Posts Tagged ‘quality control’

For all the Cows! (we are what they eat)

December 28th, 2011 No comments
Give him something to smile about

Give him something to smile about

Recently I wrote about a little tree cone I found in my Mengniu yoghurt and how it bugged me to the point of never wanting to buy that product again. Today I read about how Wang Xiaoshan, a columnist, published a microblog post calling for Web users to boycott all Mengniu products. This was because it was found in October of this year that some of Mengniu’s products were contaminated with over double the national permitted level of Aflatoxin M1. This substance is reported to cause severe liver damage and liver cancer.

How did this carcinogen get in the products?

Reports are formulating that cows were given Mildewed feed which caused the high levels of this toxin in the milk. If the levels were twice the acceptable amount then surely the feed is allowed to be somewhat mildewed (mouldy) anyway. If your animals eat crap, then why would you not expect the product from them to also be crap? Did no one hear of the adage, you are what you eat?

Read more…

That’s not a blueberry…

December 1st, 2011 1 comment

Mengniu Yoghurt, they certainly use all natural ingredients, I just hope it came from a tree above a blueberry bush…

Mengniu Yoghurt and Friends

My former favourite yoghurt (and friends)

Almost every morning on my way into work, I stop at my local Jingkelong (Chinese Supermarket Chain) to buy a Yoghurt. It’s usually a Blueberry one with real blueberries in because I am a great believer in the health benefits of Blueberries. I also am careful about which brand of Yogurt I buy since the melamine scandal and various food safety and quality scares. Now I know this is scandal was mainly related to powdered milk but after reading, one cannot be too careful with any processed food they buy.

So to make myself feel safer and more at ease with my purchase, I buy Mengniu brand which has taken the moral high ground during the melamine crisis and done very well out of it. However, this morning after taking several scoops of this tasty yoghurt I felt something slightly harder than the normal soft, skinned blueberries (shame, because the skin is the healthiest part!).

To my relief it wasn’t any insect or part of an animal but a small pine cone from a tree commonly found in China. Now of course you or I don’t expect to find this in our food but what does it mean for their quality or the size of particles they allow to go in their yoghurt? I am happy that it was something natural and not artificial or (part of) something else! Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking what else might have made its way into this mix.
Read more…

Chinese Factories: Samples, Samples, Samples

August 29th, 2011 No comments

When you order samples from a Chinese manufacturer at any stage, it goes without saying that you, as the customer, expect to see a close to final product with small exceptions that only mass production can achieve.

Very often a buyer will accept that a mass production item will/should look like the sample they received. This is a fair assumption but unfortunately, more often than not, this is not the case.

If the correct and detailed drawings are supplied from the beginning, this can eliminate further interpretation by the manufacturer. If you are developing a product straight from the factory the supplier holds a certain amount of creative control over the process. This often leads to the supplier telling you what can and can’t be done in their opinion, or based on what’s easier for them in the short-term.

In my opinion samples differ from the final product because of shortcuts and interpretation of the original design. It’s a lack of clarity and communication that is unfortunately common when dealing with Chinese suppliers, due largely to language and cultural barriers.

If you want to ensure that you are getting the product you approved and expect, it is an advantage to look for ways to be represented at the factory during this process. It’s very important to get design files and make sure that the drawings you have are adhered to at all times. It’s about eliminating as many possible avenues for interpretation as you can.

Every order from then on should be checked to make sure that the product remains as close to the original approved sample as possible.

Planning your China Order: Don’t miss your chance

August 2nd, 2011 No comments
Time waits for no man

Time waits for...

It is important to time and plan your orders right. If you place an order too late you may find yourself at the back of the queue for production and delivery and therefore miss your intended delivery date.

Seasonal items are a perfect example of this. Many Chinese factories don’t carry stock in anticipation of upcoming orders. They work on an order by order basis. This means that if you order too late, there may be a long queue of pending orders for production in front of you. This can seriously affect your intended delivery to market dates. In this case the old adage is true, ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

If it is a new product you intend on purchasing it’s advisable to start the research and product development as early as possible to give you enough time to make sure you have the product you need without any unwanted order urgency. This is especially true when talking about viewing and approving product samples. This is a vital step in any new product ordering and time involved can vary drastically depending on the item and factory. It is also important to consider the time and expense involved in delivering your sample from the factory to your country.

As a guideline, we would suggest for new products starting the search at least 1-2 months before you want to order them. If you are not sure when the peak production times for these items are, think about when your market needs them and deduct 3-4 months off that date.

