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Accredited Lab Testing Companies in China: An Overview

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As an importer to countries in  the European Union, North America, Middle East or Australia, it is your responsibility to make sure the products you’re importing are in compliance with country’s safety regulations and defined quality standards.

For this, you need to get your products tested and certified by the accredited lab testing companies.

This is why as an importer from China to North America, Europe, Australia or other parts of the world where governments have strict rules and regulations for imported products, the first thing you may want to learn about is how to get your products tested from accredited labs.

You can’t import products to Europe, the United States, Australia and other developed markets – unless they meet the standards and norms defined by these countries.

Importing untested products can not only result in heavy penalties, but also confiscation of imported goods, while some countries can even blacklist your name as an importer who is banned from importing goods in the country.

So if you’re an importer from China or just starting your career as one, it is important to find accredited labs for your products in China that can make sure your products meet all the legal requirements and checks enforced by the country where you’re importing goods. Continue Reading →

Do Sales Contracts Work When Importing from China?

Supplier Sales Contract

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Most quality issues are the result of misunderstandings. A Sales contract, can prevent those misunderstandings from occurring in the first place.

In my opinion, the sales contract is the most important mechanism of the entire importing and product development process.

But do Chinese suppliers really care about sales contracts – and how do you make them follow the terms?

And, can you draft a contract on your own?

These, and many other, questions, will be answered in this comprehensive guide on sales contracts for startups and other small businesses importing products from China.

1. Make sure to include these terms in your sales contract

Term Comment
Manufacturer The manufacturer name, business license number and address must be defined. This entity is ultimately responsible.
Seller Many suppliers use companies in Hong Kong to receive the payment. This company shall be defined as the seller.
Product Specifications List all product specifications and attachments. Don’t leave any product information out of the sales contract. If it’s not in the contract, you cannot demand a remake from the supplier.
Defect list Write a definition of defective product (i.e., mold or scratches), and an accepted defect rate.
Compliance Requirements List all applicable product safety standards and regulations, to which the product must be compliant.
Penalties Define penalties that apply if the supplier fail to pass the quality inspection and/or compliance testing.
Product Packaging Specify the product packaging design, dimensions and materials
Export Packaging Specify the export packaging type, dimensions and materials (i.e., freight pallets).
Quality Control / Testing Terms Write the quality inspection and lab testing terms
Payment Terms Normally, the buyer pay a 30% deposit, and ties the remaining 70% to the quality control and lab test result.
Shipping Terms Define mode of transportation, incoterms and more
Bank Account Details List all account details of the seller
Late Delivery Clause Penalties for delayed production

2. Communicate your design and quality requirements to avoid misunderstandings

Continue Reading →

Buying Injection Molds from Manufacturers in China: A Complete Guide

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If you plan to import a custom designed or even private label product, chances are that you need get an injection mold manufactured in China.

In this article, you will learn when and how to order an injection mold, various methods of ensuring the ownership of the mold, payment terms and much more.

Note: While this article is primarily focused on injection molds, most principles can be applied to extrusion molds, blow molds, die casting and other tooling.

When is a custom mold needed?

If you intend to create a custom designed product, or make changes to an existing product design, you need an injection mold.

Injection molds are used for various materials, including plastics, glassware, ceramics, stainless steel and alloys.

As such, injection molds are used when making everything from phone cases and plastic buttons – to wristwatches and jewelry parts.

What what stage should I buy a mold?

Your supplier needs the mold before they can even make a sample for you. As such, you need to buy the injection mold before the manufacturer starts the sampling process.

That said, you can use the same mold, as is used to make the prototype or sample, for mass production.

Most molds can be used to make hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of units. Thus, the mold can be used for many orders – and may even outlast the product design itself.

Injection Mold

Can I expect my supplier to pay for the mold?

No, importing from Asia is like flying with a low cost airline. No extras are included, be it lab testing or injection molds.

