The worst time for an importer is definitely the Chinese New Year. Period!
All Chinese factories are rushing their productions, the quality is always lower than you are expecting and the shipping companies are moving your cargo from one ship to another, due to lack of space.
Unfortunately, this situation doesn't end after the vacation period. Most of the factories are opening and start to struggle with missing workers as many decide to stay back to their villages and never return. This phenomenon along with the accumulation of new and old orders causes big delays in production and a huge uncertainty for the final shipment.
The situation at the ports isn't stable either. Many forwarders believe that they can easily find space to the usual routes but this is far from truth that results in losing the shipment or move to a much more expensive service.
The only way to feel secure in situations like this is the close collaboration with the factory, the forwarder and all the parties involved in your order cycle. Everything can easily change and you need to response as fast as you can by giving clear instructions to everyone.
What is your way on staying on top of your shipments?