On linkedin, i read this blog on 6 things to look for in a Chinese manufacturer.
The best way to get copy quick is to find a supplier with industry experience and experience with similar products. You will give them free R&D and new ideas.
For quality control, nowadays we are common to have quality control at the end of the production line to inspect all the goods, but we need to understand that normally the production must do the quality, having someone at the end of the line will not stop quality problems.
If the production is not implicated in quality then the products will always have quality issues. I was taught that quality must be made by production department.
What is more and more common now is that poka yoke are implemented directly in production jigs and production process to limit variations. The key thing is when you visit suppliers to ask them what is done in production process to avoid quality issues, not only add people to 100% visual check.
Trustworthiness and reliability
To reduce the risk of copy, do go to same industry and same product experience supplier, especially big ones.
Like i used to say BMW is subcontracting Mercedes to build a BMW car.
Errors to avoid
Have an expatriate friend who works in China, you are going to ask him for help to find the suppliers and start the production in China.
Use the social media platform Wechat to send a message in Wechat Moments looking for suppliers or doing sourcing of products or use Facebook expats groups to post a RFQ.
Ask an expatriate friend to introduce friends of friends to help.
Ask a Chinese friend to introduce friend with a factory (with no link with the products you are looking for) to introduce a friend's friend ansd so on.
Ask a Chinese friend to attend meetings with suppliers to help you to translate and do the middle agent.
Prepare your intention to start a production or the sourcing in China
The culture in China is really different from occidental ones. The way to talk, the way to interact, the way to answer, the way to behave need to be prepared with professionals.
If you are sourcing a product then you need to do your homeworks through the usual website of Alibaba, Tao Bao, JD to find the price ranges of the products you are looking for. If you are already in China, you will need to go to electronic market, shops to see the price ranges.
If you are willing to start the production a product in China, on the same way as the sourcing, check out the cost of your BOM via the websites. You will have roughly an approximate of the BOM cost. For the assembly, dis-assembly and re-assembly your product and take the time to do the assembly and quality tests. You will have roughly the assembly and quality cost.
Coming to China so visit suppliers that do the same kind of products you want to source or produce, not only ask for quotations to have a more precise price range but also ask the technical questions you do not know the answers, you will start to acquire a technical knowledge on your products that will help you later when you choose the suppliers you want to work with.
Difference of culture
Be aware that Chinese culture is different from what we have in occidental countries.
For non initiated, it can be very hard to understand like having the suppliers asking for personal questions, inviting for meals, doing extra activities together... becoming like friends on one meeting.
Oral meetings, oral commitment even written commitment are difficult to be kept. Everything can be changed all the time, even day after day. In China, suppliers like to have meetings face to face even for low progress.
You want concrete commitment ? Have your suppliers to stamp written commitment with the company chop, the official one with red ink and signature of your contact (Usually the signature is just the hand written of the name of your contact, so you can check easily if the signature is valid or not). The company chop is the proof recognized as official and commitment in China.
Ready to start the sourcing or production
Does BMW ask Mercedes to manufacture their next 3-series car ?
The rule to follow all the time as long as you want to protection your invention or IP, go for an outsider of the business to keep a few step ahead of your competitors and copycats.
At WeProd we manufactured a vape in the end 2016, we never did any production of vape before. We visited lots of e-cig and vape factories, analysing their processes. All the discussions we had with the suppliers were "You won't make it, manufacturing of vape is hard, only professional can make it", the message behind was more to give the business to them and pick up my commissions. We helped our client to produce the vapes, going faster than conventional vape manufacturers and improving the quality.
Be in China during the start of production of your products, you are the creator of your products, a photo worths thousand explanations, a video worths thousand photos, be on the floor worths thousand videos. The suppliers may not be sensitive as you on details, you know the details you spent night and days to make it perfect or to resolve. You can work with the suppliers to tune the assembly processes, the quality inspection points...
For the 1st batch of production ready to be shipped out, be onsite too even if it is just for being in the background of the scene, the suppliers will not take it as a sign of non trust, most suppliers will take it as a team work to improve the quality. Do not be too much on the suppliers (as explained in the other articles of the blog) but work as a team.
To be able to inspect yourselves the 1st batch is great feeling, you will see your products becoming reality, coming to life.
A quality control plan is not a fixed document, it will be improved little by little after production run, customers' feedbacks, reliability test results and FMEA.
Ready to start the production or sourcing of your product ?
Weprod supports the occidental and asian clients to manage the manufacturing of products in China including prototyping, industrialization, sourcing, production and supply chain. Feel free to get in touch with us with the contact form in www.weprod.co
We often have the situation when a client is coming to a supplier 's factory for meeting, then the client is spending most of the time to explain how to do things, how to resolve a problem or how improve a situation. The important is to have discussion and have the supplier staffs involved in the work.
