The Quality of Your Specification Sheet Dictates Your Success
My company gets a lot of inquiries from businesses who are having issues with their factory. Usually, the issues revolve around quality, poor communication, and incorrectly made products. To say the leading cause of factory issues are due to lacking and misdefined product specifications would be an understatement. Virtually every problem with any supplier can be traced back to improperly created product specifications.Product specifications share with perspective factories your roadmap that defines the exact product you would like made in China. Everyone has heard the horror stories of factories making terrible quality products or making disastrous mistakes that cost importers tens of thousands of dollars. While it is incredibly easy to blame a factory for these mistakes, what if I told you, a lot of the factories that made these errors were good factories, and it was the buyer that set them up for failure?
For a moment, let's assume all factories in China are fantastic factories, capable of making incredible products. Let’s also assume that importers are continuously making errors that result in factories misunderstanding their needs.
If this mindset were more common, it would lead to the serial importers who face repeat issues to begin reevaluating their sourcing strategies and improving their own tactics, instead of placing all the blame on the manufacturer.
This scenario is not reality, and while I am not revealing an industry-wide myth, I am confident in the countless issues clients have paid me to fix. All of these issues could have been prevented, had the importer done a better job defining their specifications.
The reason I’ve painted this picture is to begin the process of defining the importance of proper product specification building and getting importers to plan their products more carefully.
Product specifications are the only document of their kind that tells a factory precisely what you want. If you make it a habit of putting minimal effort in your product specification sheet, then factories will put minimal effort in understanding your product requirements, and therefore produce goods that will leave you dissatisfied.
Let this sink in for a moment, because it is the cause for a large majority of factory issues. - The quality of your specification sheet dictates your product quality and success.
It is important to understand; factories don’t think the same way buyers think. The mission statement of a factory is to make as many products as possible while maximizing their profit. Asking a factory to take the time to conceptualize your ideas and work with their production engineers to ensure the exact specification you are imagining requires too many resources. Factories find it much better to do the bare minimum. If your specifications leave room for question, they will be omitted, and you’ll ultimately find out when it is all too late.
Creating strong product specification requirements is time-consuming and expensive. While it may seem ideal to ask factories for help, these are the steps that must be taken before starting to communicate with factories.
After you pick a product you’d like to produce, it is crucial to order samples from existing companies selling this product. While Amazon reviews may seem like enough market research, the reviews only account for the vocal minority, and rarely tell the full story of the product. Ordering five to ten similar items is a great way to start understanding a product. Begin to write down the differences in materials, sizes, shapes, functions, and features. This will begin to tell you what is possible concerning manufacturing, and what may not be possible.
Next, make a spreadsheet of all the features you can identify. Take your product samples and begin classifying every single element. Organize everything into categories and look at each of the features as unique specifications.
As you begin working on this exercise for your next product, it may be tempting to let your imagination run wild and come up with new features and ideas you can be confident customers will buy. But, just because an obvious feature or component does not exist, does not mean there hasn’t been a single company who has tried to add it to a product.
Hold back the urge to be an inventor. New features can be costly and take a lot of research and development to get them to work correctly. Your product will be drastically less expensive if all components are already on the market. The difference in price of adding a single feature could be tens of thousands of dollars. Your product classification spreadsheet will come in handy, as it has allowed you to review various products to define possible specifications you can rely on for choosing which features would be best for your product.
Research everything you don't know the technical name of. You don't need to be an industrial engineer to learn about different types of plastic or to see the importance of GSM when working with textile materials.
When you have a requirement, don't just explain what should or should not happen. Take the time to figure out the actual, technical reason why something happens, and use that in your explanation.
Saying a product must be durable to scratches is a great way to leave this potentially crucial requirement omitted from a factory. Do you think Apple forgot to write "The iPhone 6 must not bend easily in a pocket", and that is why so many people were having issues with this?
With these tips in mind, you should have enough information available to begin planning your next product. While the cost of ordering samples and the time spent researching features may seem like a lot, the amount of money you'll be able to save by performing these steps will significantly outweigh skipping these steps and running into problems that could have been prevented in the future.
You'll also slowly become an expert in a unique niche and be able to focus your brand growth on expanding on the product category with your newly learned skill.