Risks of miscommunication: an example with shipping marks

by Renaud Anjoran on 13 March 2010

Everyone knows that risks of miscommunication are very high when purchasing from Asian suppliers. But sometimes an example can drive the point home more effectively than theoretical advice.

Yesterday I reviewed a QC report from one of my inspectors, and I couldn’t help laughing out loud. At the same time, I felt bad for my client. Here is what happened:

The supplier had received the following requirement (from my client) for the shipping marks:

Required shipping marks

I blurred the information about the importer, but was pretty clear that these marks were supposed to be printed on the “short side (width)” of export cartons. And the first line was just an indication–it was not supposed to be printed.

And here is what the inspector found:

Actual shipping marks

The supplier probably sent the text to the carton factory without any guideline. The technicians didn’t wonder what the first line meant and which side was appropriate. So they printed all the text on the long side. And the “Prepack breakdown : OR Size” line was also misinterpreted.

This is a typical case where the supplier does not control what its own suppliers do. It also illustrates nicely the kind of misunderstanding that often takes place.

Importers seldom ask for digital photos of this type of details, and it is a mistake in the absence of an inspection during production.

To make things worse, this supplier has been receiving hundreds of similar packing instructions in the past from this same importer, so they cannot pretend they don’t understand it. And I bet they noticed it. What were they thinking?

They knew that these export cartons are not re-shipped to the importer’s own customers (only the inner cartons are), so they knew the importer would have to accept it. My theory is that they said nothing about it until was too late (the final inspection was conducted the day before air shipment, and the ETD cannot be delayed). It will probably be a mess in the importer’s warehouse, though.

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