Made in China
Advice by Jacqueline Vanderpuye (Founder and owner of EDGE LTD, Shanghai) who offers invaluable insights from her first-hand experience of manufacturing products in China.
If your aim is to have a reliable source of suppliers and materials from China, the best is for you to have an office base in China, or at least an agent who works on your behalf. The Chinese value face to face contact. It is not enough to rely on communication by e-mail or by any other means. The most effective way is to be in the factory.
There are great differences between the understanding of the Chinese and their foreign customers. It is easy for information to be mis-understood and mis-interpreted and therefore easy for problems to arise with the production. The Chinese are not very good at admitting they don’t understand something or are not sure what you mean and will therefore not come forward to ask. This can prove very frustrating once production gets underway.
If you are a buyer wanting to do business in Guangzhou, it will be advantageous to conduct a fact finding mission through someone who speaks good Chinese (Cantonese) as this is not a Mandarin speaking region. This contact person should also have a good command of English to reduce anything being lost in translation. If you are trying to source products, it is best to bring examples of the products you want to find and the quality level with you. The Chinese are good at copying from an original sample and therefore feel more confident if they have a sample for comparison.
If you have never worked with Chinese factories in the past, choose factories that are medium sized, not the very large ones. If your order sizes are small the larger factories will not be able to accommodate your order, the medium sized factories will probably be able to offer you smaller minimum orders. The quality standards of factores vary greatly and this will be across all product types. The mills will tell you “yes we can do this, no problem”, but when it comes to the production they have difficulties. So if you’re looking for a particular type of product, check the factory’s quality output by inspecting products they have already produced. Also ask for their client list, as this will provide a good indication of quality levels if you recognise these customers by reputation.
Use your own industry standards as a bench mark for the quality of output that you require, and make a translation document of these requirements to brief your prospective factories. You should give as much information as possible regarding your requirements for pricing, lead times, quality standards, testing requirements etc. This will make it easy to gauge which factories will be able to meet your requirements and those which will not.
Working with China is not easy and requires a lot of patience. If you can be patient and systematic and as thorough as possible in providing information then this will make your path easier.