Product sourcing: The problem with samples
If you require samples from an overseas manufacturer, there are some important things you need to know to reduce the risk of problems.
Samples can be hit and miss
When arranging samples from an overseas manufacturer, common sense would dictate that the manufacturer would want to show the best quality sample they can, in order to satisfy their customer.
Surely, it makes sense for them to make a big effort to show the customer what they can do. Right?
Unfortunately, samples can be an area of hit and miss, in both a positive and negative way.
Samples are not a priority
Many manufacturers see making samples as an afterthought or an inconvenience rather than an opportunity to showcase their product quality.
Also, it should be noted that in most cases, samples are made by separate people than those who make the mass produced product. These people are usually the engineers or those who should have the necessary skills to implement the requested product. (It is important to stress here that every specific detail of the required product should have been provided, to ensure the sample is made in the way intended.)
"The sample is generally handmade as it is done separately from the production lines. This is where quality can be an issue."
It can be the case where a handmade product (sample) may not be as good in quality as the mass produced product. A simple example would be something like stitching. If something is being stitched by hand, it won’t normally be as “clean” as you would get from a machine.
It can be these little things that can make a difference.
Samples are often required urgently and orders are often urgent. This means the quicker the sample is done, the sooner the buyer can have the goods made, and the sooner the supplier can get their order. This is where corners can be cut.
- Explain clearly what is required
- Allow enough time for the sample to be completed properly.An example might be where a sample is ruined because a print wasn’t allowed enough time to dry, or something like a stoneware cup wasn’t given enough time to set properly.
- Don’t automatically assume the sample will be a representation of the mass produced product (better or worse). In my experience, it mostly is, but every sample received needs a thorough once over.
- Samples cost money. Factories get asked for samples regularly and if they need to be made specially, there is a cost. If a supplier looks to profit from a sample, I would be wary, but I think paying for a sample or courier costs is reasonable.
And finally, some suppliers will ask you to place an order at the time of arranging a sample. My advice would be to satisfy yourself with the quality of the samples and supplier before placing an order. Once you put down a deposit, if you then start to have doubts, it can be very difficult to get the money back if you decide not to proceed.
What are your experiences with manufacturer samples?