China 101: Sourcing from China Survival Guide (Part II)

This is the second part of a guest post by Renaud Anjouran, founder of Sofeast, a QC firm in China, and writer of Quality Inspection Tips blog, a must read blog if you are sourcing from China.
If you missed the first part of this article you may read it here.

China 101: Sourcing from China Survival Guide (tips 16 to 29)

III.Before any payment is made
16. Get pre-production samples that represent your exact requirements (in 90% of product categories, it is not a problem technically for the factory).

17. Ensure the product meets, or is designed to meet, your country´s safety standards.

18. Ensure the supplier knows what you expect in terms of packaging.

IV.If you are developing a new product with a Chinese manufacturer
19. Document product characteristics before approaching a manufacturer. Pay an engineer if the product is complex.

20. Document production processes if you are lucky enough to be in the factory while they are setting the machines up for sampling or a pilot run.

Be aware that if you decide to switch suppliers later on, you are not likely to have that information (points 19 and 20) unless you have taken the precaution of documenting it.

 V.Negotiate Reasonable Payment Terms
21. On T/T (Telegraphic Transfer, or bank wire)
This is he most common payment method. The standard terms are a 30% deposit before the components/materials are purchased, with the remaining 70% to be paid after the supplier faxes the bill of lading to the importer.

If special molds/tools need to be developped before pre-production sampling are approved, you will certainly be asked to pay a deposit accordingly. Make sure the supplier writes that these molds/tools are yours. If large sums are at stake, a lawyer can help you draft a contract.

22. Irrevocable L/C (Letter of Credit)
Try using an L/C with new suppliers (because it’s better not to wire a deposit that might get lost) or for large orders (because the bank fees are relatively low).

Bank fees are higher than a simple bank wire, but you are much better protected. Most serious exporters accept an L/C if you specify reasonable terms (don’t ask for 60+ days of credit).

It is always better to send the draft to your supplier for commenting, before the L/C is “opened” by your bank.

 VI.Quality Control
23. Control your product quality in the factory. Do not count on the factory’s own QC staff. Visit the Factory yourself, or appoint a third party inspection firm.

24. Inspect:
a) when the first finished products get off the lines (to catch issues early).

b) after 100% of the order is finished (to verify the average quality level, and to check packaging).

25. Do lab testing if neccessary. Take advantage of the inspections: pick up random samples at that time. It important not to let the supplier choose the samples by himself.

VII. Final Warnings
26. It is possible for an importer to sue a Chinese supplier successfully. But only in China.

27. The worst is to simply accept a supplier’s pro forma invoice. A slightly better solution is to issue a purchase order with your terms, and to get it chopped by the supplier. Yet this might not be enough if you want to keep the option to sue the supplier successfully.

28. The best solution is to work with a lawyer who is familiar with China’s business environment. He will draft a contract that addresses the major risks you should watch out for, and he will remove any ambiguity. Again, when buying from China, you need to be so detailed and clear that there is no room for interpretation.

29. Be sure to put this entire system in place before you start negotiating with new suppliers.
a) Tell them it is your company’s policy, and your boss/partner requires it.

b) They will be more likely to agree. If you mention a contract after you have spent days with them and they know you are in a hurry to produce, they will refuse.

What do you think? Would you like to share your tips?

You may read more about sourcing tips and negotiating with suppliers in the links below:

* 36 Tips on How to Deal or Negotiate with your Chinese Suppliers
* 21 Steps to Follow when Sourcing from China (part I)
* 21 Steps to Follow when Sourcing from China (part II)
* Sourcing from China: Who are the Happy Buyers?
* Do not Interrupt Me & 6 Reasons Why you Should Not Do It
* 4 Tips to Succeed in Times of Silence

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China 101: Sourcing from China Survival Guide (Part I)

This is another guest post prepared for the China 101 project.
This post has been written by Renaud Anjoran, who founded Sofeast, a QC firm in China in 2006, and has been writing advice for importers on his blog Quality Inspection Tips since 2009.
I would like to thank Renaud for his collaboration.

 China 101: Sourcing from China Survival Guide (Part I)

Thousands of new companies start importing from China every year, but they don’t know where to start and they tend to forget critical safety measures. Here is a “survival guide” that can help buyers eliminate 90% of the risks associated with China sourcing.

I.Finding a Suitable Supplier

1. Getting a nice sample does not mean a supplier can actually manufacture the product. It is only a basis for easy communication about your requirements.

2. Online directories (Alibaba, Global Sources…) and trade shows are only a starting point. Suppliers pay to be listed or to exhibit, and they are not rigorously screened.

3. Run a background check on the companies you shortlist. A “Business Credit Report” costs only 255 USD on Globis, and will help you spot the intermediaries that pretend to own a plant.

4. Check the factory. Look at the products they make, the processes they operate in-house, their other customers, etc.

5. Order a capacity audit, if you can´t visit the factory yourself. Every third-party inspection firm offers this service.

6. Get customer references, if possible in your country. Note that a manufacturer might refuse to tell you about their customers, and not always for bad reasons.

7. Do call those customers! You’d be surprised how often these references are fake… or these customers are actually unhappy!

8. Make sure the factory is familiar with your market´s regulatory standards. Ask a few questions, ask for relevant certificates and/or lab test reports.

9. Consider working with manufacturers of the right size. If your orders are small, very large manufacturers will probably quote high prices and not care about your orders.

10. Monitor small factories very closely. They often have no established management system. So either you trust the boss to personally look after your orders every day, or you keep a close eye on production.

11. Include a clause in your contract that prohibits subcontracting. Production might not take place in the factory you were shown, and in general product quality suffers greatly in these cases.

