Trust, But Verify

“Yi dian dian” is a Chinese expression meaning “a little bit”, which you often hear from Chinese manufacturers. I have heard this phrase used often during my working years as a sourcing agent for an U.S. importer.

Once, I was told to source a Reacher (to pick up trash) that matched the requirements needed by the client. I did my normal investigations online for factories that produced this type of product and then visited several factories in order to locate the most suitable supplier. Finally, I successfully located a supplier that looked decent and seemed to fit the bill. It was a smaller factory containing an injection molding room, an assembly room and warehouse that all looked very clean and organized. The work flow was efficiently designed, the workers collaborated well and it had an “honest” feel about it. Of course, the most important thing was the price and that their quotation seemed fair. After a few questions and explanations, they fully understood my requirements and began to work on some samples. A few days later, the samples were received and looked nice. I forwarded the sample to U.S. office and soon got a confirmation for the order which I then placed.

Even though everything about the factory seemed right on my initial visit, I have been in this business for some time and I know a follow up visit would be in order. I stopped by shortly after they started mass production to ensure there were no issues. When I arrived, I stepped into their injection room and plastic handles were being molded. When taking a careful look at these parts, I found these handles were had a slight dull color and looked to be lower quality, not as good as the samples they provided. I checked the raw material in cylinder and understood immediately, they were using a recycled material and not original material that was used on the samples.

I pointed out to the manager that these parts are dull and look fragile compared with the samples that were provided, “Oh, Yi dian dian, Yi dian dian.” The manager answered, “not much, a little difference is common. It doesn’t affect function. Don’t worry…”  I explained to him that no substitution of materials would not be accepted and what I expected was the handles to be molded with the same material as the samples. After putting up a small protest he finally agreed to get rid of these parts and mold new parts with the correct material. The lucky part was that they hadn’t produced too many pieces at that time.

Unfortunately, this is just another example that no matter how clear your instructions are, and even though you have a sample in your hand, you have to check production at every stage.