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 about it.
I just read a recent article by David Dayton, which outlines the important points to keep in mind.
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 their 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. P-P 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 P-P sample”.
How to avoid this situation?
First, 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.
Second, 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 about this with factory technicians and managers, rather than salespeople or middlemen.
Third, 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.
Fourth, do not 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?