While my immediate reactions to these requests are to simply say no, I understand most people are holding these types of unrealistic expectations due to a lack of understanding of how China works. Often times importers don’t see what exactly goes into taking an idea, bringing it to reality, followed by a mass production, and shipped to be sold to end users.
In short, manufacturing anything from China is a long arduous process.
Here are some things to consider when sourcing and working with factories to get products produced:
During the Sourcing Phase:
- You are most likely on an opposing timezone so most communication can take 12 – 24 hours to a full course of engagement.
- In the early stages of sourcing, potential clients are not a factories first priority. While communication is an important factor in qualifying suppliers, don’t expect them to drop everything and devote all of their time to answer your questions.
- Suppliers in China get a lot of requests. It is not uncommon for a factory to receive over 100 new quotation requests everyday, so while you’re busy qualifying factories, they are often busy qualifying buyers. If you come across as a non-serious buyer or not educated in the product you intend to import, a supplier might brush you aside for an easier buyer.
- Answering questions is not always simple. Asking a factory “Can you add ….?” or “Is it possible to customize ….?” is not something easy to answer. First they need to talk with their engineer to see if it is possible. The engineer will have additional questions that the sales rep will need to ask you. This back and forth will take time, all while the above three points of timezone, priority and other requests are still an issue.
During the Sampling Phase:
- One production sample is not always good enough. If you’re focusing on the clock the entire time, and one sample comes back as less than adequate, it may prove to see if they supplier can produce a new sample before brushing them aside.
- In order to truly determine a qualified supplier, it is important to test samples from multiple sources. This alone can take time as you’ll have to wait for all suppliers to produce and ship samples to you prior to making a decision on a final supplier.
During the Production Phase
- Negotiating with a factory is not as simple as speaking with a sale representative. The sales rep who speaks English often times needs to forward their request to their manager, who forwards their request to the engineer and then the finance representative determines if they are financially capable of such request.
- The production phase alone can take anywhere from 14 – 65 days, and if the product has a customization the factory is unfamiliar with, it may take longer as they need to calibrate their machines and test their output.
- China is still a developing country. The power grid is often less than perfect in manufacturing towns, employee retention rate is often an issue for low paying jobs, and the training / hiring process can lead to unforeseen delays.
- Inspection and quality control often times requires productions to stop during inspection process. In the event goods come back revealing a failing grade, a full production could undergo additional negotiations before they need to be reworked and the goods need to be remade.
China is not a perfect place, and manufacturing is not a perfect science. While only a perfect storm would reveal all these potential delays to occur in a single production, understanding the truth that rushed expectations will leave every buyer dissatisfied is a required mentality in this industry.