We’ve been going through the gambit of points on sampling; how to make the process smoother, obstacles, when to confirm, etc…  In this 3rd post on the sampling phase, let’s look at critical points during the sign-off phase.

This is sort of a sub-category inside of the sign-off phase. From the last post on sampling:

Once you approve the sample, then provide a simple, clear-cut sign off that the vendor can’t misinterpret.

“We approve the sample as is. Please proceed with mass production” (the factory may be waiting on your deposit though to start).

If you do not need further changes to the item, you need to make this crystal clear.

But, and not to complicate the waters, sometimes the sign-off phase isn’t as black and white as you hope it will be.

In order not to over-promise or to have misplaced concepts of mass production, there are critical points to consider.

Sampling process: critical points to find out during the sign-off phase.

As you’re signing-off and confirming the sample, find out from the supplier,

“How is mass production going to differ from the sample?”

  • What are the variations that you can expect?
  • What variations can you accept? The larger ticket the item, the less variations you may consider acceptable. Determine if the factory is being accurate in what’s possible.
  • Many times, especially in the merchandise industries, factories produce samples via a different process. In other words, the preproduction samples are not done in a mass production type method.

The sample process in a factory spends more intricate time on 2 units. But the mass production workers are not able to spend that same kind of care on 10’s of thousands of units…for example. This is common when it comes to printing and coloring.

What you want to avoid is being hard-nosed and show a misunderstanding of the process. A zealous buyer may exclaim, “We confirm the sample and will accept no variations. Production must be 100% identical!”

This isn’t realistic and is unhelpful to the overall process.

Some sample to mass production variations are unavoidable.

  • Normal variations that come with hand work and application are going to vary. There’s no two ways around this, it’s simply the nature of the business. For example the intricate stitching on a sample is not a “full” as mass production. Not bad, but simply not a eloquent.
  • When there’s natural variations in material, like grain and coloring of wood.

Other sample to mass production differences are avoidable but but not worth the factory or the cost to avoid.

Rejecting these differences in mass production can cause the factory great time or cost increase. Going through batches to discard a multitude of pieces may simply not be worth it.

If the variations are reasonable and don’t hurt the product, then the factory and customer have to ask themselves, is it worth the struggle?

Another scenario is that differences are avoidable and are issues to pinpoint in your order control.

A factory may confirm something is unavoidable but they’re simply fudging to see how much wiggle room they have. The truth is that they simply need to tighten their control methods.

These are issues on which YOU also need to be vigilant in mass production.

I’m talking possible variations that are avoidable, as long as the factory does their reasonable work of control.

Things happen in mass production that the factory can avoid. Don’t let them push that off as unavoidable.

Remember that factories tend to be worst-case-scenario based. They want to lower expectations and also their own efforts (save time or cost).

Find out what you can accept or what you need to try and convince the factory to control.

 Let’s summarize the critical points for sample sign-off.

  • What percentage of mass production will be identical to the sample?
  • Reasonable variations to expect?
  • Possible variations that the factory can avoid with diligent control.
  • Get all of this in writing and make sure the factory confirms it and uses it as a guideline.
  • Once you learn these critical points on variations, then provide the detail to to your 3rd party inspection company. Make sure they use it for a guideline.