I’ve had a few questions come through about shipping and quality control. In this post I’ll clarify how the shipping part works and what quality control measures you can take.
One thing you have to get used to, when dealing with shipping, is playing the middle man. This can be quite a frustrating experience when emailing across language barriers and dealing with logistics related terms that are super confusing. Especially so when you are in a different time zone where every sent email takes a day to receive a response and calling is not a great option. So be prepared for a potentially emotional experience!
Shipping – Freight Forwarder
I’ve mentioned this before but first of all, to make things easy, I highly recommend using the one freight forwarder for the entire sea/air and land freight journey. This means you have one point of contact for all things freight. If you choose a competent freight forwarder, they will hold your hand through the process, making dealing with all the freight jargon that little bit easier. When getting a quote, ensure you get a quote from FOB at the port in China all the way through to delivery to the FBA warehouse/s. Also ensure you ask the freight forwarder to include customs brokerage in their quote.
Shipping – Manufacturer
Negotiate FOB (Free On Board) along with your manufactured price. This is usually offered for free but if it isn’t, make sure you play hardball to get it for free. FOB means the manufacturer covers all costs to get the freight loaded on the ship. This is usually cheaper to do with the manufacturer than the freight forwarder.
Shipping – Play Middle Man
You will have to play middle man as mentioned at the very top of this post. You will have to inform the freight forwarder when the product is ready for shipment and pass on the freight forwarder’s Chinese agent’s contact to the manufacturer. Likewise, inform the freight forwarder of the contact at the manufacturers. This will ensure smoothest coordination.
Shipping – Quality Control
This part is a bit tricky. In general, you can negotiate to pay 50% of cost to manufacture when production begins and 50% once goods are completed. There are also escrow options (offered via Alibaba), which is a third party that holds on to the money until goods are confirmed shipped. These are options to avoid being scammed. With regards to quality control, ensure your manufacturer provides photos and videos of the finished product. You should review images of both packed and unpacked product. Unfortunately that’s about as far as budget conscious quality control goes. You can go a step further and enlist the help of a third party pre-shipment inspection company such as China Inspection Services. This can get quite expensive though. Freight forwarders generally will not do quality inspections for you. I did not use a pre-shipment inspection services as it wasn’t in my budget to do so. Other steps you can take to mitigate quality control risk is to inspect samples and test how far the manufacturer wants your business by asking for additional features such as labelled packaging and so forth prior to placing an order. The way I figure, these manufacturers want repeat business and so will try to do the right thing by you. Another factor to take into account is that when selecting your final manufacturer, make sure they have a good selling history (3 years or more) on Alibaba or Aliexpress. At least this way you know they are somewhat reliable. It was way too expensive to ship product to the US via Australia, so inspecting the product myself was definitely not an option!
Post Highlights for shipping clarified
- Be prepared to be the middle man for most communications
- Use a single freight forwarder for the entire journey
- Ensure your manufacturer provides FOB service as part of their package
- Use manufacturers with a good track record to mitigate quality control risks