• Spec Sheets: Defining Quality As an Industry Outsider

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    Spec Sheet

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    China has evolved into an increasingly sophisticated production hub. While MNCs in certain industries might consider other manufacturing bases, China (and Guangdong province in particular) has never been more attractive to e-commerce companies and hardware Startups. On the other end of the supply chain, Amazon.com and Shopify are making it easier and faster than ever to gain market access.

    ‘Who is an Industry outsider?’

    In this ‘gold rush’, the doors are essentially open to anyone, including the industry outsider – a company or individuals without any previous experience in the industry. Think bankers going sportswear designers. The industry outsider is largely unaware of how ‘quality’ is defined for their product. Meanwhile, they tend to assume that the supplier is responsible for ensuring a certain, perhaps imaginary and undefined, quality standard.

    This could not be more wrong. Knowing what defines the quality of your product is the key to prevent quality issues in the first place. In my experience, a lack of clear specifications is, by far, the most common reason for severe quality issues. As compared to, say, deliberate usage of substandard components and intentional quality fade.

    To help you prevent this from happening, we explain how you can identify all relevant technical specifications for your product, using spec sheets on Alibaba.com and Amazon. We also explain how you, in turn, can use the spec sheet to identify various quality and product customization options. But first, let’s recap on why a spec sheet is where every product begins and ends.

    Why is it important to identify product specifications and quality options?

    In contract manufacturing, it’s not the supplier’s responsibility to define and ensure quality. To anyone with an engineering or industry background, this is fairly obvious. However, industry outsiders often lack technical understanding of the product they intend to develop, and must therefore learn how product quality is defined, from scratch. Quality is, in turn, defined by the specification sheet.

    Hence, the first step is to identify all relevant specifications, and then let the manufacturer respond to each one. Don’t assume that the supplier communicates all relevant specifications. They might have their own reasons for not communicating certain aspects, or simply be unaware. By letting the supplier ‘fill in the gaps’, you expose your business to the risk of severe quality issues due to misunderstandings, or due to usage of low quality components.

    1. Research specification sheets on GlobalSources and Alibaba

    alibaba spec sheet

    Suppliers on Alibaba.com and GlobalSources.com tend to publish very extensive specification sheets. However, the detail varies, and some suppliers leave certain specs out. Review specification sheets from as many suppliers as possible, preferably fifteen to twenty, to draft a full list. Supplier spec sheets can also reveal various quality options (i.e., materials or components), and give a hint about applicable product standards and regulations (i.e., RoHS).

    2. Research specification sheets on Amazon.com, Ebay and Online stores


    As a complement to Alibaba.com, detailed specification sheets can often be found on Amazon.com, Ebay and smaller Online stores. For natural reasons, spec sheets on Amazon.com and other B2C sites are not as detailed as those presented on B2B directories. However, they may still reveal certain technical details and regulatory requirements.

    3. Request spec sheets and quotations from selected manufacturers

    Once you have drafted a list reference specification sheet, you must research the various options (one or more) available for each specification. Request the suppliers to quote what they consider as ‘low, medium and high quality’ – which in turn is reflected by the quoted price. Provide a full list of specifications to which the supplier must respond. Below follows a simple (and far from complete) spec sheet for an E27 LED bulb light:

    SpecificationsSKU A: Low QualitySKU B: Medium QualitySKU C: High Quality
    Base TypeE27E27E27
    Light SourceSMD 2835SMD 2835SMD 2835
    Lifetime30000 h40000 h50000 h
    Lumens600 lm600 lm800 lm

    Request quotations from at least five to six different suppliers. Also remember to communicate your compliance requirements, as this has a major impact on the unit price.

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

    We know how hard it can be to go from an idea, to a mass produced and profitable product. The Starter Package is the only all-in-one solution that includes everything you need to get through every step of the process:

    a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists

    b. Product Specification Templates

    c. Product Label Samples

    d. Compliance Document Samples

    e. 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.

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  • 2 Responses to “Spec Sheets: Defining Quality As an Industry Outsider

    1. Boris at 7:01 pm

      Nice read and thanks for tip for getting familiar with product specifications. I agree currently there’s a gold rush and very few folks know about regulations. Even production inspection is not often talked about in discussions. I must say I am surprised we haven’t heard “import gone bad” news on mainstream media for new industry outsiders that didn’t do their homework.

      You can’t always blame them thought due to how many courses teach cookie-cutter approach to easy importing while hiding the ugly details. Had they told the reality they would lose many sales from naive people. In fact gold rushes tend to create a lot of dust in the air and history shows that this only works against everyone due to adjusted regulations. I am not talking about Amazon which significantly changed in last year (it’s getting very messy) but import regulations and product compliance which can only get stricter as this gold rush draws more attention from authorities.

      1. Fredrik Grönkvist at 3:39 am

        Hi Boris,

        And what is “funny” is that just a couple of weeks after you wrote that comment, the authorities in the EU, US and other countries cracked down big time – this time on those Balance Scooters.

        However, we receive reports ALL THE TIME. Mainly electronics and children’s products. In one recent case, the German customs seized a product sample because the importer could not produce the compliance documents… that is a bit too harsh in my opinion…

        Amazon also acted on the Balance Scooter incidents. By requiring the sellers to produce UL certificates / test reports, they essentially made UL a de facto mandatory! Things are changing, but this does benefit “real” businesses, as a lot of opportunists will not want to invest in compliance.

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