We’ve been extremely busy both before and after the CNY break. As we get back into factories to do QC and project management some factories are more helpful than others scheduling visits. I’m sure there are a hundred versions of “we’re not ready for you just yet.” These are just a few of the responses that we’ve heard from factories this last week or so.
“There really isn’t anything new to see this week.”
“Don’t worry, we’re doing it just like you asked/last time.”
“Maybe you should come next week to see finished product.”
“All of our staff have not returned from holiday yet.”
Regardless of the words used, my experience tells me that there are really only a few reasons that you can’t go into a factory to see your product for a scheduled QC visit (or any other reason):
1. They are not as far along as they should be.
2. They are not actually making the product.
3. They don’t want you to see how some part of the process is done.
4. They don’t want you to reject product or change processes.
5. They are busy and have schedule legitimate appointments with others on your requested day.
6. They are closed (no power?), have repairs/inspections/other issues that would not allow you to come see product on your requested day.
Maybe there are others. But the point really is this: either there is product for you to see or they are booked and there will be product to see within 24 hours of your requested date. Yes you should be understanding of legitimate conflicts, but you’re paying for it. Unless they’ve contracted different standards with you before the order was started you should be able to see it anytime you want (within reason, not 3AM Sunday morning “anytime you want”).
In defense of busy suppliers, maybe there really isn’t anything different/new from last time. But the point of QC isn’t “what’s new” as much as it is a confirmation that everything is still the same (quality) level as last time it was checked. IP (In Process) QC already assumes that product isn’t finished anyway, right? So just keep pressing to get into the factory as often as you want.
Side Note: IPQC does NOT mean one day of final QC on the same day as container loading. I’m constantly reminding buyers that QC is not for just finished goods—it’s also for processes. What good is QC on finished product if you can’t reject it or they won’t replace it or you’re too late to have it re-done?
All but the scheduling conflict should make you worry. Not freak out, but certainly worry and get back into the factory as soon as possible for new dates.
Specifically, if the supplier is late and not telling you you’re either going to get bad product (rush job), someone’s going to pay for airfreight, or both. It’s much harder for you to reject things if you’re up against a deadline or when production is completed and factories know this. They may just be busy but don’t discount the reality of them delaying your order because of “better” (more profit) projects or the very common belief that you can’t do much about it.
If they are outsourcing your project and not telling you then you may have a major problem on your hands. The big question is “can you do QC at the other factory or not?” If the answer is anything less than “Yes! Anytime you want” then you certainly are going to have issues. One of the dirty little secret of Chinese business is not that projects are outsourced but that they are outsourced to “friends” (sub suppliers) that would be offended if a QC was sent in by the original factory. We’ve negotiated special deals with factories so that we can send in our own people for other projects just so that the factory doesn’t offend their friends/sub suppliers.
Often times there are real issues that the factory can’t control like laborers not returning on time, rolling blackouts, accidents, etc. But in the very least you need to get new schedules. And it should be the factory that offers solutions to make up for lost time (since you’ve signed a contract and probably have ship dates that you have to meet). You can be flexible, but outside of “acts of god” you can reasonably expect the factory to be responsible to meet dates or make other arrangements for you.
To eliminate as much of this rigmarole, be prepared to roll with the punches, plan extra time into your schedule before you order and of course, spend as much time as possible in the factory.