Use white board
The simplest way to have a good meeting is to use a whiteboard to write everything so all meeting attendees can read all progress of the meeting. Then also at the end of the meeting, take a photo of the whiteboard and send it as a meeting minute to all attendees and their supervisors.
Expose the problem
The most important is to expose the problem and rely the problem on facts like measurements, samples... Make sure your supplier really understands the problem, and everybody agrees on it.
Use a problem solving methodology
You may start the meeting in a formal meeting room or directly in production floor. You then can use all the methods like 5 why, the ishikawa diagram, the fmea... you do not need to mention what method you are using, but as the leader of the meeting orient the attendees to answer the questions. For example, you keep asking why 5 times in a gentle way so your attendees will not remark you are using the 5 why method.
Do not hesitate to go to production shop to have concrete analysis
For the analysis, it is good also to go on the shop floor to have direct analysis with the attendees. The first thing yo uneed to do is to have them explaining the problem or the situation.
Then, have all the attendees take a few step back to observe the situation to have a bigger view of the scene. Sometimes we are too close to situation to see anything, have them stand away and look for a few minute to analyse.
Having a external view is good to see things.
You are the leader of the meeting
As the leader of the meeting, you need to keep your attendees always excited, you will need to keep the fire on. You are the guy to push them at the limit, always asking questions to challenge them to have them think bigger.
Have everything written on the white, all ideas, no idea is stupid.
Then with all the ideas and analysis written, let re-discuss about the veracity of the ideas with every body and fix the actions to have proper counter measures, leadtime and action owners. For 1 action do pu only 1 owner of the action.
Appraise every attendees
Very important is to underline that evey attendee has an important contribution to the meeting, and let fix the next follow up meeting to review the progress of the actions.
Visit the factory in person
Visiting the factory of the Chinese company you wish to work with is an essential first step of quality control in China. If you are planning to do the trip to China to visit the company, make sure you will visit the factory not only the representing office in the middle of a business center.
If your company cannot go to visit the factory, you should hire a professional to visit the factory on your behalf. The person who inspects the factory should have knowledge of manufacturing processes and experience in factory management to understand the whole factory.
Do not really pay attention on the ISO certification of the factory, ISO certification is easy to get in China. It is worthless to ask for.
Discuss with the general manager
One important thing is to discuss with the general manager of the factory, not the owner but the person who is charge every day of the operations to understand his way to manage the factory. Through the discussion you will know if the general manager is involved in the daily operations, if he or she knows what is going in the factory.
You can also see the interaction the general manager has with the team, if he or she are more leader or more dictator in the manager.
During the visit, ask to discuss with the managers or supervisors in charge of the production shops
You want to know how things are done on the shop floor, then ask to be guided by the operational persons during the visit of the workshops. You will see if they have the same target and speech as the GM.
Key management point to ask is how the reporting is done, ask for daily routine work process, then you will see and understand how problems are being handled.
In addition, see the visual display because it is important that the workshop uses the visual communication to show off No Good and Good things. The visual communication is also all the reportings done by the operator, the work instructions, the key "Quality" items in the work instructions. One good thing is to take 1 work instruction and see how the operator is doing his/her job: Same as specified on the work instruction ?
The most important when you visiting the factory, you need to see how the people interacts with each other, most of time in Chinese factories, departments are fighting against each other, it is weird but it is a reality. When you visiting the office in factory or the workshop see how people talks to each other, how people are doing the meetings... This will show you if you have any problems that it will be handled well.
See how operators are dressed up
When visiting the workshops, have a look on the way operators are dressed, most of factories have high requirements on the clothes and even the haircut of the operators.
Make sure the workers are wearing all the safety equipments needed for their work, if they are not wearing any then make sure there are indications and displays on what to wear and what to pay attention when working. Sometimes the operators are not willing to wear safety equipments and it is difficult to persuade them to do so despite training and every morning meetings. Check also the punishment system in place for not wearing safety equipments.
Check out the restrooms
Simple thing: Check out the toilets rooms for operators and you will understand the situation of the factory.
For lunch or dinner, ask to eat at the canteen of the factory
Food and living are important , have a look at the canteen and dormitory when you visit the factory.
We moved before CNY to a new and better location for our production shop and our office
We have been hunting for the right place for over 2 months, we almost signed in many different locations but after we agreed on terms, the landlords changed their minds the day after. We even asked every single industrial areas in the long street for available places.
Here is the photos of the new Weprod location :
The new place is amazing and exciting, we have a bigger production workshop, bigger warehouse, offices are well splitted. We also are setting a "dirty" shop where we can do all the metal work.