As an importer, you must therefore finance the cost of the injection mold (and other types of molds and tooling for that matter) before you can start the sampling and mass production process.

How much should I pay for the mold?

That depends entirely on the size, complexity and material. For a simple component, say a watch case, the mold cost can be as low as $200.

However, for more complex products with narrow dimensional tolerance requirements (i.e., plastic pallets), the mold cost can be as high as $40,000.

That said, for most consumer goods, the mold fee is somewhere between $150 to $800.

As mentioned, the mold can be used for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of units. Therefore, the cost per unit is often extremely low.

What are the standard payment terms for molds?

That depends mostly on the mold and prototype cost. If the total is below $1000, the buyer normally pays the entire sample and tooling cost up front.

If above $1000, you may pay 30% before they start producing the mold, and 70% upon completion and successful testing.

Keep in mind that most suppliers don’t make any profit of the mold itself, and therefore need to secure, at a minimum, a deposit before they order the mold and other tooling from their subcontractor.

Where can I find mold manufacturers in China?

Specialized injection mold manufacturers are present all over China, and its industrial cluster. However, there is a higher concentration of mold suppliers in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Guangdong province.

Many mold suppliers are also based in Taiwan, even though a large percentage have moved production to the mainland.

That said, buyers rarely need to source mold suppliers on their own. Instead, the majority of importers use the injection mold suppliers, already used by their assembly manufacturer.

In the Watch industry, for example, none of the so called ‘Watch suppliers’ (they put the pieces together basically), manufacture injection molds for the various components needed.

Instead, they subcontract this to specialized mold and tooling suppliers.

For most products, it’s better to just use the suppliers existing network of mold suppliers.

That said, if they cannot match your technical specifications, you may want to consider contacting a mold supplier directly.

How can I protect mold ownership?

As you pay for the molds, you may assume that they are by default owned by you. That said, the ownership is practically impossible to claim, unless it is written on paper.

For example, you must state in the sales contract, that the mold is owned by your company, and can be collected at the supplier’s facility with short notice.

Does mold ownership equal IP ownership?

No, there is no relation between the two. Owning the mold doesn’t mean that your design is protected in any way. To ensure that your designs are protected, you need to file for a design patent (or design protection, if you are based in Europe).

That said, you can only protect a design that is ‘new and unique’. Hence, it’s not an option for most importers.

Where should the mold be kept?

The injection mold, and other tools, is normally kept in the supplier’s production facility, even when not used. This can pose a serious risk, as the supplier may use your mold to manufacture products for themselves – or other buyers – without letting you know.

To reduce the risk of this ever happening, you can store the injection mold at the premises of a trusted third party in China – and return it to the supplier before production, only to collect it once again after production completion.

Chinese Mold Sample

How can I prevent my supplier from making a copy of my mold?

The short answer is that you can’t prevent them from making a 2nd version of your injection mold. As explained above, there are ways to make it harder for the supplier to steal your design, but you cannot stop your supplier if they really, really, want to copy your product.

The only way to truly protect your designs is by filing for design and utility patents, and get your brand and logo trademark.

This costs money, but there are no shortcuts.

That said, I think many importers overestimate the supplier’s interest in replicating their products.

It’s good to be aware of it, and implement measures that will at the very least make it harder for the supplier to copy your products – but the risk of IP theft should not hold you back from launching a product.

Do I need a mold when buying private label products?

By definition, a private label product is an existing factory designed product, and therefore you should not need to invest in new injection molds and other tooling.

Reality, however, is often quite different.

In China, most suppliers are primarily OEMs. Hence, they manufacture products according to specification – rather than developing their own products.

They are, for the most part, not true private label suppliers. At best, you may find that they have some generic designs available off shelf, with ready made injection molds.

Many of the products they upload on Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com are ‘for reference only’. In fact, what you see on their supplier page is in many cases products they have never even manufactured.