A supporting guideline to remember is that it usually takes a normal factory 30-60 days to produce orders and another 30 days for transport. If you add in customs and further potential delivery issues, you can allow for a sensible total of 120 days from your order date before your products are ready to be distributed and sold.

There are likely many Chinese factories that can produce your item and their products will be of varying quality. However, if it is peak production time you may be tempted to go with a cheaper/smaller factory in China who promises a swifter delivery time. Make sure you check the quality of their facility and product. You can save time and money during this process by hiring a 3rd party manufacturing and QC consultancy to act on your behalf to ensure that your products will be produced to the standard you need and with the right factory.

A 3rd party manufacturing and QC consultancy company on the ground in China can also aid you to negotiate with a larger factory that has initially stated that they are too busy to deal with your order or they can find a factory of a similar quality that can do so. If there is a delivery date that must be met, they can also act on your behalf to pressure the factory on a daily basis to meet it.

It’s important to consider these points because when you need to reorder your item, you can know when to do this and be able to easily put this cost and time into your annual budget and plan. All the above can give your company better structure and smoother delivery to market for all your products.

Poll: What comes first when outsourcing to China? Tell us what YOU think!

July 21st, 2011 No comments



Chinese Factories: Is your factory outsourcing your order?

July 21st, 2011 No comments

On many occasions I have seen factories outsource total or part orders to other factories without the knowledge of their clients. As discussed in our previous article, is this an acceptable practice for you as the buyer?

If you have vetted a facility or had a factory approved for your organisation’s production, you most likely feel safe in the knowledge that your products will be manufactured there. You may believe you have a sense for the people involved in the manufacture of your product. However, if an order is outsourced to another facility without your knowledge, you have no idea of the people who are physically producing your order. The most important thing about the manufacture of your product is the knowledge that the people doing so know exactly what your requirements are. In your business, you manage the expectation of your clients so why shouldn’t your suppliers do the same?

We all know things get lost in translation and the more people involved in ‘Chinese Whispers’ the more chance your instructions will be misinterpreted. If you have received a final product that is very different to your production sample, there are high chances that an unknown element has been involved in the process. There are lots of clues that can tell you whether your supplier is outsourcing your order to another factory. The evidence is there to be discovered, you just need to know where to look, what to look for, and who to ask.

If you are curious as to whether this practice is occurring at one of your suppliers, it might be a good idea to get a 3rd party to investigate or at least use their expertise and experience to report to you what they think.

Factories in China: Production Samples and Final Products

July 14th, 2011 No comments

Why is it that we hear so many stories about the differences between approved production samples and the final bulk product?

I have heard so many excuses over the years blaming raw materials, real large scale production, ambient temperature, extra chemicals, original sample degradation over time, etc. It’s a real minefield and a drag on your resources to be embroiled in an argument about why your final products are nothing like the approved production samples. This is, of course a sign of a factory not in control of their purchasing or production. It is also a sign that you, as the customer are not fully in control too. An approved sample is an agreement between you and the manufacturer that they will produce that item for you in the quantities you require. If there are any changes from either side, it should be mutually agreed upon. There should be more than one approved sample produced so that more than one party can reference it. At least a minimum of one for the manufacturer and one for the buyer should be produced.

It would make sense to have representation at the manufacturing facility prior to the order being sent/delivered to check this sample against the mass produced product to determine any issues and discrepancies before they are shipped. As I have said before, to discover a fault or difference after acceptance of a delivery is often useless to the buyer and effort then needs to be spent on either refunding the items or sending them back. This rarely happens and many SME with substandard product are forced to sell at cheaper price, making a lower margin and releasing a poorer quality brand onto the market.
Most manufacturers of course don’t want to make these mistakes but when a purchasing or sales department member gets involved with your product, what might seem like a small change to them (link to cost saving raw materials) could end up being a crucial detail for your brand. You are the owner of your brand and product and you know it better than anyone else. If you have manufacturing documentation, and product specification clearly spelled out, then any deviation in the final product from that is deemed not suitable for you or your brand.
To have 3rd party representation on the ground in these facilities at the time of production, comparing your approved samples, checking materials and your product specifications can save you time, money and hassle in the future.
For more advice on managing your China sourcing and a free quotation, visit the ETP official website.

