In 2010, China solidified its position as the world’s leading manufacturing country and has continued to dominate the manufacturing industry ever since. As a result, businesses across the globe are increasingly turning to Chinese labor as a cost-effective manufacturing solution. This article will explore the advantages of manufacturing your products in China and 10 steps to show you how to ensure that your product will be made by a dependable Chinese manufacturer.
Two Key Paths to Manufacturing Your Products in China
There are two different paths that your company can take to enjoy the fruits of Chinese manufacturing. The first path involves establishing a factory or plant in China and running all manufacturing operations in China. The second path involves partnering with an established manufacturer in China who will make products for your company according to your requested specifications. In both cases, manufactured goods would bear your company logo and arrive in a customized case.
The Advantages of Partnering with a Manufacturer in China
Forging a partnership with a manufacturer in China to produce your goods is an excellent solution for companies that wish to maintain their primary operations in the United States (or other industrialized nation). Business owners who use this strategy often have the manufactured goods shipped overseas from China to their warehouses for final inspection, labeling, and packaging. The advantages of this strategy are as follows:
- Relocation of key supervisory staff to China is not necessary
- Final quality inspection occurs in the United States or company owner’s country
- Products are shipped from an American address, which is viewed as advantageous by many customers
- Troubleshooting and returns can be handled by U.S. support staff, which is requested by many American clients
- The manufacturer bears responsibility for ensuring manufacturing safety
Steps to Choosing the Best Chinese Manufacturer for Your Product Line
Clearly, there are many benefits to partnering with a Chinese manufacturer. Your company can enjoy the fruits of cost-effective Chinese labor while you maintain your official presence in the United States. However, it important to note that not all Chinese manufacturing companies are created equal. It is vital that you exercise care and discretion when evaluating prospective manufacturers in China. Below are 10 steps to help you choose the best manufacturer in China to fabricate your products.
1) Visit the manufacturer’s production facility. If you could only choose one suggestion from this list of ten items, it would be to make a personal visit to China to see the manufacturer’s production warehouse and offices. A face to face visit is the single best way to ensure that you and a prospective manufacturer are on the same page. During your visit, you will have a chance to assess the following:
- Your ability to establish a trusted relationship with the owner of the manufacturing company
- Quality control processes that are used to ensure accurate production
- The manufacturer’s ability to handle your order volume
- Procedures used for packaging and safely transporting your products
2) Inspect the materials that would be used to manufacture your products. One of the reasons why some American companies are reluctant to explore Chinese manufacturing is concern that poor quality materials may be used in the manufacturing process. For instance, there are varying grades of stainless steel and plastic that are used to make products. It is your duty to specify any requirements in advance and to request a product sample prior to moving forward with manufacturing.
3) Assess the company’s industry experience. Industry experience is vital to ensuring timely production and high quality goods. You should be armed with some key questions to ask that will indicate whether a manufacturer is equipped with the experience necessary to ensure a high quality product. Here are a few to ask:
- How many years has your company been in business?
- What is the single largest order you have ever handled?
- How do you handle product defects?
4) Ask for a list of references in your country. A Chinese manufacturer should have no trouble producing a list of satisfied customers in your country. Failure to produce any notable references is a red flag that may be indicative of dissatisfied customers or inability to fulfill orders in a timely fashion. When you receive a list of references, contact them and ask if they have been satisfied with the quality ofproduct and service they have received.
5) Obtain estimates for production lead time. The most proficient manufacturer in the world will be of no use to you or your customers if they are unable to meet production deadlines. Here are some tips as you evaluate the lead time of prospective Chinese manufacturers:
- Be sure that you understand whether estimates are provided in regular calendar days or business days
- Clarify whether estimates also include delivery time
- Ask manufacturers to highlight any times during the year when production will cease
6) Evaluate the manufacturer’s scalability. Scalability is a manufacturer’s ability to easily increase production as your business grows and thrives. It is a critical factor to consider if you are projecting significant growth over the next year or two. You do not want to switch manufacturers in the future, so be sure that the companies you evaluate are fully able to handle large orders and the sustained growth of your company.
7) Ask to see a copy of the company’s quality control procedures. A robust quality control department is essential to ensuring that your products are manufactured with accuracy and care. In particular, you should inquire about mechanisms to ensure adherence to pertinent industry standards and regulations. Because industry standards and regulations sometimes differ between countries, it is your responsibility to clearly outline any manufacturing standards with which your manufacturer in China should comply.
8) Verify your shipping options. While most Chinese manufacturers have experience shipping products to other countries, you need to make sure that you do not choose a manufacturer that only utilizes one mode of transportation. Ideally, a manufacturer will utilize the following modes of transporting your products to ensure efficient delivery:
- Sea freight via ocean container for large orders that are not time sensitive
- Air freight for smaller orders, or those that require urgent delivery
- Multi-modal freight options that utilize a combination of air, sea and rail delivery
9) Inquire about holidays and shutdowns. This is a critical step that is often overlooked by business owners as move to Chinese manufacturing. The holidays in China occur at different times of the year than American holidays, which can impact production capabilities. For instance, most businesses and manufacturers in China close for one to two weeks to celebrate the Chinese New Year. This holiday occurs after the American New Year in late January or February when business is the busiest for the U.S. Make sure that you consider key Chinese holidays and planned shutdowns when scheduling orders and shipments.
10) Ask for a sample of your requested customized case. Once you feel comfortable with a Chinese manufacturer, you should request a sample of your customized product. This last step is important because you want your customers to contact your company – not the manufacturer – to reorder products. You should be prepared for this step to take some time, as the creation of a customized mold may berequired and some tweaking may be necessary to produce the perfect product.