China 101: Sourcing from China Survival Guide (Part I)

This is another guest post prepared for the China 101 project.
This post has been written by Renaud Anjoran, who founded Sofeast, a QC firm in China in 2006, and has been writing advice for importers on his blog Quality Inspection Tips since 2009.
I would like to thank Renaud for his collaboration.

 China 101: Sourcing from China Survival Guide (Part I)

Thousands of new companies start importing from China every year, but they don’t know where to start and they tend to forget critical safety measures. Here is a “survival guide” that can help buyers eliminate 90% of the risks associated with China sourcing.

I.Finding a Suitable Supplier

1. Getting a nice sample does not mean a supplier can actually manufacture the product. It is only a basis for easy communication about your requirements.

2. Online directories (Alibaba, Global Sources…) and trade shows are only a starting point. Suppliers pay to be listed or to exhibit, and they are not rigorously screened.

3. Run a background check on the companies you shortlist. A “Business Credit Report” costs only 255 USD on Globis, and will help you spot the intermediaries that pretend to own a plant.

4. Check the factory. Look at the products they make, the processes they operate in-house, their other customers, etc.

5. Order a capacity audit, if you can´t visit the factory yourself. Every third-party inspection firm offers this service.

6. Get customer references, if possible in your country. Note that a manufacturer might refuse to tell you about their customers, and not always for bad reasons.

7. Do call those customers! You’d be surprised how often these references are fake… or these customers are actually unhappy!

8. Make sure the factory is familiar with your market´s regulatory standards. Ask a few questions, ask for relevant certificates and/or lab test reports.

9. Consider working with manufacturers of the right size. If your orders are small, very large manufacturers will probably quote high prices and not care about your orders.

10. Monitor small factories very closely. They often have no established management system. So either you trust the boss to personally look after your orders every day, or you keep a close eye on production.

11. Include a clause in your contract that prohibits subcontracting. Production might not take place in the factory you were shown, and in general product quality suffers greatly in these cases.

II.When drafting the contract

12. Clearly define your product, labeling, and packing requirements. Write a detailed specification sheet that leaves no room to interpretation.

13. Specify methods you will use for measuring and testing specifications.

14. Specify tolerances whenever applicable.

15. Specify penalties for non conformities. If you want the option to enforce this contract one day, make sure there is no room for interpretation on penalties.

Coming soon, Sourcing from China Survival Guide (part II), where we will read a lot more tips on:
-what to do before making any payments
-new product development
-payment terms
-quality control
-and some final warnings.

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  1. Great list of tips you should definitely be aware of! I really think it is important when you say, “Clearly define your product, labelling, and packing requirements. Write a detailed specification sheet that leaves no room to interpretation.” Otherwise, you will get samples or even final products that do not meet your expectations while also losing a lot of money! Even if you clearly define your requirements, misunderstands are likely to abound. If you are interested, we explained the three most important tips for China sourcing on our company blog. Have a look to get to know more details about how to find a suitable supplier in China. I would appreciate your feedback on it!