyer surrenders.
The problem is, by doing so you are not setting a clear standard. If it’s actually not feasible technically, the factory will never admit its responsibility.
And potential issues that would be uncovered on a fully functioning sample are left aside, for a later stage… When it costs much more to solve problems.
2. PP samples are the standard for production
We have the standards-are-too-high conversation all the time. But, of course they made the “Golden Sample” and we’re asking for that to be re-created in mass. Now they see the conflict of interests that the Golden Sample creates.
It is very common for factories to make a really nice sample that they can’t duplicate reliably in industrial quantities. Then they say “of course, this is bulk production, so it is not as nice as the PP sample”.
How to avoid the situation where factories can’t replicate PP sample quality in mass production?
Here are a few pointers:
1. Write down your tolerances
Once you have a perfect pre-production sample, write down your tolerances. Make the distinction between what absolutely has to be as nice as the sample, and what can be a little off. A good template for this is an inspection checklist.
2. Get your manufacturer’s feedback
Ask for the manufacturer’s feedback on these points. If you can’t be there, hire a service company to send someone on site. It is important to discuss this with factory technicians and managers, rather than salespeople or middlemen.
3. Put pressure on the factory
Send inspectors to make sure the standard and the tolerances are respected. Do not pay before you are confident everything is fine.
4. DON’T negotiate your standard
If a part of the goods can’t be reworked, just get it sorted out and refuse it. The manufacturer needs to understand that no exceptions will be made.
Any other tips for such situations? Let me know by commenting, please.
What to read or listen to next…
- Why Is A Pre-Production Sample So Important? [Podcast]
- How much should importers pay for pre-production samples?
- Reviewing samples in China to save time
- How to arrange reference samples for QC inspections?
- How to get approved samples in the hands of the inspector?
Brad Pritts says
These are all on target. I would add one further note- IF AT ALL POSSIBLE,
have the samples run using a production representative process at the production factory – I.e. if the product is to be cold headed, don’t accept a sample from a lathe or screw machine; if stamped, from hardened, production tools; etc. They must be made at the production factory.
They must use the right material, etc.
If it’s not possible (if, for example, the production stamping dies are still being developed), then you know that you as customer remain at risk. In this case you’ll need a follow-up check from the first (good!) pieces off the production tools.
Renaud Anjoran says
Thanks a lot for your contribution.
You are absolutely right. And if it’s impossible, try hard to negotiate a small pilot run before the rest of production.