On the Value of Spec Sheets When Manufacturing Overseas

When I give speeches on what it takes to successfully source product from a contract manufacturer, I always emphasize the following four things:

  1. Good manufacturer (due diligence)
  2. Good manufacturing agreement
  3. Good IP protection
  4. Good quality control

Years ago, my law firm’s international manufacturing lawyers drafted manufacturing agreements for 48 (!) different countries for a really sophisticated client with a really sophisticated in-house lawyer. During one of our conversations this lawyer emphasized the importance of the specifications sheet for his company and talked about how it had instructions on drafting spec sheets. I asked if he would send me those instructions for this blog. He did, and I am finally getting around to running it, below.

We typically draft our cross-border manufacturing agreements to incorporate our clients’ spec sheets (a/k/a data sheets) as an Exhibit to the manufacturing contracts. When it is not possible for our client to include the spec sheet with the contract, we often suggest they include it as part of their POs, which in turn are specified as being incorporated into the Manufacturing Agreements we draft. So when I lecture on the importance of having a good Manufacturing Agreement, that includes having a good spec sheet.

Note that the below spec sheet instructions are for one particular company and your requirements likely will vary enough from this company’s so as to make these instructions not perfect for you. But it should be a good start.

According to the instructions, all spec sheets should contain the following:

  1. Product description
  2. The SKU
  3. The specific materials for the product and the precise amount
  4. Product dimensions
  5. Product tolerances (if any)
  6. The Pantones (product colors)
  7. Testing requirements
  8. Price
  9. Order quantity
  10. Label specifications
  11. Packaging specifications
  12. Shipping specifications
  13. Special instructions
  14. Photographs of the product from multiple angles and with the dimensions indicated

The instructions also mandate listing “every appropriate detail not set forth above” and the requirement that everything be set out in “as much detail as possible” and “confirming with the manufacturer that you have not overlooked anything”and “that the manufacturer has everything it needs to know exactly what to manufacture.” In drafting your spec sheets, always remember that in many countries, if something is not in writing, for legal purposes, it essentially does not exist.

What do you think?