There’s nothing wrong with that. They use these directories to showcase what they have made in the past, and what they can make.

But don’t assume that there is a complete set of tooling for every product they list.

Can I use existing injection molds to make my product?

Yes, but as explained above, don’t assume that they have an organized catalog of ODM products for your choosing.

At best, they have a limited number of designs you can choose from.

But even then, you may for any of the following reasons not be able to use their existing injection molds:

a. Design changes: If you intend t make even the slightest design change, you need a new injection mold.

b. Ownership issues: Buyer ownership goes both ways. There are loyal and trustworthy suppliers out there, and they will not rent out molds from their customers to other (especially new) buyers.

c. Material changes: Injection molds can often only be used for specific materials. Even if you find a design you like, you can only use it for the material (i.e., PP plastic or Zinc Alloy) that it was made for. If you want to change materia (i.e., to TPU plastic or 316L Stainless Steel, you need to pay for a new mold.

Can I take the mold with me if I change suppliers?

Yes, at least in theory, and assuming that you are the actual owner of the mold. That being said, don’t assume that your supplier will let you take the mold without putting up a fight.

They can make up all sorts of reasons, and some suppliers will not care about previous agreements.

If you plan to ‘break up’ with your supplier, collect your molds weeks or even months before you let them know.

You may even want to create a 2nd set of molds, to use as a backup, if you ever get into a dispute with your supplier (in which case, they are very likely to use your molds as a collateral).

If you would ever lose access to your molds, you will face a severe supply chain disruption, as you will be forced to source a new supplier and buy an another mold – a process that can easily take 4 to 5 months.

How long time does it take to make the mold?

That depends on the complexity and size of the mold, but smaller molds normally take around 30 to 40 days to produce and adjust.

Adjusting the mold can be both time consuming and unpredictable, which is why it takes such a long time.

In many cases, additional adjust are needed, even after the initial 40 days spent.

What should I look for when selecting an injection mold supplier?

As mentioned, you may not even need to source an injection mold manufacturer by yourself. For most products, it’s easier and even safer to use the supplier’s existing mold supplier.

That said, if you for any reason decide to try finding one on your own, use the following checklist:

1. Do they make molds related to your product?

2. Do they make molds for the same type of plastic or metal you plan to use?

3. Does their business scope include the term ‘mold’ or ‘tooling’?

4. Do they have a registered capital of at least RMB 1,000,000?

5. Do they have a quality management system in place? (i.e., ISO 9001:2015)

6. Do they have any references from customers in your target markets?

7. Do they allow you to store the mold with a trusted third party? (rather than keeping the mold in their own factory).

Can I find mold suppliers on Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com?

Yes, there are thousands of injection mold suppliers listed on Alibaba, and at least a few hundred of Globalsources.com.

Use can use their supplier filtering functions, and use the data, to ensure that the suppliers match the requirements outlined in the checklist above.

Can I find mold suppliers at Trade shows?

Yes, there are often molds and tooling suppliers present at the Canton Fair, and the various trade shows in Hong Kong hosted by HKTDC and Globalsources.com.

That said, most are specialized to make molds for a specific industry, so you will find them as part of the broader supplier spectrum.

Do I need to pay import duties, VAT or other taxes on the mold?

The cost of the injection mold must be included in the customs value. As such, you will need to pay import duties and other taxes.

This is the case even if the injection molds remain with the manufacturer in China, and never even crosses the border.

You can either choose to include the full cost of the injection mold in the customs value of your first shipment, or split it up over several shipments.

Notice that this is applicable also to samples costs and service fees paid to the supplier, and not only the injection mold.

Are there any regulations or safety standards applicable for molds?

Product safety standards are normally not applicable to the mold itself, but to the finished product.

Product regulations do affect the injection mold, in the sense that you need to ensure that the design is safe for the end consumer.

In addition, the material must also comply with relevant chemical and heavy metals regulations.