II.When drafting the contract

12. Clearly define your product, labeling, and packing requirements. Write a detailed specification sheet that leaves no room to interpretation.

13. Specify methods you will use for measuring and testing specifications.

14. Specify tolerances whenever applicable.

15. Specify penalties for non conformities. If you want the option to enforce this contract one day, make sure there is no room for interpretation on penalties.

Coming soon, Sourcing from China Survival Guide (part II), where we will read a lot more tips on:
-what to do before making any payments
-new product development
-payment terms
-quality control
-and some final warnings.

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21 Steps To Follow When Sourcing from China (Part II)

This is the second part of “21 Steps to follow when sourcing from China”, a guest post by Barbara Cisneros  who worked as Chief Representative in China for four year, mainly in the sourcing area.
You can read the first part here (steps 1 to 12)

by Barbara Cisneros

Once the production has started:

13. Do Quality Control, often.
Check several times. Go to the factory, even plan some “surprise” visits, so you can confirm that things are running properly, mainly in terms of quality and delivery times.

14. Do not relax – even with established suppliers.
Check every production run. Although you may have produced the same product several times, KEEP A CLOSE EYE on every single production run. DO NOT RELAX.

15. Make sure to inspect the product in the factory once production is completed.
I always inspected the product once the order was completed. Sometimes I would inspect myself at the factory, and other times, when in doubt, I would send random samples to our headquarters lab. Only if results were satisfactory, would I give the green light.

16. Do your quality control assessment again when the goods arrive at your home premises.

On Logistics:

17. Work with a reliable company.

18. Closely monitor the shipment / logistic process.
Be on top of the shipment, if you want to avoid unwanted delays and unexpected destination charges. If you do not have an export license, my advice is to use FOB conditions.

On relationship building:

19.Trust and relationship building is important for both sides.
Of course China works somehow different, but when doing long term business mutual trust and confidence will be important for both parties.

In our case, after one year of working together, we reached payment agreements with some suppliers that did not involve advance payments. Obviously, it gives you peace of mind in that fact that your payments will be done after the goods arrive at your premises.

20. Press them, but fulfil your own commitments.
It’s very important to build also a more “personal” relationship, but if they see you do not reach the committed volumes or payment terms they will back off.

A final observation, which should probably be the first one

21.Make sure it makes sense to source from China
The way things have developed lately, make sure the prices you find in China will fulfil your expectations. For some type of products, especially those that must be made according to more strict technical specifications, it may not be in your  interests any more. Take into account that in developed areas in China (the southeast mainly), the labour costs have increased by more than 10% on average per year in the last three years, and freight costs for 2012 are growing rapidly. It may be more in your interests to manufacture in other countries, or even in your own country (unless you are planning to enter the Chinese market).

What do you think?

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21 Steps To Follow When Sourcing From China (Part I)

This is a guest post by Barbara Cisneros who moved to China four years back to set up and manage a Representative Office in Shanghai. She is an outstanding professional and specially dear to me as she became a friend after I met her and interviewed her for this blog two years back, when I was just starting this journey.

by Barbara Cisneros

I’ve been working as Chief Representative in China for four year, mainly in the sourcing area. Since I was specialised in the same field and type of products, my main objective was to establish long-term suppliers in order to optimise the  cost / quality / delivery times of our products.

Some of the points that I will mention below may seem obvious, but from my own experience, and what I’ve seen others (small and medium enterprises) doing, the same mistakes are repeated over and over.

These are the tips I would give to anybody who starts sourcing from China:

Before your start sourcing

1. ALWAYS visit the factory.
Do not rely on the information on the internet. Even websites like Alibaba are not reliable enough when looking for suppliers. Sometimes a supplier is classified as a Golden Supplier for more than two years and when you visit the factory there is not much behind the online presence.
In order to find certain type of products the best way is to attend specific exhibitions.

When working on OEM projects where you want a product to be developed according to your specifications:
2. Prepare/ be ready with ALL required documents / specifications from the very beginning.

3. Check the production facilities in order to confirm that they produce what you expect.

4. Clarify and agree all technical aspects
Have a first meeting in order to make sure that you clarify and agree all the technical aspects of the product. Most of the times the standards and material specifications are different in China. Make sure you agree to use the ones that are equivalent / closest to what you need.

5. Do not assume that because they work in a specific field they are familiar with foreign specifications / nomenclature.

6. Do not expect them to be proactive.
You have to confirm that they have read and studied all your specifications. Do not expect them to act in a proactive way. Most of the time, if they have doubts they will follow their normal procedures and use the most common or cheaper materials, which may not be suitable for your product.

7. ASK and CONFIRM as many times as you think is needed.
This way you will avoid future “surprises”.

8. Be prepared to be FLEXIBLE.
For some materials/standards you may not find the exact equivalent that you need. Be prepared to be FLEXIBLE, although avoiding any degradation in quality. Discuss with them in order to reach an agreement, and provide them with different solutions. Flexibility is a must when dealing with Chinese factories.

9. Changes during the manufacturing process will lead to terrible headaches, including renegotiating prices.

10. Make sure all the PACKING information is included in the initial requirements.

11.Do no trust anybody saying “Yes, I can do it”.
When starting to produce a new product in China do not trust anyone who says “Yes, I can do it” – even if they are already your suppliers. Normally small / medium factories are specialised in one type of product / technology. For example, a factory that works with certain type of forged steel will not work with cast steel, although the products may have the same usage.

12. Consider using some suppliers as “traders”.
If you do not work with very large volumes, try to group your products with only a few suppliers. Sometimes they can work as a “trader” in some of the parts you need, getting a better offer than the one you may have obtained alone.

Coming soon “21 Steps to Follow When Sourcing from China. Part II”

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