Friday, December 17, 2010

Lasting First Impressions

Visit factories as often as you can; watch them run samples,
implement changes and show understanding of production requests.

When dealing with a factory be especially watchful when a change comes into play.  (This article is promo / gift industry specific but the concept holds true in any basic dealing with a factory)

 Scenario 1:  

You’re manufacturing promotional backpacks with an embroidered logo.  The factory made samples, you confirmed the samples and it’s time to go into mass production.

Right before mass production, you tell the factory, do everything exactly the same as the sample, but only change the logo from red to green.  Sounds simple enough, right?   


Although the request sounds simple enough; if I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it 100-times.  Even though you told them to change the color, the likelihood is very high, that mass production will be the same as the confirmed sample.   The factory will not implement the change and the color will still be the one you told them to change.

Solution:  Safer, especially if this is a first time order with the factory, to have them make a new sample or at most a swatch showing the logo in the new color.

Do not allow them to only verbally/email confirm a change and then expect them to do it in mass production. 

Scenario 2:

Samples are confirmed and it’s time to go into mass production.  Right before mass production, you send new artwork files;  all the same as the previous files, except some of the wording is different.  Perhaps a slogan on a notebook cover.  A minimal change… just changing the wording, some letters and going right into production, right? 
Supervising first-hand production runs


Solution:  Just like the above scenario, make them show you a new sample or at least a new print run of the new film. 

My time in China, working in manufacturing, I’ve seen multiple cases where customers give factories new info, a last minute request, a pre-mass production minimal change, but the factory still uses the old info.

Why does this happen?  Obviously I don’t know for each individual case as to “why” it happens but here are some general reasons.

Reason 1:  From the Chinese way of thinking;  if you didn’t want the first artwork/color/size, etc.. then you would not have ever given it to them. 

When you made the new change or request, it is not considered as something that absolutely must be done, but only an acceptable option.

No matter how exact you think you told them;  they don’t erase or file-away the previous information.  They still use it as referral and think it still holds some kind of importance. 

Telling them to forget the old instruction, wipe-clean from memory the old artwork, cancel that previous step, won’t work. 

Reason 2:  A physical sample from the factory’s point of view, will any day trump a written or verbal request.  So although the physical sample is confirmed except you verbally added on one more change, the factory will still adhere to the physical piece for production standards.

That is why in the two aforementioned solutions, I strongly suggest you have the factory show you physical proof of any change.

Reason 3:  Poor communication between your factory contact and the actual production line.  If you’re importing from abroad, you most likely are dealing with an English-speaking sales person with the factory.  Many times the sales people don’t have proper communication lines open with the production dept.   They don’t properly organize detail and get it over to the manager in charge of the workers or the machines.  Just a case of poor in-house communication.  

The production line is like a machine and they’re hungry to get your order in, out and get the next one going.  There’s not a whole lot of down time and clarity for info to be passed back and forth between sales and production departments. 

 The best case is that with each change you have the factory produce a completely new sample. 

Another phenomenon that happens often is when the factory makes one change to an already-confirmed item; they also alter other aspects in other areas. 

Instructing the factory, for example, to change the color of the logo, can result in a correct color change.  But look closely; they may have also changed the font! 

A change in one area can cause degrees of differences in other areas…. I have ideas how this happens, but perhaps that’s another blog.

In conclusion;  when developing a product or doing mass-production, do your best to avoid any changes after there is a confirmed sample.  And if changes come into play, if timing allows, your best option is to go back to square one….otherwise, after mass production, you’ll wish you had.    

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