If you are visiting China to look for new suppliers chances are that your time will be very limited, you will arrive feeling tired and more than a little bit lost!
You want to maximise your time by checking out a wide range of suppliers to get as clear a picture as possible of what the factory is really like.
One option is to engage the services of a specialist inspection or consulting company such as Senlinx Consulting, who can help you to review potential suppliers without having to make the long trek to China.
However, there are also many reasons why it is a good idea to see the factories with your own eyes, and for those wishing to embark on a sourcing trip we have created a simple checklist of what you should look for:
9 Key Objectives for Initial Factory Reviews
1. Check the cleanliness and orderliness of both the factory and the office
2. Check how they identify, maintain and keep track of materials
3. Observe the production equipment, their condition and output capacity (calculate: can they really produce as much as they claim?)
4. Take a look at product samples and compare with the quality you see on the production line
5. Observe what in-process checks are being carried out during production
6. Figure out what testing or final inspection processes are occurring. Are they meaningful or just for show?
7. Take a look in the warehouse and identify where else they are selling products to (local or overseas? to developed or developing economies?)
8. Get copies of the company's business licence, ISO certification and relevant product reports etc.
9. Take photos!
Your potential supplier will be more than willing to show you their ISO9001 certificate, but a better option to gauge their attitude to quality may be to take a look at their testing facilities.
Many factories in China - especially in state promoted industries - have well equipped modern testing facilities, containing test equipment which companies are mandated to purchase.
Visiting the factory for the first time, it is easy to be blinded by this expensive array of equipment. However, of more pressing concern are the following issues:
- does the test lab actually get used?
- are the equipments calibrated?
- are tests carried out to a formal procedure?
- are tests results analyzed against relevant standards and set criteria?
- how are test results recorded?
- does the test lab employ technicians, or are tests carried out by the Quality Manager (a sure sign of trouble!)
To ensure their products are as good as they claim to be, all factories should have suitable means to check their production.
Usually this doesn’t require state of the art equipment; it requires appropriate testing to be carried out at regular intervals in a methodical manner, using calibrated machines to set procedures.