Do you want to launch your own private label or custom designed product?

It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package:

a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists

b. Product Specification Templates

c. Product Label Samples

d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process

In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.

Product Lab Testing in China: A Complete Guide

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Having your products lab tested is the only way to be sure that your imported goods are safe, and compliant with all applicable regulations.

Importing non-compliant products is illegal, and can result in financial ruin if your cargo is ever seized by the customs authorities – or a forced recall.

But, how do you go about to actually get your products tested? That question, and many more, are answered in this complete guide to product lab testing in China.

Keep reading, and learn how to find the right lab, keep the testing costs down and why a test report is not always enough.

Why do I need laboratory testing?

As you may know, many products are regulated by one or more safety standards or chemical restrictions.

For example, children’s products imported to the United States are regulated by the CPSIA – which requires importers to present verifiable test reports from an accredited third party.

As such, a lab test report is simply a document that proves that a product is compliant with the relevant regulations and standards.

When it comes to some product categories, lab testing is mandatory, but not for most. As such, obtaining a test report is, in many cases optional. Continue Reading →

Permits and Licenses When Importing from Asia: A Complete Guide

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Before you can start importing products, you need to obtain all required licenses and permits. Failing to do so, can result in your cargo being seized by the customs, or at least delayed for a few days or weeks.

Or worse, you can be sued for using technology and IP without paying for it.

In this article, you will learn what every importer must know about permits, transportation restrictions, brand, technology and patent licensing – and why you should never assume that your supplier will do the work for you.

1. You don’t need an import license or permit for most products

Only a few categories are restricted, in the sense that you need to obtain some sort of license or notify the authorities in advance.

A few examples follow below:

  • Agricultural products
  • Chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical devices
  • Live plants and animals
  • Tobacco and alcohol

As said, most products don’t need a license or other type of permit to be imported. Still, many products are covered by safety standards and documentation requirements – and you may need to get an EORI number or buy a customs bond before you import products: Continue Reading →

How to Report Trade Disputes & IP Violations to Alibaba

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What do you do when a deal with an Alibaba.com listed supplier goes wrong? Perhaps you’ve received the wrong product. Maybe it’s damaged. Or, perhaps, you didn’t even receive any goods at all?

And, not to forget, what if you find your custom designed or private label product listed on Alibaba?

In this article, you will learn how to file a dispute on Alibaba.com and (hopefully) get your money back. But, you can only win a dispute if you have the evidence that Alibaba must have to decide in your favor.

Keep reading, and learn how to how win supplier disputes if you receive poor quality or damaged goods – and how to report intellectual property violations.

What counts as a trade dispute?

Many situations fall within Alibaba’s definition of a trade dispute. A few of the most common follow below:

  • The products are defective or damaged
  • The products are not as described (i.e., design, colors or functions)
  • The products were never delivered

However, many disputes are not about defective, damaged or incorrect items all. Many, if not most, trade disputes relates to quality or product compliance – something that makes it very hard for Alibaba.com to act.

Alibaba.com cannot act based on the buyer’s perception of good quality. Hence, a dispute can only be won if the buyer can prove that the supplier failed to deliver a product matching the description. Continue Reading →

Import duties from China: How much should I pay?

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Not sure how to calculate import duties on your incoming shipment from China? Read this article, to learn how you can make an accurate customs duty estimation, find the right customs value for your country and HS code for your product.

You will also learn how, and when, to declare import duties to your local customs authorities – and why it’s a really bad idea to undervalue your goods for the sake of paying a lower duty rate.

How do I calculate the import duties?

Two factors that decide the amount of import duty you must pay are the following

a. Import duty rate (%)
b. Customs value

The import duty rate depends on the product and its assigned HS code. The customs value, on the other hand, depends on the target market.

