Finding the best manufacturer is your first and most important sourcing task.
Whatever you’re sourcing, there are Chinese manufacturers who can make it for you. The challenge is to find the best manufacturer.
There are many factors to consider in choosing your ideal supplier.
- What kind of product are you sourcing? Is it a standard product, a slight customisation or a brand new design of your own?
- How do you balance quality and cost considerations?
- What volumes do you want to order? Will you need repeat orders? Is it likely that volumes will change?
Hornet’s supplier selection and audit process addresses all these issues and more.
We’ve sourced hundreds of products from hundreds of factories. We may already know one or more Chinese manufacturers who can service your needs. If so, we’ll consider them. But for every new project, we investigate new suppliers. It’s one way we make sure we get you the best deal!
Researching and Assessing Chinese Manufacturers
We start by compiling a list of potential manufacturers for your project. Then we assess each manufacturing company against various criteria.
Some checks are designed to eliminate any obvious danger areas.
- We confirm the legal name of the supplier. (ie what company will the invoice come from?)
- We check the company registration details and credit history. We also look for any evidence of legal proceedings or other reputation issues.
- We conduct general background checks online, in Chinese.
Other checks assess how well the manufacturer matches your project and your needs.
- Is their main product focus aligned with your needs? It sounds obvious, but the closer the fit the better. For example, if you want clothing, a clothing factory is better than one which produces bedding but has spare capacity.
- What’s the production capacity? If they are too small, they will outsource some or all production, which means all our auditing is wasted. On the other hand, a large manufacturer in China may not give smaller orders any priority or attention.
We also assess our general impressions.
- Are they slow to respond? Do they fail to answer questions? These are signs that communication may be difficult. That’s not positive?
- Have they got any quality certifications? Can they provide proof of those? What about written processes or quality checklist examples?
- Do they have experience making goods for export? Overseas markets have strict quality, safety and labelling standards. Chinese manufacturers without international experience may struggle to meet these standards.
These checks are designed to cut the list of potential suppliers. We want a manageable shortlist. But we need to be sure every manufacturer on the shortlist can deliver the quality you need.
Sometimes the ‘best fit’ Chinese manufacturer for your project is obvious. Sometimes there are two or three to choose between. This can be a good time to start comparing pricing.
However great the chosen supplier looks on paper, we still conduct a factory audit. Unless we’ve worked with this factory very recently! The reason is simple – there are some things we can only verify by an audit.
If the supplier doesn’t want us to visit, it’s a bad indicator. It may mean they’re not actually a factory at all, but a wholesaler or distributor. That’s not usually the best deal for you – unless you need a small quantity of a standard product, when it might be the only option. Whatever their reasons, if a supplier won’t let us visit, it’s harder to build a relationship. That makes it harder to manage quality control or other issues if they arise later.
The factory audit lets us confirm our initial research.
- Is the factory size as expected?
- Is the factory generally clean, tidy and organised?
- Is there evidence of quality control? (We look at pre-production and the production line itself.)
- How are finished goods packed and stored?
- Are there any obvious health and safety issues?
A factory audit can also help distinguish between systems ‘on paper‘ and ‘in reality’. It’s far more useful than any quality certification Chinese manufacturers may provide.
Depending on your needs, Hornet can also audit issues like social, environmental, industrial and management performance.
We use our own staff on the ground in China to conduct audits. So our selection process is independent and impartial.
Usually we audit factories from our shortlist, but if you have your own potential supplier already, we can still do an audit. It saves you the cost of a trip to China, plus our experienced staff know exactly what to look for.
If a factory fails at the audit stage, we go back to the shortlist and start again with another supplier. At no extra cost to you. We know from experience that it’s important to get it right at the start. Whatever the project, having a great manufacturer will reduce issues in production and quality control.