13 Topics to Discuss When on Skype with Your Factory

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No need to rush into things.

So you’ve poured your heart and soul into designing a product, and now it’s time to send it off to be manufactured overseas. What a proud moment! But, just like any devoted parent whose child is ready to move out of the house, you wouldn’t just ship your prized creation off to the first place that agrees to take it. You want to make sure you’re finding the best possible factory to manufacture your product, to give it every opportunity for success.

One of the most important ways of gauging whether a particular Chinese supplier is the right fit for your production also happens to be one of the most overlooked: talking with them! Whether it’s over the phone, on a Skype call or in person, one-on-one communication with prospective suppliers is a great way of getting a sense of their compatibility with your needs. But what to say?? In this post, we’ll offer some key questions to ask potential suppliers as part of your search.

Get a sense of the factory’s history and reputation

  1. When was the factory founded?
  2. Can they provide copies of their business and export licenses?
  3. What is the factory’s sales history?  Can they show profitability and growth consistently over time?
  4. Who are their biggest clients? Can they show you purchase orders from them? Can you contact these clients as references?
  5. What is the most recent investment made into the factory? What will the next investment be?

Find out about the workforce

  1. How many workers are employed by this factory?
  2. Does the company itself deal with customers, or do they employ a middleman or intermediary? If so, how is this person compensated?
  3. Which workers will be handling your production? How long have they been employed with this factory? Will these workers be handling any other purchase orders during this time?
  4. What is the employee turnover rate? Do workers generally stay with the factory for long periods of time, or does the factory frequently cycle through employees?
  5. Who handles quality control, both in-process and at the final stage? Are there in-house QC inspectors or does the factory employ a third-party? Do they offer lab testing?

Ask about the production process

  1. What is the average lead time on a production like yours, from start to finish?
  2. Does the factory only run assembly, or are components manufactured here as well?
  3. Does the factory handle export in-house, or do they employ a third-party logistics company?

The answers you should be looking for will depend on your specific product and the relative importance of things like lead time, cost and quality. But if you start detecting inconsistencies in the way a potential supplier is answering your questions, or if they resist supplying you with key pieces of information, it may be time to move on.

Remember, the better your relationship with your supplier, the more positive your experience is likely to be. So, while there is a time and place to demand straight answers to the tough questions, don’t underestimate the importance of small talk and genuinely socializing with your potential suppliers. And as a general rule, it’s best to steer clear of sensitive topics like politics and religion.
Do you have any important questions you’d like to see added to the list? Let us know in the comments!

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