I have been identifying and evaluating factories in China for US brands and retailers for over 9 years. In that time I can truly say I have seen the best and the worst of what manufacturing in China has to offer. Here are some surefire steps to ensuring that you only work with a factory that can meet your requirements:
- Get references and check them out – While this may seem simple enough, following this rule will help you eliminate about 90% of the potential trading partners you may find on sites like Global Sources. Ask the person whom you are emailing with to provide you references of others in the US or Europe that they have done business with directly, who you can contact for a reference. It is understandable if the supplier replies that they can not tell you all of their clients’ names or brands they are making, but they should definitely be able to provide at least one or two references. When you check them out, set up a phone call instead of just a casual email. You will learn very quickly who you are dealing with. If the supplier cannot provide you with one genuine reference…run away and do not look back.
- Send in a 3rd party to perform China Supplier Verification – These days there are a whole list of professional firms in China who can provide you a detailed report by sending someone first hand to visit your potential supplier. You can usually get this done for less than $150 and let me tell you…it could end up saving you a fortune!
- Request product documentation – Ask your supplier if they can provide you some documents related to their quality control, or product safety standards, and see what they come back with. You may ask for things such as a “quality control checklist” for the product in question, or for “lab testing documentation” showing that the materials being used in the product are safe and legal for your market of sale. If the supplier avoids this request, or has no clue what you are talking about, do not go any further. A professional factory or trading company will be highly familiar and responsive to such requests
- Go with your gut – You do not need to be an expert in buying from China to know when you have a “bad feeling” about something. Feel strange that the supplier is asking you to make money transfers via a third party? Is the name on their bank account different from the company or contact person s name with no good explanation? Does the supplier seem to avoid your simple and direct questions? All of these are signs of a bad partner. Do not rationalize obvious lapse in professionalism because you feel you are “locked-in” to one supplier. In China, if there is one factory making, there is usually ten other factories right down the road making the same thing.
- Note the Quality – When you receive a sample or send someone in to check the goods, what is your opinion of the goods quality? Does the item seem “just not right”, flimsy, cheap or have some other function? If a supplier is willing to send out a sample that has quality issues then you will definitely not get what you are expecting when you place an order. NEVER accept the excuse that “Oh, the sample is just like this but the mass production will be better”. That is the biggest joke in the book.