Selecting the Right Manufacturing Partner in China
You have painstakingly designed and created a product.
Maybe you’ve even been through the emotional rollercoaster of a crowdfunding campaign, pouring your heart and soul into the Kickstarter & Indiegogo pitch.
Now it’s gut-check time. Prototyping, manufacturing, planning your cash flows and a hundred other things you didn’t plan out until you were done giving the campaign everything.
Now you want to bring this idea to life and all the signs are pointing you towards manufacturing solutions that give you great quality, at great prices. At some point, this journey is going to lead you to the question of manufacturing in China. There is a reason the whole world comes here to manufacture their products – the combination of low costs and availability of human capital and logistics infrastructure is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
But then you get down to the nitty-gritties and realize that figuring out how to make your product in China is trickier than it first seemed. The first and most important step in the process is identifying the right contract manufacturing partner. This choice can make or break your entire endeavor, so you must choose wisely. But how?
Step 1: Research and Shortlist
There is no way around this. You will have to start collecting details on as many factories as you can through web directories, industry publications and word-of-mouth. Try to prepare a shortlist of 10-20 options that you can focus your efforts on going forward.
It may be helpful to filter this list based on some basic criteria. For example –
- Geography: You may prefer certain locations to others based on logistics and transport links or the prevalent tax regimes. For instance, Guangdong province in the South is better suited for consumer goods while the factories further North specialize in industrial goods.
- Experience: It is always better to go with manufacturers that have experience making other products in the same industry as yours with an established track record
Step 2: Do Your Due Diligence
I cannot stress how important this is. The ongoing boom in the Chinese manufacturing sector has opened the door to plenty of chancers and fly-by-night operations that will gladly fleece the uninformed. Here are some of the most important issues you should address about your proposed manufacturing partner at this stage –
- Assume that the vendor is a middleman until proven otherwise, not the other way around. You can ascertain whether they are middlemen or final suppliers by checking into whether they own and operate their own production facility. If they refuse to name the manufacturing location, you can be sure they are middlemen.
- Confirm that they are legitimate, properly licensed and accredited companies. Is the documentation and price structure well-defined and transparent? What is their track record and who have they worked for before? What kind of certifications do they have? These questions will help you root out the unworthy and unreliable.
- Check whether the manufacturer’s production capacity is appropriate for you. You want the ability to scale up production quickly in case your demand skyrockets, but not suffer under high minimum order quantities if demand is flat.
- Make sure that language barriers will not be an issue going forward in your communications with the proposed partner, especially when complicated technical discussions are involved. This being said, remember that polished English skills do not necessarily indicate desirability in a partner. Many middlemen and shady operators have sales teams that are proficient in English.
Step 3: Visit the Factory in Person (If Possible)
You can only confirm everything you have seen on paper by making a visit to China yourself. The on-ground reality may differ from what was represented to you on paper, and this gives you the opportunity to see the factory, workers and equipment that will make your product.
Additionally, this gives you a chance to develop a personal relationship with your business partners in China; something that is integral to the process of doing business there. Your visit will give your partner the chance to host you as a guest and in turn you get the chance to evaluate him and his operation.
Alternatively, consider hiring someone whom you can trust who has roots in China who can do the above for you (and price-check like a local while they’re at it).
A Note on Alibaba
Alibaba has become the most popular online platform for buying and selling contract manufacturing services, so it will inevitably feature in your research process. It is an extremely useful source of information on questions like pricing and minimum order quantities from a wide range of manufacturers.
However, be wary when dealing with individuals on Alibaba because misinformation and misrepresentation is rampant on that website. Go for ‘Gold’ rated manufacturers only and remember to protect your IP by sourcing your component parts from different factories instead of giving the whole order to one.
MorphoMFG has over 100,000 factories located just within a 100-mile radius of the office! As such, we have worked hard over the years to develop a network of consistently reliable factories over the years and we are always refining this list.
This benefit has accrued to our clients in the form of a fully flexible arrangement where we can tap the best partner for every specific case having already done most of the legwork in advance.
Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you choose the ideal manufacturing partner and bring your product to life.