New client of mine recently sent me a link to a post on the Quality Wars blog (a once good blog that has not posted since April) and asked me if it made sense. The post is entitled, How to Find a Good Factory in China and my response was, “yes, it most certainly does.” The post very nicely lays out the following “surefire steps to ensuring that you only work with a factory that can meet your requirements:”

1. Get references and check them out – While this may seem simple enough, following this rule will help you eliminate about 90% of the potential trading partners you may find on sites like Alibaba or Global Sources. Ask the person whom you’re emailing with to provide you references of others in the US or Europe that they have done business with directly, who you can contact for a reference. It’s understandable if the supplier replies that they cannot tell you all of their clients’ names or brands they are making, but they should definitely be able to provide at least one or two references. When you check them out, set up a phone call instead of just a casual email. You’ll learn very quickly with whom you’re dealing. If the supplier cannot provide you with one genuine reference…run away and don’t look back.
2. Send in a 3rd party to perform China Supplier Verification – These days there are a whole list of professional firms in China who can provide you a detailed report by sending someone first hand to visit your potential supplier. You can usually get this done for less than $150 and let me tell you…it could end up saving you a fortune!
3. Request product documentation – Ask your supplier if they can provide you some documents related to their quality control, or product safety standards, and see what they come back with. You may ask for things such as a “quality control checklist” for the product in question, or for “lab testing documentation” showing that the materials being used in the product are safe and legal for your market of sale. If the supplier avoids this request, or has no clue what you’re talking about, don’t go any further. A professional factory or trading company will be highly familiar and responsive to such requests.
4. Go with your gut – You don’t need to be an expert in buying from China to know when you have a “bad feeling” about something. Feel strange that the supplier is asking you to make money transfers by Western Union? Is the name on their bank account different from the company or contact person’s name with no good explanation? Does the supplier seem to avoid your simple and direct questions? All of these are signs of a bad partner. Don’t rationalize an obvious lapse in professionalism because you feel you’re “locked-in” to one supplier.
5. Note the Quality – When you receive a sample or send someone in to check the goods, what is your opinion of the goods quality? Does the item seem “just not right,” flimsy, cheap or have some other malfunction? If a supplier is willing to send out a sample that has quality issues then you will definitely not get what you are expecting when you place an order. NEVER accept the excuse that “Oh, the sample is just like this but the mass production will be better”. That is the biggest joke in the book.

The above are critical first steps towards ensuring quality product, but after you have chosen the right factory, there is still more to do to help ensure you receive good product on a timely basis. Your next step is to lay the foundation of the business relationship by using a good supplier contract. For more on that, check out our post, China Supplier Agreements.
What do you think?

  • All are excellent pieces of advice.

  • Thanks for posting this! I’ve read some of these suggestions elsewhere, but not all together. It’s nice to have it confirmed. This couldn’t have come at a better time, since I’ve just started scouting manufacturers for an upcoming project.

  • Wozniack

    Very helpful. The only thing I would add to this is that it sometimes pays to retain an outsourcing consultant to assist.

  • Mark

    Excellent advice.
    I’d also tell them to send someone on the ground. I don’t really trust third party China Supplier Verification anymore because I’ve had issues with bribery/fraud in the past.

  • Tamquam

    My wife worked at an outfit that imported textiles from China for several years. Invariably the samples were perfect, but the product delivered was just awful. The buyer would refuse the shipment and they’d have to sell it for pennies, if they could sell it at all. They did this over and over and just would not understand that the way to make a profit and get repeat business is to provide the goods as promised.

  • kevin

    Yes, the cost of prevention is much less than the cost of litigation. I have deep feelings about such cases. Always the foreign companies pay so much legal cost, but the fraud party is in bankruptcy, without money. so be careful to do business.

  • Ken

    This is great advice, thank you for this post. How do you stop the manufacturer from stealing the product/idea for a different market?

  • Great advice.

  • Sam

    Why are sites like Alibaba and Global Sources bad?


    Thanks for the advice. To be forewarned is to be forearmed

  • Sam Maklad

    Thank you for the post, please can you or anybody suggest a good and competitive manufacturers in China while you all have and experience. Appreciated,

  • Kris Ho

    How to get the 3rd party to perform china supplier verification?