How do buyers proactively avoid shipment delays from China?

Most buyers have faced delayed delivery dates issue for their orders. The Manufacturers in the USA, Europe, or Asia have faced this issue at some point and are likely to face in the future. Many Chinese manufacturers still don’t have as high standards and a reputation as a German Manufacturer have for delivering the goods on time.

It is, therefore, quite natural that many buyers complain about this issue, however, some of them have accepted this and try to keep a 10 to 15-day buffer for late deliveries when dealing with their Chinese suppliers.

Also, when doing International business too many external factors have to be taken under consideration and many buyers realize that it’s not always 100% possible for a Manufacturer to deliver on time as they promised in the sales contract.

Meaning most buyers know, no matter how good the supplier is or how good their relationship is with that particular supplier, there’s still a possibility of the supplier delaying shipment for a week or two, or at times even longer. It would be quite naive for a buyer to always expect their Chinese supplier to follow the terms and conditions exactly as they mutually signed in the contract.

Even in 2018, many Chinese suppliers still don’t have as much respect for a contract as they should be having. For many, it’s still a simple piece of paper and just something to refer to when executing a buyer’s order.

Some Chinese suppliers, although not all, have the bad habit of not keeping their buyers updated during the production of the goods. These suppliers have perfected the art of giving the minimum amount of information to their buyers regarding the status of their orders (a collective culture thing). So often it’s the buyer who has to clarify each and everything with the supplier before, during, and after production of the goods.

Below are few of the things good and experienced buyers always proactively do to avoid late deliveries.

Many experienced buyers consider peak selling time of their products and at the same time understand how busy their Chinese supplier will be during this time. So just to be safe a lot of these buyers will start negotiating and finalizing an order with a supplier several days or even weeks before when they need to. Often these buyers don’t mind receiving the final produced goods to their warehouses weeks before they need them. They understand the need to always have some stock, continuous supply chain, and the importance to build or maintain their products brand momentum.

Seasoned buyers also know that even though they need all their shipments to be executed right on time, they make a conscious effort to not be manipulated in any way by their Chinese supplier. Meaning when some Chinese suppliers see a buyer is showing some urgency and desperation for quick production and shipment they sometimes jack up the products price or ask for a quicker and higher deposit amount.

The supplier promise to deliver the goods even before the target delivery date if the buyer agrees to their terms. However, experienced buyers know that agreeing to these terms and conditions is not going to dramatically speed up the production. Good buyers always look at their overall business and cash flow. They can’t be sending high deposit amounts (50 to 60%) to their different suppliers and expecting all of them to execute quick shipments. Hence, buyers simply negotiate more smartly by proposing suppliers for long term business.

Buyers genuinely try to build a better relationship with their supplier. If the product has a good long term potential and if the supplier is trustworthy, some buyers even offer to keep a fixed deposit amount with the supplier at all times. Because of this a Chinese supplier often sees the buyer as serious and potentially a big one for the future and hence genuinely makes efforts in never delaying shipments for these buyers. Even if they do, it would be a few days only.

Now after the negotiations and deposits, a good buyer needs to try getting their designs made and confirmed for the packaging of the product ASAP. Many buyers sometimes make the mistake by thinking once they have sent the deposit amount the production of their goods has begun.
When in fact that’s often not the case. Yes, your supplier will use that initial deposit amount to start purchasing the raw materials for your order. But often many Chinese suppliers have a fixed company policy of not beginning the Mass production of the goods until they receive the final confirmed Packaging Design from the buyer.

A good buyer will always take out the time and make some effort to also follow up with their Chinese supplier during the mass production of the goods. Because a factory will at times have several orders to manufacture at the same time and sometimes some of them are so overwhelmed with the amount of work and pressure, they unintentionally mess up the delivery times for your order. So it’s always a good idea to just put in a short email or message every week or so to the supplier's salesperson and ask them about the status of your order. You can even request them to send you the ongoing production pictures for your satisfaction.

It does help to keep your suppliers on their toes at all times.

It’s also important for you as a buyer to be aware of all the certifications (if any, for both import and export) that are required for your product before the shipment. So, in this way before placing an order and during the production of the goods you have got all your certificates in place before the delivery date.
Many times, even when everything has gone well and the goods are ready, your order cannot be shipped out if some Certificate is missing and hence the goods are not allowed to be exported from China. So, by the time you apply for this certificate and receive it, another 10 to 14 days could be potentially wasted in this process.

Buyers also know that if they are getting a third-party inspection done for their goods, it’s important they notify their inspection company several days before the production of the goods is completed. Sometimes Inspection companies don’t have any Inspector available in that particular city where your product is being manufactured and by the time one is arranged or you find another inspection company many days could be wasted in this process.

Getting your price terms and conditions right. Many times, in a hurry to place orders buyers make the mistake of not clarifying everything with their supplier. For example, if a buyer places an order with a supplier on EXW price terms they then assume once the goods are ready they can ship them out immediately from the factory. But in EXW price terms as we know the goods first have to be sent by the factory to the buyer’s freight forwarder warehouse or at least picked up by the buyer’s forwarder for delivery to the nearest port/airport.

There are also other costs extra involved for a buyer as the goods have to be transported to the nearest port/airport. There are Customs duties to be paid, port handling charges, loading/unloading charges. So, at times when buyers are hit with all these extra costs, they start getting a little irritated and concerned with all these extra charges and waste a lot of time then renegotiating everything and ask for explanations for each cost from their supplier and their freight forwarder. So, a good buyer will always have all these extra costs clarified with their freight forwarding company or with the supplier beforehand.

  1. It’s also important to pre-book vessels/flights a few days before the actual delivery date of your goods. Experienced buyers have come to know that even these shipping companies have their peak season times and sometimes due to a lack of space or less frequency of flight/vessel departures their shipments can still be delayed for more than a week if they don’t take care to reserve some space for shipping out their goods. Also, these buyers make sure of the exact number of days their consignment will take to arrive at their warehouse.

    So they are careful through which shipping company/freight forwarder they are shipping and it’s not necessarily always the best idea to look for the cheapest option because in doing so, in some cases weeks can pass before the buyer receives the goods in their warehouse.

  2. Last but not least good buyers also understand their product requirements, pricing and market need well. So, when negotiating and making a contract with their supplier, not too much time is wasted on always chopping the terms and conditions of the order and requirements for the product. In this way, buyers save a lot of time in starting the execution of their order.

We are bringing here together years of experience in dealing with Chinese market.

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