In 80% of cases, importers do not spend enough time preparing the specifications of the products they want to make in China. They usually work on the basis of sample, but they forget about all the “details” (the bill of materials, the packaging, etc.).
What I tell them is that any grey area might be used by the factory to cut their costs, and that they need to define their requirements if they want to hold the factory accountable to them.
In certain cases, I noticed the opposite problem. A foreign company, which typically has been manufacturing their own products for some time, comes to China and tries to define EVERYTHING, including production processes.
This usually creates all sorts of issues. Chinese factories like to work their own way, to reduce the confusion and the “wasted” time that are created by any degree of customization.
For example, in the garment industry, some importers design the patterns and impose them to the manufacturer… which often changes them to “make production more efficient”. There is an impact of the final product, but most of the time the buyer finds out about it too late and has no option but to accept the shipment.
So the key, if you want to prepare appropriate specs for your China factory, is to understand their processes and to submit your ideas to get their feedback. It does not take that much time for you (when you come to China) or your representative on site. Quality assurance firms do this regularly for importers.
I’ll leave you with an absurd example, to drive my point home. I just read it in Switch–here is an extract from that excellent book:
The [US] Defense Department sought a supplier of chocolate-chip cookies for the troops and published a 20-page set of “milspecs,” detailed specifications that dictated, among other things, ingredients, cookie size, and baking process. These requirements led to outrageously high cookie prices because companies that actually understood how to produce lots of cookies efficiently–say, Keebler or Nabisco–would never bid on the job because some part of the milspecs inevitably conflicted with their standard way of doing things. Meanwhile, the contract did not even stipulate that the cookies taste good.
Anybody has a similar experience?