Freight 101 Library

Supplier Process Steps

International shipper? Learn how to get your shipment ready after choosing a supplier.

These are the most common steps for getting from supplier search to shipment ready. The links go to the guides that cover these steps in detail.

PREREQUISITES: Product and import restriction research (PART 1: Product), and understanding your options for finding suppliers (PART 2: Sourcing).

  1. Search For Suppliers Supplier Marketplaces
  2. Request Quotes Supplier Marketplaces
  3. Negotiate With Shortlisted Suppliers Negotiating Strategy
  4. Approve Sample Ordering
  5. Agree To Terms Ordering
  6. Formalize Agreement Ordering
  7. Pay The Deposit Ordering
  8. Confirmation Sample This step is covered in the notes below.
  9. Monitor Order Ordering
  10. Pre-Shipment Inspection Quality Control
  11. Pay The Balance Owing Quality Control

NEXT STEPS: Follow Freight Process Steps.


Common Variations

  • Supplier search. The link goes to searching on Alibaba, but you can also search on other channels (Sourcing Channels, Attending Trade Shows).
  • Requesting samples. Instead of requesting samples from all shortlisted suppliers, you could request from just the preferred supplier, or (rarely) only request a sample after signing the purchase order.
  • Negotiating. You could negotiate with all shortlisted suppliers (Negotiate With Shortlisted Suppliers step and Agree To Terms as one step).
  • Trial Order. You may be able to negotiate a low minimum order as a trial to see how well your product sells.
  • Purchase Order. You could sign a purchase order earlier in the process, say to motivate the supplier if samples need to be prepared) as long as you don’t pay the deposit.
  • Formalizing Agreement. The paperwork may be a purchase agreement only, purchase order only, or both.
  • Confirmation Sample. If the factory doesn’t have the materials at hand, which is common, you may request a second sample after paying the deposit. This step is more common in some product categories, for example, apparel, and many importers don’t know about this step. Once the materials arrive, the factory makes a confirmation sample for the importer to approve before bulk production begins. Taking this approach supersedes the IPC and DUPRO inspections (Quality Control).

Names For Samples

  • The first sample may be an off the shelf sample or a made to order sample.
  • Should that sample be approved, it becomes the approved sample or golden sample.
  • The confirmation sample is more commonly referred to as the pre-production sample, although that term sometimes also refers to the approved sample.

At a pre-shipment inspection, the sample may be referred to as a production sample or shipment sample.

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