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Proto Samples 101: How to evaluate Samples like a pro

Embarking on the journey of product development, it’s natural to be excited and to want to see your product idea taking tangible form, get samples sent over, and evaluating them before diving into mass production but it’s all pointless if it’s not done right!

How you check Proto/initial samples has a massive impact on how the product will ultimately be manufactured.

The tough part, of course, is knowing how the heck you do it.

Let’s dive into it and learn how to check samples like a pro even as a newbie!

Why do you need Proto Samples?

I know you came here to find out how to check proto samples, but let’s just quickly recap on WHY getting proto samples is soo incredibly important for your business.  

(If you already know, then please feel free to skip down a bit!)

Sampling is a crucial pre-production process in the purchasing process. Like cost and profit analysis, it is essential to inspect, analyze, and authenticate the product before finalizing the purchase decision.

 

Opportunity for you to evaluate manufacturer's potential

It is your chance to gauge manufacturer’s ability to develop product closest to your requirements,  accommodate your requests, communicate promptly and effectively, and overall evaluate their suitability as a supplier.

Opportunity for the manufacturer to demonstrate their potential

The preparation of a proto sample is an opportunity for the manufacturer to demonstrate their potential and ability to meet your specifications as well. The sample is created in the factory’s sampling unit with great attention to detail. By creating the proto sample, the supplier gains a better understanding of the product’s specific requirements, including the type and quantity of materials needed, any potential complications, estimated material and production costs, and production lead-time.

How many samples?

The number of times the supplier will send proto samples varies depending on the product and the way the sample is made. It is essential to keep repeating the process until you are fully satisfied with the sample and confident enough to place the official order. Generally, by the second sample, you can determine if the supplier can meet your requirements or not. However, for bulky and expensive products like rugs, you may receive a mini sample or swatch initially to confirm basic details like quality, weave, and design before the supplier produces a full-size piece.

Sample Timeline-

The duration of preparing a proto sample may vary from 10 to 20 days, depending on the complexity of the product, the materials used, and the fabrication process involved. For instance, a simple dyed or printed cushion cover could be ready within a week to 10 days, while hard home decor items like metal pieces may require up to 3 weeks, and intricately handcrafted wooden furniture may take up to 4 weeks or longer. Customized designs may take longer to sample than those selected from the supplier’s catalog. Hence, there is no fixed timeline, and the sampling lead-time should be confirmed with the supplier while requesting samples.

Sample and Courier Charges-

If you are dealing with a new supplier, they may not know you and may be uncertain whether you will place an order with them. As a result, they may charge a fee for providing samples. This is a common practice, and you can ask the supplier to deduct the sample cost from your purchase order if you decide to move forward with them. However, the supplier may or may not agree to this, as the relationship is new. In some cases, you may receive free samples, but you would have to bear the courier costs. It is important to note that the cost of samples is usually higher than the cost of bulk production, as the sampling process is expensive. The supplier must procure all necessary materials at retail or sampling costs and make the samples in a specialized sampling unit.

*Pro Tip- To avoid relying solely on one factory, it is recommended to request samples from at least 3-4 shortlisted factories. This ensures that you have backup options and do not have to repeat the entire process in case of any issues. Comparing samples from different factories helps in assessing their capability to meet your requirements. It is also important to compare samples in relation to the quotes received.

How to check proto samples?

After receiving the sample, it is important to compare it with the specifications you provided in the tech pack and other information given to the factory. Here is a list of important things to check:

Size/Measurements-

Verify if the product has been made in the correct size and measurements are as per the tech pack provided.

Colour-

Ensure that the colour of the sample, trims, and embellishments match your request. Check them against the Pantone numbers if provided to the supplier.

Fabric/Material-

Check that the fabric or material weight, look, feel, and finish are the same as what you requested. Confirm that the print or weaving quality is up to standard and check for any misprints or fabric weaving defects.

Embellishment / value addition-

Verify that the embellishment has been done correctly using the correct artwork. Check the placement, colour, and quality of material used.

Trims-

Ensure that the trims are functional, such as zippers operating smoothly and having the quality requested. For a furniture piece with drawers, you can confirm if they fit well, open smoothly, the finish inside is smooth, and if there is a stopper at the back.

Quality/Workmanship-

Verify that the workmanship or quality of construction is good. For a textile product, check if the seams are straight, all parts are sewn perfectly, and there is no puckering or pulling. For hard products, such as a metal side table, verify that the construction is strong, all joints are strong, neatly welded, and check it for stability to see if it wobbles.

Finishing-

 Confirm that the product has been finished well. For any textile item, ensure that all stains are removed, threads cut, and neatly ironed. For a wooden kitchen serve ware product, check if the finishing is even and well-applied, the edges are smooth, and if there are any cracks or splinters.

*Pro Tip- Keep in mind that the initial proto or first sample may be produced hastily, so it may not meet all of your requirements. Typically, these samples are made using sample dyed or printed fabric and readily available trims that may not exactly match your specifications. However, they should be sufficient for you to examine the product and determine if you want to proceed with production. Occasionally, you may receive an exceptional sample that meets your expectations and is approved right away, while other times it may differ significantly from what you were expecting. In such cases, it’s important to provide feedback to the supplier and request a revised proto sample before deciding whether to move forward.

Once Samples are evaluated, a document needs to be prepared with all detailed revisions, changes and corrections and then shared with the supplier for their records and perusual. Tech pack must be updated with all comments/ modifications as well.

Voila! Your first sample evaluation is Done!!!


Phew, you made it to the end!!

Following these tips will do wonders when checking samples, whether it’s your first or one of many!

I hope this helped you feel a bit more confident in how to check samples! 

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need clarification or have any questions.

Happy Sourcing!

Kirti Sehrawat

Kirti Sehrawat

I help E-commerce Entrepreneurs Source Products from India effectively and efficiently, so they can bring their brilliant Product ideas to life and Build an Online Business of their dreams.

hi! I'm Kirti!

I help E-commerce Entrepreneurs Source Products from India effectively and efficiently, so they can bring their brilliant Product ideas to life and Build an Online Business of their dreams.

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