When you have spent time to find and verify the good suppliers, and decided to actually start sourcing from China, pls do remember an important process: Sampling. You will need to request samples and manage properly. In this article, I will share you some good practices.
1. Sample types
A. Prototype sample
After getting your design, before actually invest to cut moulds, it makes sense to make a prototype sample first. Usually, the sample is made by laser cutter, or by 3D printer.
B. Pre-production sample
Before starting mass production, it’s better to ask factory to make a few samples with actual moulds and machines. You can check the sample details, workmanship, specifications and much more. If the pre-production sample works well, you will be confident to approve mass production. In case it doesn’t meet some of your requirements, you may ask for adjustment to the moulds and remaking pre-production samples.
Pre-production sample is very important because it will be the standard for bulk production, especially if it’s a newly designed product, or if you are working with a new supplier.
C. Golden Sample
Golden sample is used for inspection reference. You can sign a good sample from pre-production samples you receive, and send to inspection company as reference for inspection.
When the inspection is going on, the golden sample will be used to check whether the bulk order products are made to the client’s expectations.
D. Testing Sample
Testing sample is normally for lab testing. It can be shipped to the lab or to you. The lab or your engineering department will test the sample for necessary safety, standard, compliance etc. Sometimes you may need to take several sets testing samples from the bulk cargo.
E. Marketing Sample
The marketing sample is used for taking photos and shooting videos and having copywriter creating marketing content. Then display vividly on your promotional material, posters, brochures, infographics, video, ads, official website or any other marketing channels.
F. Production Sample
When production starts, you can ask factory to send you a few samples to double check the quality, also, it is usually the good time to verify the packaging.
Production sample can help to avoid in time in case the vendor cuts corners. If it’s found earlier, instead of taking the unsatisfactory bulk products, you still have some time to demand the vendor to stop mass production and start to do necessary corrections.
2. Sample specifications
i). Product details
Have all product details written down on the sample order document. Make sure the vendor fully understands every detail of how you want the sample to be like.
ii). Sample price
Why do manufacturers charge sample cost (sometimes double the bulk price or even higher)?
Actual sampling cost is higher than product cost, the cost will cover raw material, labor cost, customization cost, etc. It takes extra time and effort to have workers create the sample separately.
In some cases, the supplier can’t tell whether you are a true importer or not, so, the vendor needs to get an incentive to build the sample for you, which would mostly be getting orders from you. If you don’t want to pay the sample cost, you do not look like a serious buyer, then the vendor will not be interested in spending time on you.
iii). Delivery Time
Keep in mind to confirm with the vendor about the sampling delivery time before placing your sample order. You don’t want to wait too long for the sample to come, especially when you need to have the sample done very soon for marketing purpose.
3. Shipping the samples
In most cases, samples are shipped by air. It can be shipped by the manufacturer’s freight forwarder or your own courier. Take a quick comparison between the vendor’s freight offer and your courier’s price.
4. Testing the samples
One of the core processes for getting a sample is to test it before you really get your products manufactured in China. You can send the sample to a lab (such as SGS) for compliance test, or show the sample to people around you or potential customers to see if the product will be marketable.
5. Managing the samples
1). Ask the vendor to label on the sample. Information can cover supplier company name, sample description, product specifications and so on.
2). Make a tracking record for samples. Update information like company name, product/label number, delivery date, waybill number, sample cost and shipping cost, etc.
3). Take photos (and videos when necessary) and collect necessary information.
4). Stock the samples properly by category or per your system so you can find them easily.