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Five common complaints about manufactured goods from China

It can be difficult or frustrating when things go wrong. Here are the 5 common complaints about manufactured goods from China and how you can protect yourself against them.

Vaughn Cook RockWell Window Wells
Niclas Bengtson
October 30, 2019

There are many advantages of manufacturing in low-cost regions such as China, as several of our previous blogs have elaborated upon. (See: What & how you can outsource to lower manufacturing costs and The proven guide to finding a manufacturer in China).  

In this blog, however, I’d like to talk a little about one disadvantage: When things go wrong, it can be difficult or frustrating to fix them because your supplier is based in another country and time zone. In fact, a simple Google search throws up a wide range of complaints about China suppliers or manufacturers by importers across the world.

In this blog, we list the five top common complaints against Chinese manufacturers (according to our experience on the ground), and how you – as the customer – can protect yourself against them.

1. Production is different from samples.

Elsewhere in this blog, we had cautioned businesses who manufacture in China to beware of the golden sample. This refers to the wonderful sample a Chinese factory may send you that is meant to be the benchmark against which the rest of your products are measured to ensure quality control.

A frequent complaint among those who import goods and components from China is that the mass produced product often does not match the sample.

This is often because of several reasons:

·      It may not have been made in the same way.

·      It may not have been made using the same material.

·      It may not have been made by the same factory (if you are really unlucky).

So how can customers hedge against it?

This is what we, at Sourcing Allies, do.

When a sample part is approved, we keep a few pieces from the approved batch in our office. When mass production starts, if we suspect any deviation in quality, we refer to these samples, bring any problems to the attention of the manufacturer and ask them to fix them. One of us at Sourcing Allies, China, is also stationed at the factory to ensure that it manufactures to the standard that was delivered in the sample.

2. Supplier does not ship goods on time.

This can be a major stress factor for western businesses especially because it can lead to financial losses as well as lost customers who are upset that you haven’t stuck to the delivery date you promised them.

In our experience, delivery delays are most likely to be related to lead times of parts or processes – such as packaging, finishing, coating – that your main supplier has sub-contracted to another party.

Do remember that anything that is not fully under the control of your main supplier are points where delays could happen. Perhaps your factory can machine your parts on time but it has sub-contracted the polishing and the polishing factory cannot finish the product as quickly as they are being produced. Both you and your main supplier are powerless to change that as you do not have control over the polishing factory’s production plan.

The way around this is for you to be aware and add a few days onto your lead time to compensate for any possible delays down the line. This is particularly important if your product has complicated tooling, special surface finish specifications or any special coatings.

It is also always better if you know at the very beginning how exactly the factory will manufacture your product, and whether any processes will be sub-contracted. All this information will help you make better decisions that allow you to hedge against possible delays.

3. Price changes after sample production

It is not unusual for Chinese factories to ask for slightly higher prices once sample production has been completed successfully. This is because they usually quote low prices to get your business. Factories might also revise prices upwards if there are some tight tolerances or special specifications on your product.

Before signing on a supplier, it is best to anticipate this and factor it in when calculating your profit. It is also vital that you clearly communicate all areas of your product details to the factory from the start to prevent them from turning around later to say: “Oh you didn’t mention each part must be packed separately in poly bags, that’s 0.5 RMB extra per part”.

4. Production quality is not stable

When the quality of the product is inconsistent across batches, it can be very frustrating for importers because this could lead to delays and financial losses too.

You must first find the cause of the instability. It could be due to a process problem, a material issue, or just that the factory has not clearly understood your final specifications. All these problems can be resolved by improved or modified processes or clearer communication.

Additionally, adding more quality control steps or people and documentation always makes a positive difference to the quality of your product and its consistency across batches. This is why you must be meticulous in drawing up your specifications and ensure that you communicate every aspect of it clearly to your supplier (which we do for our clients).

5. Don’t know who to contact for any given issue

One of the drawbacks of manufacturing in a facility halfway across the world from you is that it can be difficult to pin down someone when you need support.

You can avoid this if you insist on having one point of contact while negotiating your manufacturing requirements, whether you are dealing with the factory or a trading company in China.

It should be made clear very early on who your contact person in the Chinese company is. Just having one such person is not enough either. You also need to ensure that this person knows what you are talking about – that they understand your requirements and all the technical points you are trying to get across, and are also in a position to raise these issues with their colleagues at the factory.


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