A while ago, a new customer approached us with a new idea. The concept for their product was brilliant; they were excited about the potential, and so were we. The only hitch was that their product required an application of a chemical onto a fabric that had never been tried before, to give it a unique appearance. They had not made a prototype for the product but wanted to see if we could find a factory that could figure out how to make it.

We agreed to give it a try and contacted several production factories. Over the next year, we went back and forth with a number of fabric samples that had been treated with the chemical. Some worked, some didn’t. Finally we came up with one that looked at it was supposed to. The customer was eager to get started, so after just a few days of testing the production factory’s sample, they gave the approval for production to start.

Several weeks later, an air shipment of 25 production samples was sent to the customer. Rather than test these, they immediately sent them to their customers who were screaming for product.

Two months later, they received the production shipment. Over the next several  months they discovered that the chemically treated effect on the fabric didn’t last as long as they thought it would. There was also a new flaw that showed up in the product that no one anticipated. Sadly, they ended up selling their inventory at their cost in order to get rid of it.

This product could have been a winner if it was handled differently:

1. The customer should have made a prototype in the U.S., tested it for several months to insure everything worked properly, and then came to us. Chinese production factories aren’t set up for prototyping, and they will spend little time on it, especially if they have large production orders in house, so this would have best been done in the U.S. We should have told them this up front (our mistake). The customer would have been able to work any bugs out in advance and then provide the production factory in China with specific instructions on the chemicals and materials to use. This would have saved an immense amount of time and money and made it easier on the factory in China, who were constantly trying new methods without knowing if they could work.

2. When the air shipment of 25 production samples were sent, there was still enough time to halt the large shipment. If the customer had taken the time to thoroughly inspect these instead of shipping them out without looking at them, the production shipment could still have been halted and the factory might have been able to address the problems.

Today we always recommend that companies who have a concept for a new product should make a prototype in the U.S., thoroughly test it, and then create engineer’s drawings. A good prototyping and engineering firm can help you work the bugs out and forsee any problems. Then we can take over and submit your project to a production manufacturing company in China with a firm set of tested, objective standards.

And, it’s always wise to take your time and thoroughly test any production samples the manufacturer in China provides for approval.