China is considered by many to be the world capital of manufacturing. This is true for a number of reasons. First, China has got modern infrastructure that encourages new product developers to pursue any type of product you can imagine. The country is also blessed with a strong workforce, which often translates into affordable labour costs relative to other countries in the western parts of the world. The innumerable number of suppliers available to work also means that the prices remain competitive and logical.
Even with all these benefits, finding the right Chinese supplier is no easy task. This is because supplier attitudes, business values, production capacity and logistics strength all vary from person to person. In our experience, there are a number of key areas to evaluate when seeking to find yourself the best supplier for your product. Here’s how to narrow down on the best supplier for your product type.
Start by narrowing your options
As we have earlier discussed, China is home to an enormous amount of manufacturing businesses. Before you commence any search, you must narrow your options to exclude Chinese suppliers that do offer services your business do not require. Use the following as a criteria for shortlisting some suppliers:
Manufacturers making products similar to yours
Your ideal manufacturer should have some level of specialization round the type of product you are trying to produce. Specialized suppliers are more preferable to other suppliers that only have an idea of your product design as a secondary knowledge. You will need to be careful as Chinese manufacturers will often offer to be able to do everything even at the expense of quality.
Ratings and Reviews matter
If your Chinese supplier is reputable enough, a quick search of the internet should be able to provide you with valuable reviews, ratings, complaints and critiques of their service. More often than not, what customers say about the supplier is always accurate and trustworthy.
Manufacturers that export/ship to USA or your primary market Because of stringiest quality control systems, Chinese suppliers that ship tool the USA or other western countries will be proven to have higher quality standards and ISO certifications. These manufacturers will be able to meet the standard and requirements across product safety, packaging, handling, labelling and more, which means you should be in good hands. Their experience with International shipping should also be of immense advantage to your supply chain and logistics
Corporate culture and values
Although not readily available, the corporate culture and values of your supplier will either portray trustworthiness or a need to be cautious. Reputable suppliers will also be transparent enough and should be able to provide a copy of their quality control systems documentations, ISO certifications and business licenses.
Ask the right set of questions
After narrowing your options to suppliers that are specialized in your type of product, review and get them to agree on a nondisclosure. This is very important because the Chinese manufacturing landscape is quite competitive. Loose ideas can easily be stolen, prototyped and introduced into the market because of the ease of manufacture in the city. Once you have agreed and signed a nondisclosure, send your chosen suppliers your product concept, material specifications, size and other need-to-know details. You can then proceed to ask these questions in your request for a quote (RFQ):
i. What is the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)?
The MOQ refers to the smallest possible amount of parts that you may place an order for. Any order below this level is deemed unacceptable to the supplier. The more units of your products to be manufactured, the lower the cost per unit. Although every company has a MOQ, you will need to meet somewhere to ensure that you’re being cost effective without ordering significantly above your required quantity. Suppliers in China like First Part offer Low-volume manufacturing to help new product developer’s prototype and produce market entry quantities for entirely new products
Are there charges for making samples?
Before concluding on any manufacturer, you will need to see a sample product of your design prototype. Be sure to confirm if this sample will be made completely free of charge or charged at a reduced rate. Prices can vary significantly from free to discounted amongst all of your shortlisted suppliers
What is the range of the total landing cost and payment terms?
The landing cost of an item consists of the production cost, shipping cost, tariffs and taxes. Request a quote for the landing cost of the item at variable units of production and compare this across all suppliers. Make sure you look at the qualitative factors too before settling for the lowest quote to not compromise on the final quality of the part. Finally, conclude on payment terms including details of down payment, mode of payment or upfront payment because you might be a first timer.
What is the delivery time?
You don’t want to wait forever to get your parts. Be sure to inquire about how long it would take to manufacture and ship your parts to your desired destination. Take note that factors such as complexity of the project, suppliers’ manufacturing capacity and labour strength all come into play here.
Verifying Quality Control Systems
Confirming the properties and quality of the materials to be used is one of the arduous tasks that even reputable suppliers are saddled. As a precaution to using adulterated or substandard materials in the manufacture of your products, inquire about the quality control system and protocols covering testing and verification of raw materials.
It is not unusual to request for your supplier’s ISO certification, purchase barcodes and even video records of material testing if possible. Consider each suppliers ability to provide test records of physical samples to have some level of peace of mind. Also, do note that when you ask your supplier for product samples, it is quite possible that your prototype is a little different from your original specifications. Keep an open mind and work on some back and forth to fine tune your sample to satisfaction. During this phase, you will learn about the supplier’s communication pattern and readiness to listen and take actions on your areas of concern
Unless you are Chinese, or have some level of fluency speaking the language, you will run into some communication challenges with Chinese suppliers. Often times, the mistakes that might arise in your production will be due to errors in translations, honest errors and assumptions. Select the supplier that youʼre most comfortable communicating with in either English or Chinese and conclude on how best concerns and issues will be discussed and resolved. Having a strong line of communication will help to prevent avoidable mistakes. Ensure that your communication is done in writing and send detailed and precise digital files of your design for better understanding. The ideal supplier will have a customer service unit with each client attached to a dedicated contact person in case misunderstanding or conflicts arise.
Should you visit your supplierʼs factory?
Today, a lot of international businesses are facilitated without the need for physical presence. Unless your order is very large and complex with a significant risk of error, you need not visit the supplierʼs factory in China. If your concerns hover around the legitimacy of the company, inspect their business license and suggest a visit to inspect their factory before concluding on the deal. More often than not, this will chase off fraudulent suppliers while legitimate businesses will be eager to welcome you and show you a tour of their factories, its capacity, supply chain strength and quality control processes.
First Part Manufacturing Services in China
First Part is one of China’s leading manufacturing hub for Additive, CNC and Conventional manufacturing techniques. We boast of excellent in-house capacity, labor force and logistics while delivering exceptional value for money. Our array of services include CNC machining, online 3d printing services, Rapid Tooling, Die casting, Rapid prototyping, Plastic Injection Molding, Urethane Casting, Aluminum Extrusion, Post-machining/Finishing services and much more.
As we understand the start-up challenges that is faced by new businesses, engineers and product developers, we offer both mass production, bridge tooling and low-volume prototyping/manufacturing with no minimum order quantities. Our services are flexible, saleable and innovative, with a team of engineers and design experts available to support you through your entire product development cycle.
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