Overseas Manufacturing and Clearly Defined Product Specifications

The number of companies with product quality problems seems to be increasing exponentially as companies move their manufacturing from China. There are two reasons for this and one relatively easy and inexpensive solution.

The first reason for the increase in problems is that Chinese manufacturers care a lot less about giving good quality to a company that will be leaving it soon or is believed to be leaving soon. See How To Terminate Your China Supplier: Very Carefully. The second reason is because the new supplier — be it in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, or wherever — is a new supplier and it almost invariably takes time for a new supplier to understand exactly what it is it is to produce.

What is the solution to all this? A really good product specification sheet that is clearly incorporated into a truly enforceable and localized product manufacturing agreement. See Overseas Manufacturing Contracts (OEM, CM and ODM) and How to Avoid Problems When Manufacturing Overseas.

What though constitutes a really good product specification sheet? Above all else it should be one that is understood by the factory you wish to understand it. That means writing it clearly and oftentimes it makes sense to just flat out ask your factory if they have fully understood it. Most international factories have a good enough grasp of English so that it is fine for your product specification sheet to be in English, but if they don’t, then get it translated by someone who truly knows your language and the language of the factory and the sorts of specification terms common to your industry.

In terms of what should go into your product specification, it almost always makes sense not to assume anything from your factory and to go overboard in terms of your requirements. So for example, listing some industry specification is fine but you should not assume that your overseas factory actually knows those specifications because they very well may not. So go ahead and list it as a specification but then also list the particular specifications that make up that industry specification.

Generally, you are going to want to list all of the below, at minimum:

Materials. You may want to list the percentage/volume of each material.

  1. Size. This usually means all relevant dimensions and the volume.
  2. Components. You may want to provide separate specification sheets for each component.
  3. Colors. Don’t just tell them red; use something like the Pantone Matching System to make sure it is the exact color red you want.

If your factory will also be responsible for the packaging and boxing of your product, do the exact same thing with both of those as well.

Trust me when I say that if you do all of the above your odds of getting good product anywhere in the world will go way up.

What are you seeing out there?