How to follow the schedule of your China production
Many importers negotiate a shipment date (ETD) with their Chinese suppliers before orders are issued, and then fail to follow up on the production schedule.
I think they would avoid a lot of bad surprises if they asked for regular updates.
Here are a few tips, but first let's see what you want to avoid.
The danger of flying blind
Chinese suppliers know that asking for 3 weeks of delay is usually rejected. The purchaser might respond “if you ship that late, you’ll have to pay air freight”, or “in that case, the letter of credit won’t be valid anymore; the order is canceled”.
So what do savvy exporters do? They don’t tell reveal the situation clearly and in advance. They wait until 1 or 2 weeks before original ETD, and they announce a one-week delay “because the materials arrived late”. Then another 5 days “because of power shortages”. Then another 5 days “because we don’t have enough workers”. And so on, until production is three weeks behind schedule.
This process can be devastating for an importer who promised a delivery date to his domestic customers, and who has to keep postponing it.
How to avoid discovering delays at the last minute?
Before issuing an order, you should ask for the following milestones:
- Arrival of all materials/components (and, if relevant, inspection of these inputs)
- Start of bulk production
- Sending of production samples
- 20% of order is finished (and, if relevant, in-process inspection)
- 50% of order is finished
- 100% of order is packed (and, if relevant, final random inspection)
- Ex-factory date (this one will be known about one week before ETD)
- Shipment date (ETD)
Then, when you reach each milestone, you can ask your supplier whether it was achieved. If not, they should update all remaining dates.
Sending an inspector is a good solution to check the production status, in addition to verifying product quality.
Can you afford to do this?
If you place orders with many suppliers, you might not have time to follow all these dates. And if your orders are not very large, you might not want to bother your suppliers with so many updates.
In such cases, you can reduce the number of milestones.
For example: start of production, 20% of order completed, 100% of order packed, and shipment date.
The most important is to keep some visibility over the production schedule!
Photo credit: ASurroca