Below follows an overview:

Country / Market Customs Value Comment
United States FOB Only the product cost is included
European Union CIF Includes product and freight cost
United Kingdom (EU) CIF Includes product and freight cost
Canada FOB Only the product cost is included
Australia FOB Only the product cost is included
New Zealand FOB Only the product cost is included
Singapore CIF Includes product and freight cost
Hong Kong S.A.R (PRC) None No import duties

In many markets, the customs value also includes the cost of samples, tooling and any services provided by the foreign supplier.

However, the customs value never include services generated domestically, such as forwarding from the port of loading to your address.

Note: Read this article about Incoterms to learn more about FOB (Free on Board) and CIF (Cost Freight Insurance)

Continue Reading →

Case Study: How We Helped a Customer Launch a Watch Brand in 4 Steps

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Lanna Watches AB (Sweden) contacted Chinaimportal.com in October 2016. In this Case Study, you will learn how they used the Starter Package 2017 to develop and launch their first product.

All the features and functions mentioned in this Case Study are included in the Starter Package.

Note: The process in this case study can be applied to any product category, not only watches.

All companies and names mentioned in this case study have been altered. The case study is based on email records, images and protocols.

1. Prepare Product Specification

Before even sending a first email to a supplier, the customer created a product specification. This exact process is outlined in Part 1: Create Product Specifications of the Starter Package.

a. Download template and create spec sheet

As all suppliers make products according to the specifications, John (co-founder of Lanna Watches) had to be sure that all technical details were covered. To make sure that they get their specification right, they followed the process in Part 1: Create Product Specification (Above).

To speed up the process, they used Template 1A: Product Specification Sheet, to list all technical details and quality requirements.

b. Research all applicable product regulations (using Module 7 of the Starter Package)

As Lanna Watches AB is based in the European Union, which is also their primary market, compliance with all applicable product regulations is crucial.

Failing to ensure compliance can result in the goods being seized by the customs authorities, something that would be disastrous to a small startup like Lanna Watches.

The problem, for John and his partner, was that they have no clue which regulations apply to Watches in the EU. Luckily for them, the Starter Package includes an entire module for product regulations, in the EU and US, for all the products we cover.

Continue Reading →

What’s the Difference Between OEM and ODM Products?

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On Alibaba.com and other directories, suppliers claim to offer ‘OEM service’ and ‘ODM products’. In this article, we explain what OEM and ODM really means, and the difference between them.

Keep reading, and learn how product development and IP protection procedures differ, based on whether you go OEM, or select an ODM product.

The Definition of Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM)

An OEM product is made according to the buyer’s product specification. For example, any product with a customized design, material, dimensions, functions or even colors can be classified as OEM.

To some, OEM means a product that is designed entirely based on the buyer specification, while others classify even the slightest modification of an existing ODM product design, as OEM.

That said, most would agree that the primary definition of an OEM product, is a product for which tooling (i.e., injection molds) must be produced before production can start. Continue Reading →

Incoterms When Shipping from China: A Complete Guide

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An Incoterm is a three letter code (i.e., FOB or CIF), defines when the cargo is transferred from the buyer to the seller. Incoterms is the main pillar of international shipping, and without a basic understanding of them, you may end paying a lot more for your shipments, than you should.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn what Incoterms are, and which code you should select, when importing products from China (and elsewhere in Asia).

In addition, you will also learn which Incoterms to avoid, and how the ‘wrong incoterm’ can cost you a fortune.

An introduction to shipping Incoterms

Incoterms may look a bit confusing at first sight, but they are not hard to get at all. Basically an incoterm consists of two components: a three letter code and a city name. Let’s begin with the first part.

The three letters incoterm code specifies “how far” the supplier shall ship the cargo. Basically, how much of the shipping you pay the supplier to handle. Based on the incoterm you select, you can let the supplier handle the shipping of products to a nearby port in China or all the way to your front door.

A price quoted by a Chinese supplier is always based on an incoterm. Without an incoterm you have no idea how far the supplier will ship your cargo. Continue Reading →