Product specifications: How to avoid misunderstandings and quality issues
Buying from China is quite a bit more complex than pointing out a few products from a supplier’s website and telling them to make the same items for you. Defining product quality in terms of technical product specifications (e.g. dimensions, materials and components) is critical when importing from China. Fredrik Gronkvist of Chinaimportal kindly explains why product specifications is the first, and often most important, step when importing from China.
Chinese manufacturers are accustomed to a “make to order” approach
Ever wondered why it takes 30 days to get the products readied, rather than just 3? I’ll explain why: by the time you’re placing your order, your products are yet to be manufactured. In fact, the raw materials and components may need to be purchased from the suppliers subcontractors.
Chinese manufacturers are accustomed to a “make to order” approach. This means that they don’t have on going mass production of “off shelf” products, but instead manufacture items based on the customers specifications. That said, Chinese manufacturers do indeed have reference products, as seen on B2B directories such as Alibaba and GlobalSources. Yet, these are references, and shall never be seen as catalogue products. Chinese manufacturers expect you to provide them with clear, and consistent product specifications, before production begins.
There’s no universal definition of “good quality”
Good quality means very different things to different people. What the production manager of a Chinese manufacturer considered to be “good quality”, may be very different from what you, and your customers, have in mind. Product quality is, and can be, entirely defined by its product specifications. This include materials, components, functions, dimensional tolerances and many other things that apply specifically to your product.
Chinese manufacturers are not mind readers, if you don’t provide your supplier with crystal clear product specifications, you are making it impossible for them to manufacture items according to your quality requirements.
Never let the supplier fill in the gaps
A product specification must be comprehensive and include everything that defines the products design, functions and durability. Nothing is too small and unimportant to be left out. In other words, take nothing for granted and never, ever, make the assumption that the “supplier should know”.
While most buyers do indeed understand that they must provide at least some specifications, they tend to forget that they need to be highly specific. If you only tell your supplier that they should use a blue fabric, for example, you may get any tone of blue. Instead, you shall provide a pantone color, to avoid forcing the supplier to fill in the gaps for you, by selecting the blue pantone they think you prefer.
And you: how important do you consider the product specifications?
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