A product specification document is all the information that is necessary to describe your following and is a must-have when you are importing from China.
For example, a product document can include the following:
- product safety standards
- physical reference samples and materials
- design drawings
- functional design
- material specifications
(later on, I will give your more details on all of the above)
The product document (also called spec sheet or product specification sheet) is always the first step when you start importing from China or any other manufacturing country.
With this part, your goal is to get your product specifications ready. This sheet is necessary to eventually submit to your potential supplier and also for yourself to keep all your product specs clear in an overview.
Why do I need a product specification document?
Manufacturers in often Asia produce products according to the importer’s specifications. When specifications are not presented or fully filled in, the manufacturer will submit any specification that is missing which most of the time not what you are looking for.
When we talk about quality issues, it’s 80% of the time the cause that the product specification is not filled in properly.
The product specification document is what importers call the foundation of the entire importing process. It will make or break the quality of your product and even show potential supplier you are a serious buyer. That is nowadays with thousands of individual importers more important than you may think.
The bill of material (BoM)
A bill of materials or product structure is a list of the raw materials, sub-assemblies, intermediate assemblies, sub-components, parts, and the quantities of each needed to manufacture an end product.
It will help your supplier to eventually calculate the unit costs. I will give you more information on this later.
ODM vs OEM
ODM means original design manufacturing, it’s also known as the famous private labeling process. The importer will select an already existing product design from the manufacturer (they have in-house design teams most of the time) and make a few small changes to it.
Changes can include- brand name, colors, packaging, bundling, components.
It’s the most basic form of importing.
OEM means original equipment manufacturing, it’s for the importers who have a new idea or need a really specific design. When designing a new product you will have the rights and licenses to sell that product only. Contracts need to be used at this point to ensure the manufacturer is accountable for that.
The main benefit of OEM is that the designer holds total creative direction over the design. Whereas ODM products are limited to a predetermined design by the supplier, OEM products can be made according to any specifications. The only 2 limitations are the designer’s imagination and the budget from the company. OEM is more expensive.
You will also need a product specification document for ODM products.
ODM products are also not a shortcut as you must:
- buy products samples
- research all relevant product specs
- confirm the quality options for all products specs
When you are buying to sell on Amazon you will most likely go with ODM. When you are importing ODM you never want to believe that the supplier will adhere to the quality of the provided samples. Most of them run different production runs to ensure the quality of the sample is top-notch.
Research product specifications
Before you can begin talking to suppliers you will need to know the product specs, for your product. A product specification is any piece of product data that describes the design, quality, and functionality of your product.
If you have little experience with the product you are selling, you may want to review competitors selling the same product you want to produce. At that point, you want to look at product descriptions found all over the internet. It’s very important that you know your product ins and outs.
Product specification document – example template
Before I explain the product spec document thoroughly. I need you to first see it for yourself.
NOTE: The document is the foundation of your importing journey. Every SKU that you sell, should be on a different sheet. The template is used to list all important product specs, components, and product compliance requirements. It also includes the files attached to the product. This file must be kept up to date.
- Design product drawings:
A design drawing is used to show the product dimensions from different angles. While the file is not necessary at first, it can clear up any misunderstanding with a complicated product.
There are also specific design formats like the ISO. You should do more research on this.
- CAD files:
A computer-aided design is a digital file format of an object generated and used by CAD software. It contains technical drawings, a blueprint, a schematic, or a 3D rendering of the product.
There are also different formats in which the supplier works with. Autocat and Solidworks are very common. You will have to ask your supplier this after contacting them.
Colors are a trap a bunch of importers falls into. Suppliers mostly use the Pantone color system while some others use different ones. Within the Pantone color system are different color series and different suppliers then work with different series. It’s very tricky and you need to make sure you and your supplier are on the same page with each other on this.
Refer to Kilograms when you are talking to suppliers.
Refer to Centimeters and not inches. You don’t want the supplier to have to convert the 2.
- Label files:
Label files include logos, prints, art work, etc.
When delivering label files, you want to deliver them in a .ai or. eps file. Your designer knows more about this. Also, you want to provide the label/print position and what font you want it in.
Compliance and product regulations
Regulations always scare amazon sellers away. This is because it’s difficult to understand and bad if something goes wrong. Regulations are also something that is being kept updated which makes it even more difficult.
Most products are being regulated by a set of safety standards, substance restrictions, document requirements, and labeling requirements.
When I import from China, I have contacts that help me with additional guidance on the procedure.
I will not be talking about product regulations in this blog as I believe I’m specified to do so. This process is different for every importer. Some that are reading this are from the U.S. and importing general consumer goods and others might be from EU importing Children toys.
Because of this, I will skip this section, however, I will give you relevant sources to learn more about it.
regulations and customs in China: https://import-export.societegenerale.fr/en/country/china/regulations-customs
Product regulations in the U.S. https://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/united-states-product-regulations/
Product regulations in EU: https://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/product-regulations-european-union/
Ensuring product compliance begins at the design stage, and is a component of every step of the process. As such, it is essential that you know how product compliance works.
If you have more sources with good information about product regulations then let me know. Happy to add more so importers can go to this blog as a reference when importing.
In part 2 we will go over RFQ templates and start preparing us to contact our first suppliers.
See you there.