Before going into production at a factory overseas, a sample should be made to confirm the quality of the manufacturing, flush out potential problems and to insure the factory understands exactly what needs to be produced.
First and foremost, a sample gives a good idea of the quality of the manufacturer’s work and allows the purchaser to weed out low-quality manufacturers before investing significant time and money in them. Any factory that cannot produce a quality sample should immediately be dropped.
A sample also insures that the manufacturer understands exactly what the purchaser would like. Even when a manufacturer, manufacturing agent and a purchaser may feel they have reached an understanding, language, cultural and other differences may hide the fact the two sides have different ideas in mind. A sample leaves a lot less room for miscommunication.
The sampling phase often exposes unexpected problems that might not otherwise be noticed until production has started. Even if the manufacturer is 100% certain of what the purchaser wants, making a sample can bring out unforeseen difficulties in the manufacturing process.
In the event there are problems with quality of the order, a sample sets a clear standard the factory can be held to.
It is therefore critical to have a sample made as exactly to specifications as possible before placing any order. Even if it is just relatively minor problems with or changes to the sample received; it is not advisable to simply request the issues be fixed in production. Without another sample that meets all specifications from the manufacturer, there is a greatly increased chance of error, misunderstandings or other problems.
However, it is not always possible to make a sample, and a sample is not a sure indication of the kind of work the manufacturer will do.
Manufacturers sometimes outsource their sample making to third parties. Therefore, ask where the sample will be made and take other steps to make sure the manufacturer understands the process.
Also, due to the nature of some manufacturing processes such as plastics that can only be manufactured in large quantities and other difficulties, making an exact sample is not always possible (sometimes alternatives such as carving a model can be found).
Finally, since the exact same material that will be used in manufacturing cannot always be purchased in the small quantities, alternative materials may sometimes need to be used when making the sample. It is therefore important to specify the exact material that will be used in production.
While a good sample will not assure a flawless manufacturing sourcing process, it is a good way to avoid problems and set the standard for quality. Therefore, if at all possible, a sample should be made before any orders are placed.