How to increase your influence over China manufacturers: Part 2

July 14th, 2011 No comments

Locking clients in with ‘special order’ items and MOQ stock purchase

A regular and effective business trick of Chinese manufacturers is to convince the purchaser that a material used is a ‘special’ one and needs to be ordered in advance and more often than not, the minimum order quantity (MOQ) is above your required amount, prompting them to explain that they need to order more, but they can use this on the next order.

It is also difficult for you to get the supplier information about this component and this helps the supplier ‘lock’ you into future business. If you need to look for another supplier, then the whole process of tracking down this ‘special’ order material begins again and the new supplier has an item they can use as leverage against you. At least this material will not appreciate in price, if you can afford to buy more than your order requirement. If the supplier buys it, you really have no idea how much is being used until the next time it is ordered and the price has risen yet again.

There are 2 different options the supplier normally presents you with:

1. You purchase a quantity to last a certain amount of orders – You bear the cost and are effectively locked in until it runs out.
2. The supplier purchases a quantity to last a certain amount of orders – You guarantee the supplier this business.
Both situations seem to satisfy the client whether you are financially constrained or not but actually they satisfy the supplier even more, with both eventualities leading to more business with them. A long and good working relationship is indeed an advantage between both parties however if these types of concessions are being made where you as the client are buying into a longer term contract with the supplier, you have to be convinced you are getting the best possible product out of them.

A 3rd party quality control service can, over the long term, assist you on a daily basis to maintain and increase the quality of your product locally.
For more information on dealing with your production in China, please visit the official ETP website.

Dealing with Chinese Factories – Can they produce your entire order in-house?

July 13th, 2011 No comments

Smaller Chinese factories commonly outsource orders that are too large or are stretching their capacity. These factories would generally not tell you this and so without proper representation on the ground you will most likely not know this.

The outsourced factory may be producing highly inferior quality to the standards that you thought you were getting, based on the initial provided samples. A factory may buy the whole order’s worth of raw materials and hire outsourced factories to fabricate it. There are a few reasons why they could be doing this – This may be as a cost saving measure. They may be trying to develop relationships or guanxi with another factory. They may not have the facilities in-house that they promised you. Or they may be bartering with your business to make use of additional factory facilities or machinery in the future.

Considering the above, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it important to know that the factory/supplier you are buying your products from manufacture your order elsewhere?

- Is it ok that your products are being made in a place you haven’t been told about or inspected before?

- If outsourced facilities seem to make the same quality products as per your order, does that make it ok that your products are being assembled in unknown locations?

- If completed order arrives at your destination and there is a marked difference in quality from your expectation that hasn’t been properly explained, the root cause could be an outsourced factory. Would your supplier tell you this? Wouldn’t you want to know this information?

If any of the answers to the above questions make you feel uncertain about the standards of your production in China, having a 3rd party representative on the ground can assist you. Inspecting the factory and the above aspects can help you get a firmer idea of what is really going on, allowing you to make more informed decisions.
Visit the official ETP website for more information on sourcing products in China.

Dealing with Chinese Factories: Protecting your IPR – Basics

July 12th, 2011 No comments

Protecting your IPR with small and large factories alike is always an issue in China. You can be assured that most of these factories only do business with foreign entities and foreign markets but a sample of your product will more than likely end up in their showroom as an example of their work.

There are no strong legal frameworks as yet in China to protect your brand from being picked up by others and produced by the factory for sale in other territories and markets. We have all heard stories of similar SME produced products being sold under a different brand in another country unbeknownst to the original purchaser/customer. It is your brand, your design and it should remain in your hands which territories your designs and products go to. You need to stay in control of all relevant production documentation in order to prevent this.

A good working relationship with the production facility can help build trust and confidence. However there is still nothing stopping your product from ‘falling off the back of a truck’ or leaving through the back door. In this case, the saying ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’ is untrue. You want to be in control of your product and brand development and it’s no-one else’s place to take your designs.

As mentioned in previous articles there is no strong legal framework yet in China to protect you from copyright infringement, especially if it is a new market product. Getting components made in several different places and assembled in another is a solution many adopt but this can get very expensive.

An NDA doesn’t hold strong between an International client and a Chinese supplier but having one certainly doesn’t hurt. Having a 3rd party representing you on the ground in China looking out for your product and brand, applying pressure on the manufacturer and supplier to keep your product trade secrets under wraps can help eliminate and reduce the chances of copyright infringement.

For more information on protecting your brand and products, visit our official website for a free sourcing and IPR protection quote.