How do you choose your Chinese manufacturer? - Part 2

In my previous article, I explained the basics of how to approach your Chinese manufacturer. Today we will go further and discuss the other critical items which will help you to choose your Chinese manufacturer. So, let’s start!

Choose the cheap one? Choose the middle one? Choose the expensive one? I guess nobody will do that.

These numbers don’t mean much by themselves but together with the items I will mention below, they will complete the whole picture and make the scene more meaningful.

So, what are these?

1. Quality matters.

First of all, certifications are important, but you cannot only trust these.

Some of the factories get the paperwork done after a lot of preparation and complete the audit, get the certification. They hang it on their wall and ‘’Voila, done!’’ The quality of the factory is improved just like that. Is it so? How about their everyday operation? It is not about only filling a checklist. How careful and responsible is the management? Do they really deep dive to the bottom of the problems? Do they take immediate corrective actions in case of a failure? What kind of system do they follow up to catch the problems at the early stage? Or do they have a system at all? How seriously do they choose their own vendors? Do they have a continuous quality improvement plan? These are all important questions by themselves and need to be checked carefully with the manufacturer.

Take a real picture of your factory: Arrange a process audit for the factory no matter what on a random day!

Hire a professional if possible familiar with your product or industry at least. Then you can have a better understanding if the factory is suitable for your product or not. Quality management is a big topic with a lot of details. I will mention more in my next sessions.

2. Project management performance is critical. 

Meet their project management team, and try to understand how they manage a project. Are they really responsible? Do they understand your requirements clearly and how well communicate the details internally with their engineering team? Do they mention the risks or say ‘Ok, no problem’ to everything? Do they keep their promises on the agreed cost, schedule, scope, and quality during the project?

Usually, it is not easy to evaluate this issue in one meeting, you know more after you get in more. But here is a hint; try to find some connections with their other customers. They will give you more insights into their project management performance.

3. How capable is their R&D team? 

Do they have dedicated engineers for the technology you used in your product? Did they develop similar products in their experience? Do they know how to solve the technical problems in the production or during the certification process? Your design is already good but, do they have any ideas to improve your product to the next level or lower the cost of your design?

4. How do they handle their supply chain? 

What is your factory’s lead time? How flexible are they for your urgent orders? How do they manage the supply of their key components? How are their business relations with their vendors? Do they have any strategic partnerships?

You agreed on the price, you kicked off the project, and a few months later you are ready to go for mass production. You placed the purchase order. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask for an up-cost or lead-time increase. Maybe the prices really increased meanwhile, but did they see it coming? What actions did they take to prevent the cost? Did they warn you in time and make any suggestions? How will you know that you won’t have the same problem every time you place a purchase order? These questions are usually skipped at the beginning of the projects.

5. Are they really taking ‘confidentiality’ seriously? 

How are they protecting their existing customers’ IP? And how will they protect yours?

Secured production facilities, isolated lines for different customers, separate business units for different brands/projects, serious contract management, and so on.

You don’t need to be a professional here. It takes a lot of time to gain experience in each subject mentioned above. But having this study done and showing it to your factory is good enough to give a clear message to them: ‘I am serious, don’t mess with me!’ Also, you will save a lot of trouble in advance for your product and business.

When you evaluate all these issues together with the offers you have, you will have a clearer mind for your final decision. Choosing your Chinese manufacturer is choosing your business partner. The success or failure of your product depends on this cooperation.