Finding a Manufacturer in China: Selection and Audit

Quality starts with finding the right manufacturer

Whatever you’re sourcing, the first step is to get the best possible supplier.  Hornet’s selection and audit process does this.

We’ve sourced hundreds of products from hundreds of factories.  Sometimes we know a manufacturer in China who matches your needs.  If there’s one who’s impressed us like this before, we’ll consider them.  But even then, for every new project, we investigate alternative suppliers.  We want to be sure we get you the best deal!

Initial Factory Selection

We usually start from a list of suppliers and assess them 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 registration details, credit history, any evidence of legal proceedings against them and so on.
  • We conduct general background checks via online research.

Other checks assess how well the manufacturer matches your project.

  • Is their main product focus well aligned with your needs?  It sounds obvious, but the closer the fit the better.  For example, if you’re sourcing 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 impression of the factory at this stage.

  • If they are slow to respond or avoid answering questions, it’s a sign that communication might be difficult in the future.
  • We ask for evidence of quality certifications and strong processes.
  • Experience making goods for export is another useful indicator.  Overseas markets have strict quality, safety and labelling standards.  A manufacturer in China who has not sold product internationally may struggle to meet these standards.

The aim of these initial checks is to cut the list of potential suppliers.  Everyone on the shortlist should be able to deliver the required quality.  Often a preferred factory becomes obvious.  Sometimes there are two or three which are hard to choose between.  This is a good time to start comparing pricing.

Factory Audits

Once we have identified a potential manufacturer in China, we conduct a factory audit.  (Unless we’ve worked with the chosen factory very recently.)  The reason is quite simple – there are some things we can only verify via audit.

If the supplier doesn’t want us to visit, it’s a very 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 a manufacturer in China may provide.

If required, Hornet conduct additional audits for social, environmental, industrial and management performance.

Having our own staff on the ground in China means we can offer independent, impartial factory audit and selection.  Choosing a reliable supplier is a key first step for each and every sourcing project we handle.

Hornet’s emphasis on careful project management and quality control continues through the life of your project.  We have a multi-step process to ensure quality control.


Do you want help finding and auditing a Chinese manufacturer for your product?

Contact Hornet now to discuss your needs.