Can I do NPD work in the Far East whilst working at Home?
Even when the current Covid restrictions begin to be lifted, we are not going to be able to globe-trot across the world as easily as we used for some time, unfettered travel, I suspect, is low down the priority list. This aside, you must wonder whether all those buying trips were actually necessary; in the future, could I do NPD work in the Far East easily, quickly, and more efficiently whilst working from home?
At Hoare Group we don’t see why not, we’re not dismissing the value of meeting suppliers face to face, its an important part of the process but it is really not necessary for every single piece of NPD.
Ok – we’re saying this from the position of the agent, however, we have the advantage of having highly skilled and experience British furniture people based in the UK and in the Far East. I say ‘people’ purposely, let me introduce ourselves – Charlie Codrington in London and Daniel Hoare in Hong Kong, shortly in our new HQ in Saigon.
We’re both accomplished furniture designers – that’s the easy and expected bit, we have both been in the furniture industry at all levels – from working with the biggest to smallest retailers in the UK and at all stages in production, from initial design concept through to the delivery to your customers ‘room of choice’. We’ve done our time in factories of all sizes from Transylvania to Jiamusi, in a drafty warehouse across the UK, on delivery vans, with customer care – need I go on? With a combined experience of 70 years in all aspects of UK furniture, it’s safe to say that between us we have experienced everything the trade can throw at us. Dan’s fluency in Mandarin and other southeast Asian languages gives a head start….
Stage 1 ‘Has the project got legs?’
A simple yet important stage, avoids loads of wasted effort and time, let us have a very brief outline of the concept you are looking at. We don’t want detail at this stage, just broad-brush stuff, target market and selling price, expected volumes, perhaps an image of something similar and a lifestyle shot to set the tone, no more than an a4 sheet. In a matter of days, we will review, access, think about the most suitable factories and get back to you with ideas of how we can help you.
Stage 2 – Add some detail
Do you want to progress? we need a bit more detail now; key features such as, what’s in the range, important parts of the design concept, areas we can look at to ‘cost engineer’ down to price and up to value.
Stage 3 – Dreaded drawings – part 1
We’re furniture designers remember; we live and breathe drawings, we’ll provide you with CAD visuals to bring the project to life, indicative costs, and options around your target prices. This allows your team to really understand the full potential of the design.
Stage 4 – Dreaded drawings – part 2
By this time will have narrowed the selection of factories down, the choice depends on loads of factors, some factories are geared up to make 100’s of single SKU to fill a single container, others excel in mixed containers – it’s horses for courses.
A quick note on the factories we work with, we are in contact with hundreds of manufacturers across the Far East, each is visited by us, our preference is for those with Sedex accreditation, our minimum requirement is 3rd party evidence of compliance with local labor laws; which in Vietnam and China are progressive. Any whiff of dodgy labor practices or iffy timber supplies and we’re off – just not interested.
We arrange for the final drawings of the prices to be made either by ourselves or the factory, check them, and send them to you for approval. Not everyone can read working drawings so we will always send CAD sketches and models for you and your team to play with.
Always worth remembering that photorealistic images can be made from these CAD models; just ask your marketeer or web team to let us have the required format.
Once everyone’s happy – we move on to
Stage 5 – Sampling
We will order 4 samples, one to look at in the factory, one to send to you (if required) one for compliance testing, and a final one for reference.
Initial sample approval can be done via Zoom or Skype directly from the factory. Changes can be made at this stage, and prices firmed up. Generally, the testing, reference, and customer approval samples are completed once the initial sample has been approved.
Quick aside to explain our process on the ground, we don’t just give the factory drawings and come back in 3 weeks to see the result, our teams will visit the factory frequently (means almost daily) to check progress and accuracy to drawing. They take copious photos, continually referring back to us, if anything is going pear-shaped, we’ll know immediately and rectify, we don’t like surprises!
Stage 5 – Sample Approval
Once we have remote visual approval, we can either move on to testing prior to production or arrange for the final sample (some call this Red Seal) to be shipped to the UK for your team to touch, feel and approve. If a sample is required for approval in the UK, we will have the design tested prior to shipping.
This is the opportunity to tie those other less interesting but vital details; labelling, batch coding, instructions, packaging design.
Stage 6 – Production
New designs generally take a little longer to get into production, say 10 weeks as opposed to a general 8 lead time for a repeat order. Prior to shipping, you will receive a QC report with pictures, evidence of drop tests to the packing along with all the necessary documentation to prove compliance with EUTR regulations (these ain’t going away with Brexit!)
This is a brief outline of our process, a precis of our formal and exhaustive supplier’s manual, it is a process tried a tested by some of the UK leading retailers. It doesn’t totally replace the visit to the factory, these are important but don’t have to happen as frequently as perhaps they did in the past.
So please – if you have a concept you have always wanted to make happen – get in contact……