Friday, July 15, 2011

It’s Like a Big Machine

A Chinese factory is a like a big machine.  Picture a gigantic steamroller that once you push the button, it mindlessly and harshly starts its path, regardless of what’s going on around it.  And once you get that big beast a’ started…it’s extremely hard to find the “off switch”.  Or better yet, it’s extremely hard to find the “let’s all stop for a minute and hold hands and sing kumbaya” switch.

Making Sure the "End-User" is Thrilled
with the Product is not this Lady's Top Concern
 "Jacob, Jacob…what in the blue blazes do you mean about singing kumbaya?"

I’m being a bit overboard there, but what I’m talking about is dilly-dallying and time wasting.  I’m talking about the need to shoot straight from the hip before your order goes in to production.   

I’m talking about when overseas buyers, whether importer, supplier, distributor, janitor, agent or 007 himself…whatever you label yourself as…when you are providing specs to your vendor, give them EVERYTHING they need. 

What I see is a large chunk of buyers giving too little of the important detail and too much of the stuff that doesn’t matter.

“Why rant, Jacob, having a bad day?”  No, my good pal Renaud Anjoran, quality and factory control extraordinaire from Quality Inspection Tips gave me “the muse” in one of his recent posts.  He’s got an awesome post of “no-no’s” that importers often do.  One that struck a nerve…

Forgetting to describe an essential product attribute, or even the entire packaging 

If you don’t specify your expectations in detail, a factory technician will take the decision for you, based (most probably) on cost savings. And you will not even be able to protest when you notice it.

So let’s go back to our lumbering, destructive steamroller..or better yet a runaway locomotive that’s moving at top speeds.   As the machine moves forward, some fast, some slow, but either way, it’s moving, the machine is not going to stop and ask you:

“Should I take a right or a left?”

“This flower bed is very beautiful, should I tippy-toe around it or just plow through it?”

“Do you want your pooch in or out of the doghouse that I’m going to demolish?”

It’s the same way with a Chinese factory.  The “start button” is usually the deposit payment or some sort of written signoff and once they start going…brother look out. 

If you didn’t confirm all colors, all specs, all sizes, all uses of every aspect of your order, like Renaud said, not confirming is the same as giving them free reign to do what they want. 

And their decision will usually fall on the side of “crushed flower bed”;  meaning a decision that you will not like.  It will be one that saves them cost, time, material, energy, whatever, but to their advantage.  

Before you start that machine, you need to spend time to EDUCATE your supplier on the product.  Not only hard specs but the soft-side of specs too.

The factory who’s got a ton of mouths to feed, timing to meet, workers to manage and problems of their own are not going to stop and ask:

“Are you sure this artwork is correct”?

“You mentioned many different sizes throughout various emails, which one did you final decide to use?”

“Is for children usage or adults?”

“Sure you take all the time you need to discuss with your brand, we’re going to shut all of this down, lose time, money and enjoy a Coke”. 

Just like the steamroller won’t stop and nitpick about it’s path, the factory is not going to stop and get detailed with you on specs that need to be confirmed before all systems are a-go.

And the factory has got “systems”: there is the sales office that deals with you or the trade company from whom you are really buying. There is the production line, there is the cutting line, the packing line….all sorts of “lines”, not to mention all the 3rd party vendors that are being used for the job

Once all these systems start huffing and puffing forward; how to stop it?  It’s a real pain and can possibly do more damage to your order than the importance of the change you actually want to make.  Stopping to make changes will create loss, more problems, more confusion…remember the rule of "lasting first impressions".    

“But”, you may indignantly say, “They should ask if they have questions”.


Why should the factory care about your small details when you didn’t seem to? 

Want to avoid problems?  Give the supplier what they need.  Otherwise, you gave them authorization to do what they want.

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